Campus Networking Infrastructure needs of today's Education institutions

At the simplest level, a campus network connects academic departments, research centres, laboratories, administrative buildings and hostels of any university campus.

Knowing Campus Area Network

Here's an insight on how your university campus is connected.

 

In India, most private educational institutes have caught up with the trend of providing students with laptops of late. These laptops are provided to help students to access online learning resources and connect with peers or teachers, through the institutes' Internet connection. The moment any student connects his/her laptop to the university's Internet connection, he/she uses the campus network.

At the simplest level, a campus network connects academic departments, research centres, laboratories, administrative buildings and hostels of any university campus.

A campus network or Campus Area Network (CAN) consists of several Local Area Networks (LANs) that connects many multiple buildings within the campus of any organisation, government institute, military base, university, or any similar place.

Apart from the technical definition, CampusNetwork, is also an online social network run by students which connects users on college campuses. So, typically, a network connecting any campus can be termed as Campus Network.

Typically, connected devices share the resources of a single processor or server within a small geographic area (for example, within an office building). Usually, the server has applications and data storage that are shared in common by multiple computer users. A local area network may serve as few as two or three users (for example, in a home network) or as many as thousands of users (for example, in an FDDI network).

As LAN forms the backbone of any campus network, it may be defined as a set of computing devices sharing a common connection or wireless link. The devices that are connected to LAN share a server within a small region like an office building. Several users shares the applications and data in that server through multiple devices. A LAN may have as little as two to three users, in case of a home network or several hundreds of users, in case of an an FDDI network.

The commonly used LAN technologies are Ethernet, Token Ring and Fiber Distributed Data Interface (FDDI). However, Ethernet is the most widely used LAN technology. In many situations, a wireless LAN is preferred due to its easy and economical installation and maintenance.

A LAN server can store applications and data on it. If a user needs any particular data or application, he/she can download it on their local hard disk whenever needed. So, a Campus Network can be called as a set of LANs.

In university campus networks (having several buildings), the nodes (or connecting points) are interconnected by optical fiber media leveraging Gigabit Ethernet or 10-Gigabit Ethernet technology having a a data rate of 1 billion bits per second and 10 billion bits per second respectively. Now a days, Wi-Fi hot spots are also becoming popular as users can connect several devices like tablet PCs, laptops or smartphones to the network at the same time.

As CAN provides connectivity to a limited area, it is smaller than Wide Area Network (WAN) or metropolitan area network (MAN).

In 1999, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, upgraded itself to 10 Gigabit technology from telephone cable networks and acheived a high speed connected Campus Network on Fiber Backbone, delivered by Molex. The insititute housed a data centre consisting of high performance servers. IITM's campus network is taken care by the Computer Centre of the institute. The institute's campus network connects around 460 faculty, 5000 students and 1250 administrative and supporting staff within the campus of about 250 hectares, consisting of 30 buildings and 17 hostels with more than 5000 rooms.

Deploying CAN has several advantages as it provides multidepartmental network access along with single shared data transfer rate (DTR). It also makes the entire network economic.

With mobility coming into the picture, the typical campus networks are finding it difficult to match the demands and also simplify management across wired and wireless LANs . As users connect to the campus network through several mobile devices at a point of time, the performance of the network is hampered.

 

Few challenges faced by the traditional campus network include:

Multiple devices: users are connecting through smartphones, tables, laptops, desktops, cameras, which could be owned by the users themselves. Thus, increasing the load on the network.

Vast range of applications: The network have started to house critical and financial applications along with several commonly used applications, which increases the security risk.

Multiple connectivity: Users want to connect to the network thorugh several options like wired, wireless, branch access via WAN, remote VPN, and 3G/LTE .

So, IT administrators are looking at Software Defined Network (SDN) to find a quick and cost-effectively solution to the ever-growing number of connected devices.

Higher education institutes need networking capabilities, to help create a more flexible and robust technical infrastructure enabling them to drive up student engagement, and improve instructor delivery and evaluation capabilities for teachers and administrators.


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