6 Reasons Campus Networks Must Change
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The word “legacy,” when it comes to discussions of college and university networks, has become a dirty word.
“Legacy,” in these exchanges, is shorthand for a technological solution that isn’t only outdated, but also inefficient, ineffective, and costly to maintain. Campus IT plans, in fact, often revolve around the best way to rid a school of legacy systems that were once the only option, but now stand in the way of ed-tech progress.
Talk of how to replace legacy systems very often begins with how colleges and universities can address evolving — and tricky — network challenges as student demand for bandwidth reaches new, higher levels every school year. Students, after all, are now bringing an average of six mobile devices to campus.
The legacy copper-based local area network (LAN) architecture built on campuses 20, 30, even 40 years ago is no longer a viable solution as schools deal with a massive influx of mobile devices hungry for bandwidth. Those networks were designed to support peer-to-peer desktop computer traffic flows because 80 percent of the traffic stayed local — on campus.
Today, about 90 percent of a school’s LAN traffic flows directly to wide area network (WAN) thanks to a half dozen technological developments: Big data analytics, virtual desktops, cloud-based computing, wireless devices, smart building technologies, and the internet of things.
Tellabs, an Illinois-based company specializing in helping campuses handle network challenges, has made a name for itself with its Optical LAN solution, which cuts down on energy consumption, trims annual IT costs, and requires less room than many legacy systems.
Matt Hassett, marketing communications manager at Tellabs, said the environmentally-friendly aspects of the company’s Optical LAn solution have proven particularly appealing in higher education.
“We know that greener technologies do well in colleges and universities — we’ve seen that,” Hassett said. “If a school can save money and use less energy along the way, they’ll usually show a lot of interest in that solution.”
Higher education has followed the federal government, commercial enterprise, healthcare, and the hospitality industry in buying into Optical LAN solutions that can better handle challenges posed by technologies that didn’t exist when legacy, copper-based LANs were built a generation ago.
Tellabs officials charge that their Optical LAN technology can save upwards of 70 percent in budgetary costs for college IT departments.
That’s a key for campus technologists as they look for ways to satisfy the skyrocketing demand for bandwidth.
A 2013 national survey breaks down exactly which devices are using the most bandwidth on campuses. The prevalence of tablets — once a rarity — has wreaked havoc at many schools. A recent higher-ed survey, the “State of ResNet” reports, breaks down exactly which devices are using the most bandwidth on campuses.
Eighty-four percent of respondents to the ResNet Report said tablets are the biggest drain on their campus’s bandwidth, with 75 percent saying laptops and desktops are the main culprit.
Six in 10 said internet-connected Blu-Ray players are to blame for bandwidth woes. Sixty-three percent pointed to smartphones and 61 percent said video games are a central issue in maintaining reliable bandwidth for every student.