Project progress

What we’ve been doing over summer

Posted October 2016

Datacentre imageIt’s been a very busy and active summer for all involved in the Network Refresh project as we reached several significant milestones.

What have we been doing?

The first milestone was migrating the following student accommodation areas to the new network:

  • Belmont Flats
  • Belmont Tower (Block G and H)
  • Heathfield Flats
  • Seabraes (Blocks 1 and 2)
  • West Park Conference Suite
  • West Park Flats
  • West Park Mansion
  • West Park Villas

Taking onboard feedback from previous students in these areas, the new network now provides access for students to connect their Apple TV, Chromecast, Xbox and many other gaming/streaming devices. Students can now stream Netflix on their Chromecast, play Minecraft on their PlayStation and work on that all-important essay, all at the same time.

Connecting us to the world

The second milestone reached was connecting our new network to the outside world. This sounds simple enough, but took several months of planning, testing and a few disruptions to service to ensure all connections were working as expected.

Wireless in the Main Library

The final milestone reached over the summer was switching on the new wireless network in the Main Library, City Campus. The feedback received from this has been overwhelmingly positive. Here’s a taste of the comments so far:

I didn’t think the old WiFi was that bad till I tried the new one in the Library and it makes the old stuff look rubbish.

Wow, I think I will cancel my broadband at home and move into the library – it is so much faster and free.

Network speed comparison
The differences in upload and download speeds between the old and new WiFi networks are shown above. Incredible, huh?

As well as reaching these milestones, we have also been progressing well on installing key network infrastructure distributed around campus, which includes:

  • A fully resilient Dell core network
  • A fully resilient Dell distribution network – prepared and ready to support future building migrations
  • Wireless controllers to underpin the performant and flexible wireless provision already being utilised by the students in accommodation and the Main Library
  • Authentication systems to help manage the user interfaces with the network
  • Monitoring systems

What’s next?

Wireless network rollouts

Over the next few weeks we aim to switch over the following areas to the new wireless network:

  • Enquiry Centre
  • DUSA/Union building
  • Kirkcaldy campus student accommodation

Keep up-to-date with the rolling schedule on the blog, so you know when it’s happening.

Wireless network infrastructure

  • We will continue to schedule and install wireless access points in preparation for building migrations.
  • We are currently seeking approval from Dundee Council Planning Department to install the external wireless access points at Campus Green and other external areas.

Network infrastructure

  • We need to implement interim IP address changes to client devices in some buildings/areas. This is required to free up IP ranges before we can start to migrate other areas.
  • We are upgrading our inter-campus fibre-optic links between City Campus and both Ninewells and Kirkcaldy sites.

Gathering information

We will continue to gather information about:

  • Equipment connected to the edge to allow us to plan each building migration.
  • Trusted/untrusted access to data.

Firewalls

  • We will also be replacing our perimeter firewalls. The perimeter firewalls control the flow of network traffic entering and leaving our internal network and provide a first line of defence against external attacks. Once we have completed this work, we can start to migrate buildings across to the new network, which is a key stage in decommissioning problematic Cisco switches.
  • We will continue to design and plan our new Data Centre firewall, which will allow us to implement the full roaming experience for users who access secure data.

VPN

We will replace our 12 year old Cisco VPN with a new Dell SonicWALL solution.

There is still a long way to go, but this is the first time students are really starting to see the benefits of all the hard work that has been going on behind the scenes on the Network Refresh project.

We would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to all the technical teams involved in this project, and a big thank you to all staff and students for their continued co-operation in helping us deliver a network fit for the best University in Scotland.


Replacing the gateway between us and the internet

Posted June 2016

Noticed the series of works we’ve been doing that have affected your internet access?
We’d like to share the story behind what it is we’re doing. In non-technical speak, we’re replacing the gateway between us and the internet.

Let’s get technical

The University network has a pair of old Border Gateway Routers (BGRs) that allow us to connect to the internet.

If you’re on campus trying to get to Facebook or other externally hosted services from our network, you’re basically joining a queue of traffic (think of all the people sat next to you trying to do the same thing) and you’re all waiting to get to the outside network called ‘Janet’. Janet is a high-speed network for the UK research and education community and it is what we use to connect to the internet.

To get there, you connect through the BGRs and are directed down a path based on the certain protocols we have in place. There’s a lot happening behind the scenes, but the University’s network hardware helps you get to your favourite site on the web.

It’s the same in reverse – if you’re working from home, using VPN, or you’re a distance learner trying to access internal University network services, then you’re essentially coming across the same connection in the opposite direction and your request has to say “hello, where do I go?” to the BGRs.

Routing your traffic through a new door

It’s out with the old, in with the new. We’re replacing our existing Cisco BGRs with the latest Dell technology that is fit for purpose and ready to take on your network traffic, whatever the load. This is a key change in the move towards the University’s new network, and although little upfront change will be seen by you, behind the scenes you will be given a more efficient way to connect.

Meeting another milestone

When we successfully make this change, we’re one step closer to delivering your new, next-gen network and this is great news. Reaching this stage of the change has taken a lot of planning, effort and cooperation from many people within UoD IT, across the University and beyond – including you.


Student accommodation on new network

Posted June 2016

We are happy to announce that three areas are now live on the new secure network. These are rtudent residences in the following areas:

  • Heathfield
  • Seabraes 2
  • West Park flats (stairs 2&3)
  • Belmont Flats

Please note that in these newly migrated areas all University students and staff should use eduroam if a wireless connection is needed.  The UoD_WiFi wireless network is no longer available in any areas that have migrated across. UoD_WiFi will gradually disappear as we migrate more of the University across to the new network.

A key part of this new network is the additional security it brings. As such there are keys steps that you must follow to enable your wireless and wired devices to connect to the network.

