Internet of Things
One of the big areas of focus at this year’s event, was The Internet of Things (IoT).
With expectations that it will significantly increase network complexity in the coming months and years, the pressure is on for National Research and Education Network (NREN) providers around the world to find better ways to manage the exponential growth it will bring. Among the approaches discussed was the increased leveraging of Software Defined Networks (SDNs) across university campuses.
Within the US, Internet2 has set up a working group to help its membership actively embrace the challenge, through collaboration, to share ideas and recommended frameworks. One of the key successes of this group to date was highlighted in a case study from Marshall University, West Virginia, where the facilities manager partnered with the IT team to introduce smart metering and other technology to build a “smart campus”.
Growth in transnational education was another key area of consideration, whereby universities and research organisations are, more and more frequently, establishing campuses and offices overseas – away from their core network infrastructure.
From an NREN perspective, the key issue here comes in ensuring appropriate support is provided to their members’ IT teams. Internet2 has taken the lead on this by developing a “how to guide”, designed to make the setup and transition as seamless as possible, so the user experience is the same as the “home” campus.
Next generation networks
With significant data growth across the Internet2 membership (and indeed that of many other NRENs around the world), this was a hot topic.
Within the US context, Internet2 has been in the process of determining the best approach for its 2016 – 2020 upgrades. The strategy is being developed in consultation with many of its members, with the US NREN working to build an in-depth understanding of expectations, and the constraints its members are up against.
Here, the responsibility falls to both NRENs, and their members, to collaborate effectively, informing and enabling the best possible network solution to be deployed.
To date, SDN solutions have emerged as one of the more preferred options, given their potential to drastically increase flexibility, scalability, as well as reduce costs – something which was being explored both at a network level, and at a campus level.
Movement to the cloud
The explosive growth of cloud computing was a hot topic at this year’s conference, particularly in light of the increasing number of options available in terms of cloud providers. Of the universities in attendance, a significant number had begun, or had plans in the pipeline, to transition to cloud-based services, spanning both software and infrastructure as a service options.
In sharing their experiences and learnings, many highlighted the importance of exploring ways to streamline the process – for example, implementing one seamless bill, in place of multiple bills across campus.
Challenges of security
On the security front, the big trend at this year’s conference was that of increased collaboration – which has seen overseas universities and institutes begin to realise the value of working together more frequently, in enabling the best security outcomes.
There was also particular emphasis on the need for NREN providers to take a leadership role, by working with members to ensure they can run their networks securely, while minimising the potential impact on network performance. Internet2 had stepped up to this challenge with the creation of its own dedicated security team.
Improved reporting on network data
At a network level, there is a push for more in-depth performance reporting, spanning both the network itself, and, more specifically, the Network Operations Centre (NOC).
To this end, Internet2 has opted to utilise analytics tools from Deepfield, which enable them to develop a better understanding of where and how network data is being used – to assist with capacity planning, security, and network optimisation.
Most importantly, the conference was an opportunity to see and experience examples of some of the collaborative efforts between NREN providers, and their members - drawing the most out of the network, and enabling some truly innovative projects to be brought to life.
This included Internet2’s “Masterclass”. This is a database of teaching materials, stored in the cloud, and made easily accessible for staff and students anywhere, anytime -including streamed video content of a music teacher, making music accessible to students in a number of remote locations.
Nick Green is chief financial officer of REANNZ. More than 900 representatives from across the global advanced networking community, along with representatives from numerous top US universities, attended the Internet2 Global Summit 2016 in Chicago.
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