Axians Network S1 E3
[00:00:25] Hello and welcome to another episode of the Axians network. So when I first saw the working title of this episode, which was Student Learning Experience, I thought we were going to be discussing cheap beer and the Labour Party. But actually, my age, so happily, we are going to be discussing campus network architecture and how it is now moving forward to the Axians Reach 2020 initiative, which aims to change the conversation about future campus network architecture. With me today are Roger Snelling. And Roger, you were previously to your role now as a consultant, the head of network to AIX. The university made you responsible for the wired and wireless networks along with the telecom systems. So a man with real insight from the university perspective and an equity university sort of strikes as being a perfect place to be. Is it? Was that right?
[00:01:16] Um, yes. Yes, certainly had quite a few challenges. I mean, I joined Exeter in 2008 and the architecture was in a pretty dire state, both the data and the telecom side. So it was it was my role really to sort all that out. So, yeah, it’s been quite an advance in technology since then. That was the first introduction, actually, of the Juniper AIX series Switches. So Exeter claim to fame were the biggest worldwide installation of of Juniper switches at that time. So shipping IoT 700 switches. So fantastic. That is unclimbed. Yeah. Yeah. And we held it till I think we got pipped to the post by MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
[00:02:05] But hey, not a bad, not a bad second place.
[00:02:09] AndI Burcher nothing that got off campus network architecture wouldn’t let you. It is having Bloor is there. So twenty years. I believe it is. You’ve been working in the higher education sector pretty well. Did you ever leave university. Yes. Yes, absolutely. And I hear you just come back to university as a student. Yeah. How’s that.
[00:02:29] It’s interesting to get a different perspective now and to immerse myself in the student journey. And now I see what the student expects from the campus architecture wi fi, always on, very always working there, um, and getting access to resources when you need them. So it is interesting now to be on the other side, having sold campus lands for so long into into higher education, which, you know, experience in being a user of it.
[00:02:53] So collectively, we have all perspectives covid just about Axians. So let’s jump in then. So just to set the scene, a question to you both. But and if you’d like to pick up first in your opinion, what’s the state of the nation right now with respect to campus network architecture?
[00:03:09] So I think a lot of the problems that we’re seeing in campus land today is to do with being behind the curve where the necessary investment hasn’t continued to come for the growth of campus land to keep up with the requirements for new technologies, new user expectations, new styles of learning, the investment in the campus as still continue to be sort of bursty. You know, once every five, seven, maybe even ten years, there’s an investment in the campus land and that’s not really necessarily kept pace with the requirements for the university. Added to that, the architecture itself hasn’t really evolved in the past twenty years. We’re still using an architecture that is historic. It’s it’s complicated. It’s difficult to configure, certainly difficult to change, and a great deal of complexity in the core, the network. And I think that limits the complexity, limits change and limits the university’s ability to add new services. We certainly see many other devices connected on the network today. We see lots of Iot, even IP enabled lighting and and cameras and building management systems besides just the students devices themselves that want to connect to the network. So it’s a much more complex environment than we might have seen when the networks were built. Certainly when Axians was built in 2008. It’s evolved greatly and the architecture needs to evolve with that as well.
[00:04:35] And another piece of trivia. So in 2008, the iPhone hadn’t even been invented. So when you’re looking at strategy and design and development of the network architecture, you know what’s around the corner. That’s that’s the that’s exciting bit. You know, in two years time, it’s going to be some breakthrough technology that we can’t even conceive at the moment. As Andy alluded to, the the growth of Iot at the moment. I mean, that’s going to be a big game changer. And we’re seeing that invading sort of every every aspect of the the infrastructure. So, yeah, that’s that’s going to be huge. Um, interestingly. So I. Actually been in higher education for 35 years.
[00:05:23] Gosh, I know I shouldn’t have to be a bridesmaid in this relationship.
[00:05:30] Yeah, and and again, just picking up on Andy’s point, the architecture really hasn’t evolved. I mean, I can remember back in the 90s installing pretty much the same type of architecture that we see today. So you’ve got the core distribution edge. And as Andy said, it’s fairly static, you know, and it takes a lot of management to to maintain it. So I think the future in terms of reference architectures is really exciting. You know, it’s starting to address the needs of the consumer, basically, you know, as the student, the researcher, the academic, making it more agile, opening up, you know, possibilities for Guatemala’s onboarding. So, yeah, it’s it’s really exciting just to pull that back a little bit.
[00:06:21] And so if I say this in the right way, we have coffee, cups of coffee, repeat sort of thing with with the sort of redeployment of new campus lands, etc. if if it’s not evolved, that must provide some challenges to the university, a business level in terms of attracting the right students from various parts of the world, because that’s how a lot of them get their revenue. So is that an issue?
