University of Strathclyde implements 10 Gigabit Ethernet to handle huge data load

10 Gigabit Ethernet is beginning to make inroads into the public sector.

10 Gigabit Ethernet is beginning to make inroads into the public sector.

The University of Strathclyde has become the first academic institution in the UK to implement a 10 Gigabit Ethernet core network.

The university came up against the limits of its existing Ethernet infrastructure, could not increase bandwidth any further and was suffering from redundancy and failover problems.

To overcome this, the decision was taken to opt for 10 Gigabit Ethernet technology, which is as yet largely untried outside the service provider arena. The university saw the opportunity to provide a massive increase in bandwidth for its 50,000 students in 67 buildings on the 500-acre site.

Besides the scale of the network, data demands are also high, with large amounts of scientific data being moved between the drug research department and the institute of photonics.

Strathclyde University chose Foundry hardware - Big Iron 8000 and 15000 layer-three switches - which were implemented by Total Network Solutions. The 10 Gigabit Ethernet link provides high performance, intelligent switching between the two main datacentres, which are more than 1km apart.

But what swung the decision in favour of such a relatively untried technology?

George Farquhar, the university's assistant director of IT, said, "It is very new so there were concerns, but we knew the technology was nearly there and we had not seen any adverse reports. We have a development relationship and we are happy to take technologies and try to prove things.

"Probably the biggest question we were asked was whether we really needed it. The answer was that we have always tried to be 18 months to two years ahead of the users, and we cannot hold up the demands of our science departments."

The decision to implement the upgrade was relatively straightforward, and the physical installation and its reliability have given no cause for concern. "I was quite astonished at the ease of installation and how good it has been since. The hardest part of the whole operation was walking between buildings," Farquhar said.

The contract with Total Network Solutions is for three years and is divided into three phases. The first was the go-live of the core 10 Gigabit Ethernet switches; and the second and third phases will see the upgrade of all remaining legacy equipment and installation of Foundry layer four to layer seven Serveriron switches, which allow intelligent routing for web server optimisation and content distribution.

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