Oxford network redesign a victory for cross-campus collaboration

It’s hard to believe that stately Oxford College is home to the fastest network in the enterprise.

As is often the case with great advancements, a disaster compels change.

Right before the 2017 Oxford College Commencement, the fiber that connected the Oxford computer network with the Atlanta network was accidentally cut. At a crucial time of the academic year, the Oxford network went dark.

Network access was quickly restored yet the larger question remained: How could we improve this situation?

At this point, the Oxford College Information Technology (OCIT) leaders sat down with Wayne Ortman‘s Run-Build teams to re-architect the network with an eye toward both reliability and disaster recoverability. Karla Fields served as the Oxford liaison.

As a result, in 2018, the Oxford College network was redesigned with cutting-edge technology that provides larger bandwidth and an enhanced network experience. Oxford was the first academic location at Emory to receive this upgrade. The only other deployment of this technology within Emory enterprise is the new Emory Hospital tower.

“I’d like to give a lot of credit to Wayne and his team,” said Mahbuba Ferdousi, CIO of OCIT. “They were phenomenal.”

Redundant Failover of Primary Network Path to Atlanta

The first step of the project was to contract with AT&T to install a physical redundant backup fiber installation. The redundant fiber is continuously active at a bandwidth of 2 Mb and becomes active within an hour of a cut to the primary line, at which time the bandwidth increases to 1 Gb. The teams completed a successful failover test to the backup fiber line on April 22.

Some of the equipment installed during the network project.

Refresh of Campus Network Master Switches

Simply building a second redundant line wasn’t enough to get Oxford ready for its future data needs. The team increased the primary bandwidth from Oxford to Atlanta from 1 Gb to 4 Gb. Additionally, the new network switches give buildings in Oxford the ability to connect to the Oxford router at 20 Gb.

The new design also allows local network traffic to remain within Oxford in the event of the main fiber cut. Previously all local traffic at Oxford was required to connect to the Atlanta network and return to Oxford. With the new master switches, Oxford local traffic will remain within Oxford. This applies only to phones and internal servers.

Additionally, a generator was added to keep the master switches running during a power outage.

WiFi Improvements scheduled for this summer

Plans are in place for the Oxford Quad to be improved by adding two network access points. A network port and power outlet will also be installed to improve campus events like Commencement live-streaming.

LITS Network Services, in collaboration with OCIT, will also develop a S.W.A.T. team that will respond to student WiFi concerns by:

  • Performing a physical audit of the wireless network
  • Systematically troubleshooting events until root causes are identified and resolved
  • Collecting direct student feedback to ensure changes made provide meaningful improvements

“I am proud of the outstanding efforts of the teams,” said Wayne Ortman, director of Network Services. “We look forward to future partnerships with Oxford and plan to showcase their network during the planning of future efforts.”

The employees who worked on this project include Nate Akyempong (Field Services), John Anderson (build engineer), Troy Crumbley (run engineer), Arnold Dawson (Field Services), Delmer Gonzalez (Field Services), Dorian Hyndman (build manager), Frankie King (Field Services), Tavares Matthews (Field Services), Raul Pritchard (Field Services), Jaime Romanque (Field Services), Bernard Sanders (build engineer), Kelly Smith (Field Services), Quincy Thomas Jr. (Field Services), Musa Varachhia (build engineer), Vince Vaughn (run engineer), and Damon Williams (Field Services).

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