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Why Switching to 10 Gig Ethernet Pays Off

Governments upgrade their networks to handle advanced applications.

Whether it’s Voice over IP phone service, IP video cameras, HVAC building controls or informational kiosks at cemeteries, officials in Savannah, Ga., increasingly rely on technology to help them do more with less. To handle all of these applications and more, Savannah’s IT department recently upgraded to a 10 Gigabit Ethernet network.

Fast networks are becoming a basic necessity for many state and local governments, says Shawn McCarthy, director of research for IDC Government Insights, who adds to that list road and traffic sensors, flow meters for water supplies and streaming video creation. “The sum total is placing significant demands on networks,” he says.

To support a new data center built in 2009, Savannah’s IT department replaced a 4Gbps Fibre Channel network with 10 Gig-E routers and switches. Placing redundant 10 Gig-E routers at the core delivers up to 20Gbps of throughput to more than 100 virtual servers and a storage system.

“We not only wanted speed, but also high availability,” says Kevin Ferris, acting network manager for Savannah. “We needed a robust and resilient infrastructure offering advanced features.”

Simplified Switching

Standardizing on Juniper Networks routers and switches, Savannah’s IT group purchased two Juniper EX8208 and 22 EX4200 switches, two J6350 routers and 14 J2320 routers.

With maintenance agreements for switches from another manufacturer soon to expire, Ferris plans to replace 65 edge switches with Juniper 10 Gig-E EX-2200 models and upgrade the EX4200s to 10 Gig-E optics to finish the transition to 10 Gig-E across its entire enterprise. By completing this phase, Savannah establishes a path to 40 Gig-E and 100 Gig-E as those bandwidth requirements develop.

Because Savannah operates a lights-out data center, remote centralized management is critical. Also, a handy commit-and-confirm feature enables automatic rollback to a previous version if a change causes a problem. “This eliminates driving 25 miles round trip just to reboot a stranded device,” Ferris says.

In addition, Ferris appreciates Juniper’s virtual chassis technology and advanced routing protocols typically found in the telecom carrier space. “Virtual chassis allows us to manage a group of switches as a single switch, and thus provide failover capabilities as well as ease of management,” he says.

Cam Mathis, acting IT director for the city, says utilizing a single network hardware manufacturer simplified Savannah’s network, saving tens of thousands of dollars versus continuing the multivendor approach. “Standardizing on one platform makes it easier to support and manage our network,” she says. “Anything we do at our core can be extended right out to the edge. That’s essential.”

The modern infrastructure enables Savannah’s IT staff to fulfill requests for new technologies such as video conferencing. “When something becomes IP-addressable, user departments want us to add it to the network,” Mathis says. “That trend certainly isn’t going to stop.”

California Consolidation

Many government entities are catching the standardization wave, according to IDC’s McCarthy. “There is definitely a preference to minimize the variety of devices which IT departments have to understand and configure,” he says.

This rings true for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation IT staff, which runs more than 200 facilities providing custody, care and supervision of inmates, juveniles and parolees.

To streamline its operations, CDCR redesigned its WAN and LAN. The $191 million initiative included consolidating on HP hardware and obtaining a lifetime warranty on the agency’s 4,000 switches. The deployment will save an estimated $7.8 million in cost avoidance on capital and maintenance over three years.

“Our network grew site-by-site over the course of 20 years and lost standardization along the way,” explains CDCR CIO Andrea Rohmann. “With this project, it was as if we had a greenfield to design a robust enterprise system.”

The new architecture incorporates a hub-and-spoke approach. Nine prisons serve as regional hubs that communicate with the CDCR’s primary Sacramento data center. “We grouped sites within LATAs [local access and transport areas] rather than across them to take advantage of significant telecommunications savings,” Rohmann says.

Hub locations house redundant E5412 series 10 Gig-E core switches while spoke sites contain E2600 and E2800 edge switches. This consolidation also permitted CDCR to standardize all related processes, right down to the IP naming schema. “We documented everything in an online workbook, which we use as a template and a troubleshooting tool,” Rohmann says.