For more information on how to connect your devices to the network please see the ‘Get connected in UoD accommodation‘ web page.


Dell network goes live in test room

Posted June 2016

We’ve made significant progress with the University’s network refresh project and wanted to share it with you all. The team joined the Cisco and Dell campus networks last week, which has opened the door for pre-migration testing – a huge leap forward!

What does this mean?

We’ve activated the new network in the UoD IT staff room to create a test room that we’re using build up the information you’ll need in the future. We’re testing authentication procedures and management systems so we can move the first people (i.e. students in University accommodation) onto the new network; all other UoD locations will be cut-over much later.

Let’s get technical

By end-of-play Friday (10 June), we were able to get:

  • Live traffic flowing across the Dell Core, Distribution & Access-layers, and utilising the Dell-Cisco interconnect for onward services,
  • Dell Wireless APs connected to the network and managed by the Dell wireless controllers,
  • Authentication of wired and wireless users, using both Trusted (AD connected) and personl (BYOD) devices,
  • Dell authentication systems joined to the eduroam federation and validation of the service using test accounts, including one from our colleagues at Abertay,
  • All deployed Dell network equipment managed by Open Manage Network Manager (OMNM) and AP’s supported by the Aruba Airwave management system,
  • A clear understanding of the changes required on desktop devices to support a full 802.1x authentication service for wired/wireless client devices, and
  • 7 Student Residences Blocks at Heathfield Flats migrated to the Dell solution (these locations are empty at present, but it has been a great opportunity to refine our migration procedures).

A great achievement

CircleIT staff, UoD IT Product engineers, transition team specialists, and end-user services colleagues, all worked together to achieve this and it’s been a really rewarding collaborative experience.

There is still a huge amount to do, but we didn’t want to let this significant milestone in the project pass unnoticed – more to follow soon…


Contract awarded + key changes

Posted January 2016

It has been a few months since we announced the introduction of our new network project. We’ve been busy initiating the key plans and wanted to share our progress with you!

What have we been doing?

We are pleased to announce that the contract to provide our new network has been awarded to Circle IT in conjunction with Softcat. Circle IT’s solution is to migrate our entire wired and wireless infrastructure to Dell hardware.

Much effort has gone into designing the network and we are in the final stages of completing the high-level design and planning. The key changes are:

  • We are providing an additional 1500 wireless access points. This will massively increase the wireless coverage and include outdoor areas such as the Campus Green. In total, over 2650 new wireless access points will be deployed when the new network is launched.
  • We will be simplifying access to the wireless network and increasing flexibility by making eduroam the primary network for UoD students and staff. This will lead to the discontinuation of the existing UoD_WiFi network.
  • A new wireless network – called StudentResidences, will be available alongside eduroam in student residence areas only. This network will allow streaming devices (e.g. Chromecast & Roku) and game consoles to connect to the internet.
  • _TheCloud will continue to broadcast in key event areas for those guests attending an event or conference on our campuses.
  • We are continuing to negotiate with NHS Tayside and Ninewells hospital to ensure best coverage is available in shared areas.

These changes will offer a:

  • New wireless network providing a faster, more reliable, wider coverage and a consistent connection speed across campus.
  • New wired network providing a more reliable and consistent service across campus.
  • Modern, energy efficient, network infrastructure, leading to a reduction in the University’s emissions output and carbon footprint.
  • New and consistent security design across both wired and wireless networks.

First steps of project implementation

September 2015

To help us identify the broad and diverse requirements of our institution, we’ve formed a project board made up of student representatives and senior academics. The board agreed on a detailed network design which was used as a benchmark to conduct a mini competition. The process of evaluation was conducted in the basis of:

  • fitness of purpose of proposal
  • sample project plans
  • service agreements
  • maintenance activities

The evaluation was carried out by a technical group with members from the University Network, Servers, High Performance Computing and IT Security teams using a consensus based scoring approach for qualitative scoring on all elements.

Vendor proposals were carefully considered and the project board will shortly announce the selected supplier deemed most suitable to meet the requirements of our stakeholders.


We’ve started building the new network!

September 2015

To meet our transformational goals, we first need to invest and radically change our core infrastructure. Specifically:

  • Target key opportunities to improve student and staff experience
  • Modernise our data centres

We’ve been working towards achieving a more fit-for-purpose IT infrastructure because we recognize that the University’s network, which is used to carry information, data and communications, is the lifeblood of our organization.

We’re happy to announce that we’ve started rebuilding our core network! 

The current University wired network was installed in 2006 and is now reaching the end of its useful life. This means we are faced with a continual cycle of device failures and service interruptions. The wireless network is a mixture of old and current technology resulting in a poor user experience for some students and staff.

We need to replace both the wired and wireless networks with modern data networks that will provide a reliable, secure and far better user experience. We also want to reduce the dependency on large capital expenditure every few years.

To make this happen, a project board was formed with student representatives and senior academics to agree on a detailed network design. The project board defined its requirements to meet the broad and diverse needs of our institution and ran a mini-competition to find a suitable vendor.

The evaluation was carried out by a technical group which included members from the University Network, Servers, High Performance Computing (HPC) and IT Security teams using a consensus based scoring approach for qualitative scoring on all elements.

Vendor proposals were carefully considered and the project board will shortly announce the selected supplier deemed most suitable to meet the requirements of our stakeholders.

We would like to thank all participants of this project. It is essential to stress that the implementation phase of our network refresh will not work without the full, proactive, support of the project board and project team. However, it is the responsibility of ALL IT staff to be aware of, and participate in, all communications and support activities where appropriate.

As the project transitions, we’ll be posting more information, updates on progress and impact on existing services.

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