University of Westminster prepares for future use of SDN

The University of Westminster has upgraded its network to increase efficiency and lay foundations for software-defined networking

The University of Westminster has upgraded its network to increase efficiency and lay foundations to allow software-defined networking (SDN) to be implemented in the future.

The university has selected Brocade as its supplier of 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) connections across its wide area network (WAN), which extends between its two campuses in London and Harrow.

Westminster’s network serves more than 25,000 students, most of whom will use several devices. Previously, the two campuses were linked by a single connection between two datacentres, which were 14km apart.

This connection often suffered outages, which interfered with the availability of the network. The Brocade system allows data to be rerouted if a problem with the connection occurs, enabling users to continue to use data as normal.

Daniel Halter, head of IT infrastructure at the University of Westminster, said: “Our students are online constantly, often with more than one device at a time, and they expect to be able to access content, use online applications and collaborate on their studies without any interruptions.”

Not only has this already improved the performance of the system, but has also made it easier to introduce 40GbE to 100GbE in the future, as well as implement SDN when the time comes.

The university is not planning to switch to SDN in the near future, however, as it has concerns over the technology still being in its infancy.

“We needed to make sure the solution we were going to be installing was highly available and resilient," said Halter. "SDN is something that, while I’m sure it could do that, we don’t have a great deal of exposure of it, and it’s something we would want to have more understanding and familiarity with first.”

The university is hoping to update its Wi-Fi network this year to deal with the growing number of mobile users.

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