University CIO Modernizes Networking Infrastructure

Victoria D. Doty

The University of Texas Arlington sought an AI-enabled Wi-Fi system to boost scholar experience. The undertaking arrived in the center of a overall IT overhaul. Murrstock via Adobe Inventory How vital is a dependable wireless network to operating an educational institution? In a standard year it can be fairly vital. […]

The University of Texas Arlington sought an AI-enabled Wi-Fi system to boost scholar experience. The undertaking arrived in the center of a overall IT overhaul.

Murrstock via Adobe Stock

Murrstock via Adobe Inventory

How vital is a dependable wireless network to operating an educational institution? In a standard year it can be fairly vital. In 2020, it was vital.

Right after all, a school can have the very best teachers and the maximum-quality curriculum, but unless of course students can obtain all of that, it may possibly as effectively not exist. Final year, when so quite a few colleges went digital, networking was usually the only way to obtain lessons, assignments, and aid from teachers.

The University of Texas Arlington began a undertaking to update its growing older network 5 many years ago, on the lookout to do a hardware refresh that would touch the wired and wireless networks and the 20-plus year old cellular phone program, as well. The undertaking was part of a more substantial overhaul of quite a few of the institution’s current methods, such as on-premises e-mail and other on-premises-primarily based purposes this kind of as finance and HR.

University CIO Jeff Neyland oversaw the start and ongoing method of this giant multi-undertaking effort that amounted to what may be regarded as a total overhaul of the university’s IT methods, such as the addition of ServiceNow and other platforms.

“The wireless infrastructure was extremely very poor,” Neyland instructed InformationWeek. “We are a condition university, a land grant university, so substantially of the network was place in as resources had been offered.”

But updating these several methods, reorganizing parts of IT, and modernizing the university to a far more cloud-primarily based infrastructure intended making a eyesight of the place the university’s IT wanted to go and coordinating quite a few relocating parts and budgets to make that eyesight a reality.

Neyland introduced applicable experience from several past CIO positions, plus a decade as a principal in a consulting company supporting non-public equity companies when he joined the university about 5 many years ago.  

“We took a total look at of the campus, and we moved from an growing older technologies to a model-new set of technologies with AI becoming a major purpose for deciding upon Juniper as our company,” Neyland said. “I don’t appear at it from the system position of look at. I appear at the shopper need and then drive down into the technologies set.”

What Neyland is referring to when he talks about deciding upon Juniper Networks for its AI abilities is in a significant part the company’s acquisition of the business Mist in 2019. Juniper said then that the offer would “convey AI to IT, offering on the promise of software program-described business.” Mist’s AI-pushed wireless system was intended to make Wi-Fi far more predictable, dependable and measurable, according to the business.

Neyland said that AI is the up coming stage in analysis-primarily based procedures that lets IT examine situations and logs, set up alerts, and automate conclusions.

“Juniper is farther alongside on that route than any of our other strategic partners,” he said. Neyland sees the potential for AI to be utilized in quite a few means at the university, which is now working with chatbots and has also crafted intelligence about scholar good results.

In the midst of its more substantial IT overhaul, the university started the RFP method for a new wireless company in 2019, with Juniper Mist chosen in Slide 2019 and deployment planned for the slower months of Summer 2020, to be done for the Slide semester of 2020. The undertaking integrated migration of far more than 70 buildings. The IT group experienced just began the pilot in March 2020 when the pandemic strike.

Jason Hardy, VP of infrastructure and functions at the university, said that the pandemic did have an influence on the rollout.

“We experienced some conclusions to make,” he said. “Must we place the undertaking on hold or modify up or tactic? But the depopulated campus intended that it built it safer for our installers. We accelerated our timeline and received the complete campus done 8 months ahead of plan.”

As the campus repopulated, students and employees enjoyed a new Wi-Fi experience with double the selection of obtain details than the campus formerly experienced offered such as in scholar parking garages, enabling students to park and get obtain to the network and school while so substantially of the country was however socially distancing in response to the pandemic.

Hardy said the deployment of Juniper and Mist methods has also intended streamlined methods, proactive alerts, and aid for some of the most hard networking difficulties.

“The program only escalates points to us when it can be a authentic problem,” he said. “For me it can be about reducing the amount of money of get the job done that will make it to my employees.” Hardy said the hardest problem is with misconfiguration of switches, but that’s something that the stack of Mist purposes can aid with, as well. The Mist electronic assistant, Marvis, need to also be able to remediate these difficulties in the upcoming by shifting the configuration of the switch, he said.

As with most technologies tasks, cultural modify is a big part of the method, as well. In the circumstance of the university’s complete IT overhaul, Hardy’s office was reorganized. The office experienced formerly been siloed with a network director, methods director, identification group, security group, all in their possess individual teams. Now these corporations have been merged into a one group under Hardy’s direction. The modify has enabled the team to cross practice to improve their abilities and to transfer from just one office to one more.

As a consequence, some program administrator careers have been eradicated, but Hardy said that profession paths have been rearchitected with an eye to far more modern profession paths in the cloud.

Spending For It

How did Neyland and his group spend for all these modifications?

“This was not a cheap implementation by any implies,” Neyland admitted. “We have a actually good partnership with our executive group, and they comprehend for students to have a good experience, we experienced to spend.”

Some of the resources for the hardware investments arrived from the savings of a consolidated IT portfolio and less suppliers, such as relocating some purposes to the cloud. The university also requested resources from the condition and contributed added resources from their reserves.

But the investments have compensated off in the variety of larger network steadiness, much better call centre administration, a new set of purposes, and extremely rare downtime, according to Neyland.

Those abilities are even far more major when you consider that nowadays far more than twenty five% of the network bandwidth at the university is eaten by video sharing.

“It really is major,” Hardy said. The correct test will arrive in the Slide 2021 when seventy five% of the university’s 42,000 students are anticipated to return to campus (and twenty five% of mastering will be remote).

“We are earning guaranteed our students have a excellent experience,” Neyland said.

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Jessica Davis is a Senior Editor at InformationWeek. She handles business IT management, occupations, artificial intelligence, knowledge and analytics, and business software program. She has expended a profession masking the intersection of business and technologies. Stick to her on twitter: … Check out Comprehensive Bio

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