Future Ready Internet Access
Connecting to the internet for students, faculty, and staff at UMass Boston has never been more important. Before the pandemic, campus internet access was used for teaching, learning, and work, but now there’s so much more. Hybrid instruction, flexible work schedules, and an explosion of devices also rely on a dependable connection to the university network. So for these reasons and more, we are happy to report that the network upgrade project that began in late 2021 has made substantial progress and is proceeding quite nicely!
The project began after a lengthy yet important RFP (request for proposals) process, followed by a full campus wifi site survey and procurement of the network gear needed for the upgrade. Director of Network Services and project manager Jamie Soule reports that the project is mostly on schedule, even if delivery of much of the equipment and hardware was delayed by the pandemic. “Network equipment is starting to arrive, and we’ve implemented the core of the new network alongside our existing network,” Soule said in July 2022. The Campus Center building has been connected to the new network core along with University Hall and the Integrated Science Complex. The McCormick building is scheduled next.
Soule expects work on the wired network portion of the project to be completed by early 2023, before work on the wireless installation begins. That will involve a lot more manual labor, including the installation of new wireless access points (antennas) across campus. But Soule believes that the entire project will be completed in mid-2023.
As arduous as projects like this are, Soule can be considered a seasoned veteran at them. “This will be the fifth time I’ve upgraded the entire campus network in the past 32 years,” he explained. Still, he is especially pleased and proud of this upgrade for several reasons, starting with the procurement process. “We actually went out with a disciplined RFP process that provided us with substantial discounts.” Substantial indeed, as one discount was for 70% off an original quote for programming services.
He is also happy about how much better and future-ready the new network will be, as well as how much easier it will be to manage. “You won’t have to be a Linux expert or have a PhD in computer science (although it certainly helps). It’s very, very user friendly,” Soule added.
As for the network service itself, there is no doubt that the entire campus will be thrilled with the result. Jamie was almost winded describing all the improvements in service it will provide. “We will have much, much more bandwidth for our data centers on campus. That benefits our users because those locations provide access to core academic and business systems for all our users.” He also noted that because the site survey identified areas that would benefit from additional wireless access points, wireless coverage across campus should be greatly improved after the network upgrade is complete.
Maybe most important, especially to our friends in Information Security, Soule said, “We’re going to implement what’s called Clear Pass. It’s a way of securing everybody’s network connection so that it’s only using what it needs to be using,” meaning that users won’t have to rely on whatever virus protection they have on their own personal devices while they’re on campus.
Even though Jamie has managed a network upgrade project four other times during his long and distinguished career at UMass Boston, one gets the sense this one is especially satisfying to him. He and his team know that students, faculty, and staff—now and going forward—will have access to the internet and on-premises computing resources through a modern and future-ready network that was well designed, planned, deployed, and maintained.