Juniper Networks Master of IT, Craig Collar: Alaska Distance Education Consortium (ADEC)

January 17th, 2007 |
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Building and maintaining a network always presents challenges, but as Manager of Networking for the University of Alaska, Craig Collar has some additional difficulties. Hear how Juniper Networks helped him tackle the tundra.

This Juniper Networks podcast is part of the Juniper Networks Master of IT program.

Transcript:

Host: Paul Lancour – PodTech

Guest: Craig Collar – Juniper Networks

Paul Lancour – PodTech

Welcome to the Juniper Networks Master of IT Podcast, recognizing Juniper customers who deliver strategic value to their organizations, by solving complex networking challenges. I’m Paul Lancour with Podtech.net. Today’s guest is Craig Collar, Manager of Networking at the University of Alaska. As you might imagine, he faces some unique challenges, designing and maintaining a network. I started by asking him to describe his role.

Craig Collar – Juniper Networks

I’m responsible for the network design, new network implementation, and I would say network expansion for the University of Alaska System Office, which is sort of a governing body for the University of Alaska and its three major campuses. The three major campuses are the University of Alaska Fairbanks, University of Alaska Anchorage, and University of Alaska in Juneau, and my role at the System Office is fundamentally to develop a network from a wide area network service point of view, whereas we provide network services to the various campuses. I’m also recently started working on the University of Alaska Fairbanks Campus Network Engineering as well.

Paul Lancour – PodTech

And so what are the specific challenges as the Manager of Network Engineering for the University? What are the specific challenges you face?

Craig Collar – Juniper Networks

Well, being in Alaska our challenges, I think are different than some other major universities in the United States. Simply because our geography, we face some challenges in terms of the amount of infrastructure that’s available to us and when there is infrastructure available to us, the cost that infrastructure has for us. So, with any university our three primary challenges for IT, is to serve the research community, to serve the students, and to serve the communities, specifically in terms of community outreach.

In the research area, we do some high performance computing. We have a fairly prestigious science community here and they’re doing a lot of large date set transfers to sites in lower 48. And for our students, one of the challenges we have is the expectations that they come into the university with and for IT specifically. A number of our students of course live here on campus and they’re expecting and indeed deserving to have Internet access and network access, equal to any other university in the nation.

So, that puts us in a different sort of operational mindset than some other’s education environment might be, and that we’ve to provide 24×7 365 days a year access to our network resources, both commodity Internet resources and Internet2 resources for all these people, just like any mission critical network or a mission critical operation.

Paul Lancour – PodTech

We were joking, just before we got started that everybody who first speaks to you when you’re in Alaska, asks you about the weather, but it’s true that the weather conditions in the terrain probably present you with unique problems up there, as well as the far-flung nature of the various campuses you deal with.

Craig Collar – Juniper Networks

Absolutely, absolutely. We still serve remote campuses using satellite feeds, which universities in the lower 48 might not have to do with and that presents problems of latency and delay that we have to overcome. And these are actually very low bandwidth circuits here of course. So, we can’t provide the amount of bandwidth, say to a remote campus that some of the university might, but we have to make sure that that bandwidth is used to its utmost potential. And of course there is the cost issue as well. Satellite bandwidth remains to be very, very expensive.

Paul Lancour – PodTech

Is that the only way you connect with some of your campuses is with the satellite you have no fiber lines or anything like that?

Craig Collar – Juniper Networks

For some of our remote campuses, satellite is the only connection available. Most of them, however most of our remote campuses we connect to via a frame relay like network that’s delivered either via carriers, fiber-optic, infrastructure or over microwave links.

Paul Lancour – PodTech

In what ways is Juniper Networks assisted you in facing these challenges?

Craig Collar – Juniper Networks

Well, Juniper has been instrumental in the development of our network. About three years ago, we received a grant from the National Institute of Health, to upgrade the core network infrastructure of our network. And we turned the Juniper first and foremost to help us out in the design and deployment of the network.

Juniper has an excellent name in the education and the research market and Internet2 of which we’re a member, uses Juniper extensively. And so it was fairly easy for us to look at Juniper for a core network, routing platform. And they were very helpful in that regard; plus in terms of a community outreach prospective for the university, we are involved in a program called Sponsored Education Group Participant called SEGP, and basically it’s an Internet2 program that allows us to connect non-Internet2 member entities on the Internet2 backbone.

And Juniper was instrumental in helping us allocate some equipment from them throughout the State of Alaska, to deploy this new network that will connect these individual communities with. So, what we’re talking about specifically is, Connecting K through 20 schools, connecting libraries, connecting museums, connecting certain other education organizations, throughout the state to the Internet2 backbone over Juniper routing equipment.

Paul Lancour – PodTech

So, it sounds like you’re overseeing the network connection of a large segment of the education system in the State of Alaska?

Craig Collar – Juniper Networks

Absolutely and it seems to be growing daily to tell you the truth.

Paul Lancour – PodTech

When did you receive this grant money and you started to deploy your new network?

Craig Collar – Juniper Networks

We received the grant money about three years ago, and that’s when we upgraded the universities core network. And then in conjunction with Juniper and a number of the carriers here in Alaska, we recently deployed what’s called the AK20 Network and we just finished that deployment before 2007. And we’re now in the process of connecting the other educational organizations up to that network.

Paul Lancour – PodTech

So, as you move forward with this and with other aspects of your work, what do you see is the challenges in the future?

Craig Collar – Juniper Networks

Well, I think our challenges are; well, there is technical challenges and I think there is policy challenges. Of course, some of the technical challenges we are up against are like many enterprises or many large service provider networks in that we can no longer rely just on destination-based IP routing.

What we really need to do and this is one of the reasons we chose Juniper as a partner here, is we need to able to control packet forwarding in a way that isn’t say the default way of packet forwarding and of course Juniper’s hardware is renowned for this ability. And Juniper offers, in my mind, a very rich policy language, and through the use of that policy language, we’re able to control packets in ways that a couple of years ago wouldn’t be possible.

And so, we’re also looking at so called advanced services in terms of QoS, in terms of bandwidth reservation and in terms of in the specific areas, compression and local cashing, particularly with the satellite sites. We have to make sure that, that bandwidth there, is used properly and used to its best affect; and the only way you can do that is through some of the new technologies, in terms of compression and certain amount of cashing.

Paul Lancour – PodTech

Well, it sounds like you’ve a lot of challenging and rewarding work going on up there in Alaska, and I just want to thank you for taking the time out today Craig and talking to us about it.

Craig Collar – Juniper Networks

Okay, great.

Paul Lancour – PodTech

Craig Collar is Manager of Network Engineering for the University of Alaska.

Join us for the next Podcast in the Juniper Networks series Masters of IT. Thanks for listening.

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