by Byron Connolly

Flinders University to spend $14M on high-speed network

Jul 09, 2013 4 mins
Education Industry

Adelaide’s Flinders University will spend $14 million on a next-generation campus network, which will provide 22,000 students and 2000 staff with 1Gbps speeds to the desktop while supporting a big push to the cloud.

As part of a series of articles on new technology in tertiary education, CIO Australia spoke to Professor Richard Constantine, CIO at Flinders University, about a new high-speed network.

The network is to be implemented over the next 12 months by Dimension Data and will include 2000 wireless access points across 17 locations in each state, offering staff and students wireless access speeds of up to 1Gbps.

The network is based on the Cisco Unified Access platform and will replace ageing infrastructure that provides 10/100Mbps connectivity to the desktop.

The existing network is incapable of meeting the university’s requirements in the future, Professor Constantine said.

Read about the Australian National University, Monash University, the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, the University of Technology, Sydney, Curtin University, and the University of Sydney.

“The way that the network has evolved has been incremental over the years since the set up of the campus back in the 1960s; it’s just been hooked on,” he said.

Professor Constantine said these days, many staff and students connect to the network wirelessly meaning that in some parts of the university’s wired network will become obsolete.

“We will have people connecting wireless to a very high-speed network, which will be a better outcome than what they have currently got in the wired capacity,” he said.

“This was part of the project, to think about the future. While we have researchers [doing] data transfers that need to happen at ‘many gigabit’ speeds, a lot of our users, administration and students, the wireless network will be more than suitable for them.”

The university is rewiring its network with new fibre optic cable to help provide better built-in network resilience, said Professor Constantine.

This supports an increasing moving to the cloud; email for staff and students is in the cloud and the library systems are moving soon, he said.

“We’ve still got a lot of systems, such as HR and finance, internally but a number of applications are in the cloud or hosted. However, large repositories of research data already and more will exist outside of the university on national databases,” he said.

“Researchers want to access those; we’ll have imaging we’ll want to do with other partners such as MRI [medical] imaging. These are all bandwidth-intensive images so you need to have high-speed networks to be able to transport those out and into the university.

Students will be able to stream content such as high-definition video onto their tablets, which teaching staff post to the university’s learning management system.

Flinders University is using a variety of Cisco tools to provide set security policies for students and teaching staff who bring various mobile devices to the campus.

“We made a conscious decision not to highjack the student or staff member’s device,” said Professor Constantine. “Students already have the applications they are comfortable with – what they want is an internet connection that is seamless and secure and that is what we will be providing.

The university will also use Cisco Telepresence video conferencing to deliver high-definition video tools between staff across the campuses.

The university is a member of the AARNet academic and research network and will use the Telepresence Exchange to communicate with other member institutions in Australia and overseas.

This video conferencing capability will deepen its engagement with Charles Darwin University to “help build the regional economic corridor between South Australia and the Northern Territory,” the university said.

Researchers will have access to up to 10Gbps network speeds, supporting the creation of “sandbox environments” to run analytics for their projects.

They will then be able to build virtual servers and access storage on demand without impact the performance of users on the campus network.

The project is being financed by Cisco Capital.