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The cover of the Networking Biannual Report for June through December 2022, featuring a photo of a man's hands working on a networking switchITS Networking has released its newest biannual report, covering July through December 2022.

Created by Ryan Turner, Head of Networking at ITS, the report provides insight into the vital work that keeps the University’s networks humming.

From developing a new monitoring tool, contributing to large-scale construction projects, planning for the deployment of a new Wi-Fi spectrum, to operationally supporting of tens of thousands of concurrently connected devices to campus Wi-Fi, the Networking team makes teaching and learning at Carolina possible.

For full details on projects, statistics, graphs and more, view the Networking Biannual Report.

Major construction

Networking is working on major construction projects on campus, including the Chapel Hill Innovation Hub and the School of Medicine’s medical education building, Roper Hall.

An artist's rendering of the new innovation hub, viewed from across Rosemary Street. The building is roughly rectangular, with a stone or brick ground floor, then five stories of glass above it.
Artist’s rendering of the new Innovation Hub at 136 Rosemary Street. Courtesy of Innovate Carolina

The Chapel Hill Innovation Hub on Rosemary Street will anchor UNC-Chapel Hill and industry relationships, offering more than 20,000 square feet of shared space. This site will connect directly to UNC’s network thanks to the work of the ITS Transport Operations team and its manager, Chad Ray. The Networking team is providing significant data communication services to this building, which will include the first deployment of 6E-capable wireless.

Teams across ITS, including Networking, are actively engaged with construction of the School of Medicine’s Roper Hall. “There is a significant investment in data communications in this space with over 60 switches and 120+ access points. This building will have our most capable and large roll-out of stacked edge switches with at least 50Gbps connectivity to each floor for high-end AV capabilities,” said Turner.

Off-campus support

In addition to on-campus projects, “the Networking group continues to increase our scope to more sites around the state,” said Turner. “We see many departments moving to off-campus spaces. They often do this with no consideration for how they will connect back to campus.”

Ryan Turner
Ryan Turner, Head of Networking and author of the networking biannual report

He urges departments to investigate connectivity options to campus and contact Networking before signing leases. Not doing so can be costly. “These connections costs can be trivial in certain locations to over $2,000 a month in others,” he said.

Kenan-Flagler Business School is opening an executive education center in downtown Charlotte. Networking is working to equip this space with wired and wireless connectivity. MCNC fiber will connect the new building to the campus network. MCNC is a nonprofit organization that delivers internet service to universities, schools, local governments and healthcare organizations, including Carolina.

The UNC System Office has successfully moved its main presence from Chapel Hill to Raleigh with help from Networking. The Network Deployment group deployed a networking stack in the new location and connected the System Office directly to campus through an MCNC fiber connection.

Supply chain return to normalcy

For several years, supply chain issues have been a primary obstacle for completing projects, but Networking is catching up. By combining orders, Turner said, “we were able to gain priority and finally get the inventory we needed to properly life cycle across campus without delays.” The stock of networking equipment is expected to last through the fiscal year.

a man adjusting wires behind a faceplate on a wall
An ITS staffer adjusts wiring while installing a new access point

Looking toward the future, Turner said that a “return to normalcy is expected by the summer” for most networking equipment.

Included in this new equipment are the first 6GHz-capatable access points, expected to be installed within the next few months. ITS Networking is working to finalize the deployment strategy for the new 6GHz spectrum, also called Wi-Fi 6E. Wi-Fi 6E, representing a major step forward in wireless technology, should increase speed to devices through the addition of new channels, reducing network congestion.

New software

The Networking DevOps team is innovating to create big changes in monitoring campus networks.

The DevOps team, led by Will Whitaker, recently developed a tool called Operation Center Network Event Summarization, or OCNES. The tool summarizes network events aiding in fault isolation and event resolution. The “tool directly offset the need to continue a subscription to a very expensive NMS [network monitoring system] platform we have, and we expect this tool to be released as an open-source project,” Turner said. The new tool, he added, will soon be presented nationally with the Network Managers Constituency Group within the EDUCAUSE trade association.

Thanks to another new tool, ITS Operations Center will soon have a much stronger role in monitoring business services for the University. “We evaluated and have purchased a centralized monitoring platform called Opsview,” Turner said. “We hope that this platform will significantly improve our response time and situational awareness of all the critical business services that ITS offers.”

Opsview offers new ways of monitoring the network, including monitoring that tracks and alerts on website interactions. The Networking DevOps group is currently coding integrations with other ITS systems. These integrations will enable the Opsview platform to automate service degradation announcements on the ITS Status webpage, Turner said. Automating service degradation announcements is a win-win for both ITS staff and campus users, saving staff time and giving end users quicker updates. He added that there will be presentations on new capabilities once the platform has matured.

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