[00:06:44] Yeah, I think it is. They say part of the underinvestment in higher education has meant that people have led towards more commodities architecture as well, where people are looking to to deliver less and less services and just really keep the lights on, keep resilient, perform in networks in place. And I think that that’s perhaps had a negative effect. Roger, certainly at Exeter, we had such a high availability of the network infrastructure.
[00:07:11] It’s meant that the need for investment seems to have sort of drifted by people didn’t consider that the network needed investing it. But certainly we’ve got people coming in from all across the world now. We’re in a particularly competitive global landscape for universities, having to attract students from anywhere in the world that could could potentially go to new universities that are popping up in China and in India, start to perform particularly well in the in the worldwide league tables now. And if they’re going to deliver this kind of services that these these students need today, they need to be sympathetic to that global reach, to perhaps distance learning to multiple languages, to to getting people to a level of competence in English language before they can even start to work on the course. And equally with limitations on visas and residency. We need to make sure that if we can be flexible enough to perhaps deliver a first year on campus in the UK and then let people return to their native country to continue on the degree course. This is a real change in the way that we’re having to deliver the services to the students today. And with that, that commodity’s campus land infrastructure that, as Roger said, you know, most of the architecture today weren’t weren’t delivered with the expectation of things like phones be wired or the Iot kind of devices. They’re just not built in the right way. And if we look at some of the most evolving industries over the past 10 years, service provider, for instance, where you know, your service provider that historically would just provide broadband to a CPE in the user’s house and not really know what the user’s expectation was. It was just to deliver a broadband service that’s evolved greatly over the years. Now, all of the service providers are looking to content provision and and bandwidth provisioning and rate limiting however they go about it, but making sure that they deliver the best possible service and trying to predict what those service changes are going to be over a period of time. And in their world, you have to have an architecture that allows that service differentiation, allows evolution and delivery of new services. And you’ve got to have that foresight when you design that architecture. Whereas in Cambuslang, you know, we’re still very reactive. And what that does is it has an effect on the operation model operating model for the university. You know, the complexity comes back down to the network operators and administrators to deliver change, to try and do it fast. But, you know, there’s still a requirement to do more with less.
[00:09:47] So it’s quite surprising what I’m hearing here, because on the one hand, you have students and the way that they consume information, data, they’re learning behaviours is radically changed, as we’ve discussed over the past few years. Yet you’re saying that in terms of how a university might deliver that experience to the student, that to to get them through and to get the best grades and to have the great experience and all the brand reputation that goes along with the university. How does a university currently respond then to to these things? Is it just piling on more? What is what is it doing right now?
[00:10:23] You answer that one, right?
[00:10:24] I think I was I was well, I think the challenge is even greater than that because, yes, there is an element with student on boarding. But equally, you have to address the requirements for academics, research, the corporate element of a university as well. There’s a real eclectic mix, and I always liken it to a small city, really. I mean, you know, the delivery to those consumers, you have to address all those needs. So, yeah, I mean, in terms of students, they’re looking for something that’s agile, dynamic. They can just connect seamlessly, whether it’s wired wirelessly that they don’t really care. They want access to resources when they need them. So you’ve got that sort of open element. And then conversely, with with your corporate network, then you’re trying to lock things down, you know, protect your finance systems, protect intellectual property in terms of research. So it’s it’s it’s a challenge from the networking perspective. And again, this is where the traditional route has been to basically configure it down to the nth degree, where you basically allocate a port to a certain protocol and and access. But again, you know that that takes a lot of time and effort and complexity. And it be great if you could just do away with that and basically have it at the point where the end user connects and they get the resources they need when they connect. So it’s that sort of virtualisation of the network which cigarettes.
[00:12:10] Nicely into my next question or statement, really Axians is changing the conversation and it’s the Rich 20/20 initiative so that that is about developing a new campus reference architecture.
[00:12:24] So tell me about that.
[00:12:27] Thanks, David. Yes, I think it is a good Segway. We’ve talked about some of the challenges that universities are faced with, but what we’ve not talked about much is what they’re doing about it. And for many universities, I think there’s a great difficulty in evolving that network infrastructure. They’re very used to working within the boundaries of budget and also from the architecture they’ve got and just trying to balance things on and trying to make things different, to add layers of security to to add some some service models around that. But what we believe is actually a complete evolution of that architecture is is timely now. So we went out and surveyed a number of infrastructure managers, network managers, assistant directors within higher education in the U.K. and we asked them to help us to prioritise what their Day-To-Day challenges are and see what’s causing the most pain. I hate the phrase keeping them awake at night because I’m sure it doesn’t do that. But all the same, you know, we’ve got to evolve the way in which the network architecture helps and supports the university to deliver against their objectives today, you know, not just for students, but for research as well. So that survey allowed us to categorise a number of different challenges and then to build an architecture reference model that would accommodate some of those challenges, find ways in a very vendor, agnostic way to to accommodate those challenges. We wanted to make sure that as we delivered this reference architecture, we weren’t looking for a single vendor approach.