Benefits abound, starting with increasing speeds about fivefold. Centralized management permits applying changes to all network gear with a keystroke. In addition, reliability and resiliency — particularly important in remote locations, such as the high desert — shot up because of redundancies. And, consequently, CDCR dramatically mitigated risk.

What’s more, the infrastructure supports enterprise apps, including a new offender management system and Microsoft SharePoint Server, as well as future traffic such as converged voice and data and video conferencing that the agency is exploring.

Going Dim

South Dakota sought to boost bandwidth, reliability and resiliency when replacing an aging ATM network with a modern network infrastructure for higher education, economic development and state government, says Jim Edman, deputy commissioner of the Bureau of Information and Telecommunications. The state forged a public-private partnership for its massive Research, Education and Economic Development Network (REED) dim fiber network.

“Unlike dark fiber networks, which are typically proprietary and require 20-year commitments, we needed a more cost-effective solution,” says Edman. South Dakota signed a five-year lease with a carrier for roughly $1.7 million per year for five 10 Gig-E circuits, saving millions annually over a dark fiber solution. The state only uses a portion of REED, enabling the carrier to offer the balance to businesses and other organizations.

“With our ‘dim’ solution, we lease needed capacity and simultaneously provide a boost for the state's economy,” Edman points out. “Currently, healthcare, banking, agriculture and manufacturing entities are benefiting from the infrastructure.”

5X The increased throughput delivered to Savannah’s servers via dual 10 Gigabit Ethernet core routers

South Dakota selected Juniper routers and switches for connectivity to REED. “They were the superior solution for performance, which has proven out in our deployment,” says Edman. “We’ve had no issues in the time the equipment’s been operational.”

Just one benefit from the network was attracting ongoing neutrino research to an abandoned gold mine. “Also, our educational institutions are conducting high-definition international video conferences,” says Edman. “Among other state-level uses, REED empowers our cloud computing efforts beyond what was capable before.”

Transforming Cultures

Education also spurred development of the Idaho Education Network (IEN), a statewide public/private initiative that brings high-speed access to the state’s 194 high schools for e-learning and video conferencing. “In the past, schools and communities were limited by our state’s rugged terrain, some of which only Sasquatch could cover,” says Greg Zickau, Idaho’s CTO.

Zickau also notes that the state purchases high-speed services for the network from a provider. E-rate dollars help offset expenses, reducing Idaho’s overall cost to operate the IEN by several million dollars annually to about $3 million per year.

In turn, the state leverages other grants to provide and support video conferencing gear to school districts at no cost. For equipment, Idaho purchased Tandberg gear. After Cisco acquired that vendor, Idaho largely continued on the Cisco path, adding a smattering of Polycom solutions as well.

Since connecting all of the schools to the IEN ahead of schedule last fall, the initiative is already transforming school cultures and increasing college matriculation rates, Zickau says. “In one remote district, which historically faced challenges attracting qualified teachers, about 40 percent of students are taking college courses,” he reports.

Zickau adds, “Another district is turning itself into a community college of sorts, offering professional courses during off-hours to create value for its entire community.”

Make It a 10

State and local government IT leaders share the following pointers for successful 10 Gigabit Ethernet rollouts:

  • Do the research to ensure you’re asking the right questions.
  • Tap peers and experts who are familiar with the applications you’ll be running to help correctly scope the project.
  • Kick over the rocks to determine what your users really need versus what they ask for.
  • Choose partners that provide knowledge transfer as well as integration assistance.
  • Standardize, standardize, standardize your equipment and processes to maximize ROI.
  • Measure twice and cut once to minimize impact to end users and reduce deployment timeframes.
  • Align technology infrastructure with facilities planning to ensure IT needs get considered upfront, regardless of the type of building or remodeling project.
Jan 10 2012

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