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ITS Networking has released its 2023 Networking Annual Report. Ryan Turner, Director of Networking, created and compiled the report to provide insight into the vital work that keeps University networks humming.

By contributing to large-scale construction projects, deploying a new Wi-Fi spectrum and operationally supporting tens of thousands of concurrently connected devices to campus Wi-Fi, the Networking team makes teaching and learning at Carolina possible.

Networking previously released the report in a biannual format, but Turner said the new annual format “may persist into the future.”

For full details on projects, statistics, graphs and a critical incidents review, read the complete 2023 Networking Annual Report.

Cover of the PDF version of the Networking Annual Report 2023, which features a network switch with ethernet cables

Campus network hits new highs

New peak download rate: 40Gbps

“Our investments in connectivity and architecture are paying off,” Turner said. This new download rate of 40Gbps would have been “impossible” with previous equipment, he said.

Access points on campus: 11,504

Turner said Networking made “enormous efforts” and installed more than 400 Wi-Fi 6E access points in the last year, bringing the total on campus to 11,504.

Peak concurrent sessions: 52,000

On November 14, campus networks hit their 2023 high — about 52,000 concurrent sessions.

Most onboarded operating system on eduroam: iOS

“Our customers prefer Apple devices to other operating systems,” Turner said. Eduroam’s most onboarded operating system — 34% of devices — was iOS. More broadly, Turner reported that Apple devices “dominated the eduroam onboarding statistics,” representing more than 68% of all devices in the last year.

2023 project recap

Installation and upgrades

One of ITS Networking’s key roles is to work with campus partners on new construction projects. In 2023, the Networking group commissioned networks in the Innovate Carolina Junction, UNC Kenan-Flagler Charlotte and School of Medicine’s Roper Hall.

For the past few years, Housing has committed to significantly improving the wireless across all residence halls. Over the summer, ITS teams upgraded Morrison Residence Hall and installed almost 500 access points in the building.

Early in 2023, Networking was approved to move forward with significant expenditures to bring Wi-Fi 6E to campus. Wi-Fi 6E gives “the ability to scale wireless in a way we have not been able to before,” but it also presents “new challenges,” Turner said. He expects the transition to Wi-Fi 6E to be complete within the next six years and at no cost to customers due to the campus rate model.

Frank Hall and Chuck Reese stand in front of the Roper Hall construction site.
Frank Hall and Chuck Reese of ITS Infrastructure & Operations outside Roper Hall in January 2023

Status and monitoring

Last year, ITS Networking launched a new centralized monitoring platform, Opsview. Most ITS services have been migrated, and Networking is making the fee-based service available to departments.

ITS will decommission the previous monitoring platform, Zabbix, but ITS has not set a timeline. Turner said that campus Zabbix users will receive “significant advanced notice” before the platform is decommissioned.

Another substantial change last year was the way ITS notifies campus when ITS services are degraded or unavailable.

Screenshot of subscribe to status interface. Shows "subscribe" button and space to add email address

“We are now using automation to alert our customers nearly instantaneously when we detect a service is down,” Turner said. “When our monitoring platform detects issues with our subscribed services, a series of automations are processed that do many things simultaneously. Most importantly to our customers, ITS Status is updated in near real-time about a service disruption. Simultaneously, the Operations Center is busy validating that the alert is not a false positive. After validation, another series of automations notifies the service owner of an issue, updates the ITS Status website, creates a major incident and even creates a Teams channel dedicated to the major incident for discussion.”

Campus users can subscribe to ITS Status to receive email notifications when there are issues with and planned maintenance for ITS services.

Upcoming projects

UNC Guest for all campus

Currently, the UNC-Guest Wi-Fi network is available in select parts of campus, usually deployed at the request of a department. In 2024, that will change.

“UNC-Guest will be broadcasted in all buildings with the potential exception of Carolina Housing,” Turner said. “We hope this will improve and unify our guest experience and make administrative staff’s lives a little easier,” he added.

Turner expects to announce a launch date soon.

Upgrades to Wi-Fi powered this selfie at the Chelsea/Wrexham match in July 2023 (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Cloud-based wireless management

“All network vendors have been focusing their efforts on designing management platforms for their assets in the cloud,” Turner said. “While we have remained on-prem, this status quo will not last for much longer.”

Over the next year, ITS Networking will test a new cloud management platform on main campus, for Housing and in carefully selected buildings. The change requires a complete rebuild of campus wireless configurations and lots of testing and validation.

Extreme campus fabric exploration

The Networking team is considering the deployment of a network fabric that “will simplify our network core as well as give us some additional options for path redundancy that are difficult to achieve with our current technology,” Turner said. “The fabric we are considering will allow us to provide redundant links to every building on campus to multiple distribution networks. What this means is that if we have a problem with a distribution node, building traffic will be uninterrupted as it flows to a different node.”


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