Jasper-based consultant working with IU to build out network infrastructure

Indiana University Centralizes, Modernizes System to Deliver Safe, Secure Internet for 250,000 Concurrent Devices

With a master 10-year plan in place, University Information Technology Services (UITS) at Indiana University is in year one of a major network infrastructure overhaul.

The UITS mission is to build up an administrative and learning environment that supports 250,000 concurrent devices utilized by students, faculty, staff and guests across all nine IU campuses. The university is in partnership with PIER Group LLC, a higher education IT consultancy company based out of Jasper, and Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, to develop long-term strategies and provide assistance in deploying established solutions.

PIER Group, which stands for “Partners In Education & Research,” is an information technology consulting and implementation company that specializes in computing and networking for the education and research communities. For more than 20 years, the PIER Group team has worked with higher education institutions and research organizations to build next-generation research computing, innovative networking infrastructure solutions and high-performing data centers to help their clients gain a competitive edge and support critical research initiatives. The PIER Group team works closely with some of the industry’s most highly respected manufacturers, such as HPE and Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company.

Most universities run on a decentralized network, employing hundreds of full- and part-time technology professionals who work in individual academic departments, but IU has chosen a centralized approach to networking.

“We’re building what’s called a ‘unified edge,’ which is rare in academia,” said Mark Spencer, UITS manager of campus network engineering. “Many universities have a core team that takes care of the central brains of a network, but individual departments buy and install their own equipment and tools on the network’s periphery. Our core network team takes care of the central brain and the edges as well. Also, we are merging the management and user experience of the wired and wireless networks so that they are much more similar, if not the same. Both of these factors, centralization and a unified approach to wired and wireless, cut down on resource redundancy, enhance focus, and ultimately create a better experience for students, faculty and guests.”

This resource consolidation strategy could establish IU as running one of the largest networks in the nation that is proportionally managed by one of the smallest technology teams. Just 45 employees are needed to handle nearly all of the university’s network operations, switching, routing, wireless, and wiring.

“We are a ‘volume’ business, based on our large number of customers. With so many faculty, staff, and students on nine campuses, and all the different devices they use and attach to our network, our goal is operational efficiency.  Installation, maintenance, and troubleshooting are infinitely more efficient in a homogenous environment,” said Kirt Guinn, director of telecommunications infrastructure at IU. “Within a year we’ll have a fully upgraded, cutting-edge network that will ensure high-speed connectivity and enhanced network security for up to 250,000 devices.”