[00:14:01] We weren’t looking for any proprietary mechanisms and that we were going to work within the boundaries of the customers already have. So existing estate as it as it exists today. But we have worked closely with Juniper Networks, our business partner in the inner core networking concept, and we certainly ourselves and Juniper Juniper firmly believe that the model that is used and very successful in in service provider today gives them the agility to deliver new services is a terrific model to take to the higher education market, particularly as you the we are seeing a multi talented campus now and we’re seeing the requirement for secure segmentation, for compliance, of course, the need for support in BYOB and Iot and the plethora of devices that we see out there.
[00:14:48] So our architecture was designed to to meet those challenges head on and to make sure that we would face excuse me, that we would deal with one challenge and then move on to the next one in the next one and the next one. And so the architecture is is multi vendor, and it allows us to to really try and meet some of those requirements and deliver an architecture that’s nimble, that will reduce the operating overheads that we currently see in the campus land environment today and allow the university to evolve and deliver new services. That’s what this is all about. So they can. Keep up with with the the complexity of delivering new services as they arrive and the changing model for higher education, whether that’s on campus, remote learning, whether we’re using lecture, capture and delivering in that way, it doesn’t matter what we’re trying to do, we’re trying to achieve. We want to allow the campus network to evolve and increasingly as the campus network forms a IoT, highly contributing part of a city. Yeah, we need to make sure we’re connecting with transport infrastructure and local resources, whether they’re health care or policing or emergency services, transportation.
[00:16:01] And all of these things are all going to be connected via Iot over the coming years. And for anybody to build a network architecture today, they want to make sure it’s open up to to work with those other elements in the future.
[00:16:12] So so this is a reach 2020 is a is a real collaboration between the universities that we’re discussing with universities. So they are involved. We have vendors involved. We talk about Julià, but there are others. Yes. So that that really is a new model, we’re saying.
[00:16:30] And I think it opens it up, you know, in terms of smart city sort of philosophy as well, where you’re actually breaking into years. And he says, you know, you’ve you’ve got more and more public sector as well, engaging. And if you think of the student experience, I mean, typically so, you know, they’re based in an inner city somewhere. So obviously they’re enjoying the social aspects of the city. But there’s a duty of care. There’s that sort of pastoral care that the universities enjoy as well. You know, they like to to make sure, you know, keep in mind, keeping an eye on them. Yeah, but it is important, you know, I mean, that that aspect, you know, in terms of health and well-being is is coming to the fore.
[00:17:14] Now, I think increasingly, if I can just pick up on that, that student is, again, good to talk about it. So here I am. I’m a student. I’m probably a mobile first generation person. So I’m coming onto campus connected by my my iPhone or a smartphone. And by the time I go onto campus, I may have to switch to another device. So in terms of how to reach 2020, deal with me, I, I’m just thinking here that university thousands of students, potentially multiple devices, that that sounds like a mammoth task to register all these devices and get it all sort of connected and and we know who’s who in terms of policy enforcement and such things. So how does 20-20 kind of high level deal with that role jumping in.
[00:17:57] Okay, so, yeah, you’ve hit the nail on the head.
[00:17:59] I mean, you know, very much the focus is on BYOB and I think increasingly universities are expecting the students to turn out with their own equipment and they want to. So the key there is, you know, point of engagement. How quickly can you attract the students? So this journey actually starts well beyond the students turning up on campus. I mean, there’s a wealth of social media, and so it’s early engagement with students. It’s attracting them. A lot of the universities, obviously themselves as destination university. So they want to get, you know, the cream of the crop. So, yes, they’ll be advertising various services, social activities, and yet effectively so the students register early. And then once they arrive at the campus again through IoT and a host of other applications, they can map their way around the campus, see what events are on. You know, in terms of the social aspect, they’ve got timetabling for teaching. So all these things really sort of form part of the new student experience and the student journey, which, yeah, I think for the student, you know, possibly being their first time away from home, you know, as another sort of permanent residence, I mean, it’s it’s all important that, you know, they’re they’re looked after.
[00:19:26] It’s a lot broader than I first read 20/20. But we’ve been talking a lot about the student experience and learning requirements, said what about the poor people that the OP, the the network engineers, the guys in university that have to make all this happen, how is reach 2020 going to change their lives?
[00:19:45] So at the moment, the the difficulty in the campus land architecture as it exists today is that a lot of change is actually Mannu. There’s a limit to the amount of security that they want to and policy that they want to enforce on the network. And so a lot of these networks are open. And when you’ve got an open network in order to secure the areas that you need to secure, whether that’s for research or for corporate and administrative use, then that’s more manual process. And so when it when you find people moving around the camp. You might have to reconfigure the network to allow them to get access. Our solution is designed to try and take some of that burden away from the network operator. We’re going to use automation to first identify the user, the device, and map some identity and device awareness together that to determine a path that that user gets through the network, but taken into account that that’s got to be automated. They might still move around. They might change from one device to another and equally that they were going to be different policy requirements for researchers who may need to share data. But equally, they may be governed more strictly by security compliance. So the concept here allows as much automation as we possibly can to reduce the overhead on the network operator, give them greater visibility into what’s going on, on the network, and at the same time apply security levels and allow them to get some time back to go and develop those new services that the university so desperately needs to keep up with the service requirements of the researchers, of the academics and of the students alike. And it’s and it’s given that time back that perhaps is the most value in reach 2020.
[00:21:31] And let’s not lose sight of the fact that you’ve still got the academics and researchers. Yes. Internal staff as well. So it’s not just the students. I mean, everybody basically wants to to use the Wi-Fi network and, you know, be able to on board as seamlessly as possible. So, again, it’s setting policy for these people through this new reference architecture that actually allows them to move around freely as well and set the policy so they get access to the systems that they require as far as and when.
[00:22:04] So it strikes me that this might also work for non-educational large organisations, perhaps?
[00:22:12] Yeah, absolutely. The challenge I’ve always felt within a higher education is a bigger challenge than that in most corporate organisations, because in the corporate you’ve got a degree of control.
[00:22:25] You can choose which devices, perhaps, certainly which applications your users consume, whereas in a in a higher education environment, your users are coming to the university with a degree of of an expectation. They know how they consume it better than some old guys do. And and they certainly have their own applications and services and and ways in which they learn, you know, these are all very, very personal things that are going to bring along with them to university. And so the university is really there to accommodate that and to make sure that they get the best possible learning journey. As Roger said, it’s not just about going to the lectures. It’s immerse themselves in the campus life. It’s becoming an adult where perhaps they’ve not left home before. And university is the only place where they can really get that experience. We want to make it easy for them. Certainly as a student myself, I know that things like access to the Valley single sign on, you know, all these really simple things is as a user, add great complexity for the network operations team. And if we can take some of that pain away and make it easier for the students to enjoy a good experience at a university, then then it’s a win win.
[00:23:35] So Reach 2020 really is changing the conversation. So I’m a university. How do I get involved?
[00:23:43] Okay, well, we’re going to be attending a number of events throughout 2018. You Cizre events, the domestic events network shopin and security events and so on. And equally, you can contact myself or Roger at Axians and get to speak to us. Let us share some of our experiences with you and show you how to reach twenty. Twenty can help you in the shortest term. We want people to get involved. We want as much feedback from our customers as you possibly can to make sure that as we building out this architecture, that it’s fitting and that it suits the needs of the customer.
[00:24:15] And there may well be a LinkedIn group. Absolutely, yes. Reach 2020. Right. Okay. And some final thoughts then from you both to sort of summarise where we are now, what 2020 is going to deliver?
[00:24:30] Well, I certainly think it’s an exciting development and it’s long overdue because the the the whole nature of networking now, it needs to be more agile, more dynamic, dealing with, if you like, 90s architecture. It’s had its day. It’s still very robust, but it’s had its day and it needs to move on.
[00:24:51] So I think this is an exciting future and I think was equally excited, but at two levels. One, for the network operations team who I feel have been perhaps undervalued and stifled. Their creativity has been stifled for a number of years and had to sort of stick with commodity budgets and and deliver in a commodity level service. And I think they need to they should be allowed to open it up now and develop the services they offer and. From a business level, develop in the architecture will allow the business to deliver improved services to their students, and they’re all rated on the National Student Survey. It’s all about student satisfaction each. Equally, the Teaching Excellence Framework and the research excellence framework. These are all great measures. And the only way that we can make sure that we’re keeping up and delivering consistently good results is if we’ve got a more agile infrastructure. So I think the business is going to benefit. The network operators is going to benefit. And I like to think that as Axians are well immersed in the intersection sector right now, you know, we got something good that we can bring that so exciting times.
[00:25:56] And because I campus architecture and if you’d like to get involved, there should be some details below.
[00:26:01] You can contact Andy or Roger. And thank you both for joining me today. I’m David IoT. This has been an Axians network production. Thank you for watching.