BGSU goes 'out on a limb,' moves data center

“OARnet is uniquely positioned to support us all. You have to be able to crawl out on a limb, and sometimes that’s risky. OARnet is making it a whole lot easier to get out there.”

John Ellinger, Chief Information Officer, Bowling Green State University

IN HIS FIVE YEARS AS CHIEF INFORMATION OFFICER at Bowling Green State University (BGSU), John Ellinger has seen dramatic changes. Students are likely unaware of many of them, but benefit from them each time they open their laptops.

In 2010, BGSU was using 400-600 Mbps of commodity Internet connection. Today, they are up to 2.0 Gbps of commodity Internet traffic from OARnet, with over 30 applications operating in the cloud, a far cry from the 10 they once had.

As Ellinger said, this capability would not have been possible without OARnet’s 100 Gbps network and its extremely competitive pricing.

BGSU building

“OARnet allowed us to plan for in 2010 what we are doing today and what we will change for the next two years,” Ellinger said.

This year, BGSU will begin eliminating its sub-Tier-1 data center on campus and move to a Tier-3 data center in Toledo, which currently serves as BGSU’s node to OARnet. The new location will house all current premise-based applications and systems, directory and authentication services, and data warehouse, among others. Through the OARnet backbone, BGSU also has developed a disaster recovery location in Columbus. By 2017, BGSU will not have a traditional data center on campus, just networking rooms and servers in remote locations or applications in the cloud.

BGSU will be utilizing existing servers, storage and racks in Toledo and Columbus where possible. The university will need to purchase additional networking equipment to make the remote locations work together. BGSU expects the annual costs to be the same as current costs once the move is completed. Transferring the data center will also free up 4,200 square feet of building space that the university can repurpose back into core academic space.

BGSU currently runs 77 percent of its classes through Canvas, a learning management system in the cloud. All of the university’s web pages are hosted in the Adobe Marketing Cloud. The Firelands branch campus is also linked to the main campus servers, using the same resources. On the Bowling Green main campus, each building has 10 Gb of Ethernet connectivity.

“OARnet gives us the opportunity to do these things,” Ellinger said. “If we didn’t have the backbone, we would be solely restricted to on-premise solutions. Period.”

A BGSU student using an on-campus computer

 Photo credit: Thomas Castillo, Flickr

Currently, Ohio University, Shawnee State University, Kent State University and Miami University are all using the same VOIP solution hosted on their respective campuses.  BGSU is looking to the future to partner with OARnet to centrally host this service utilizing the OARnet backbone.  This would allow consolidation of resources and provide campus-to-campus calling with no toll charges.  Providing this foundation will also make it easier for other universities to transition to this service expanding the impact of the shared service. 

With all these systems in place, something is bound to go wrong eventually. Enter OARnet’s unparalleled customer and technical support through the 24/7 Network Operations Center (NOC).

“For the NOC staff to be able to see everything that is going on {in the OARnet backbone} and tell us immediately when something is happening on the network or what may be causing us issues, that’s a great advantage,” Ellinger said.

Ellinger highly encourages other universities and state entities to take advantage of OARnet’s resources that have provided BGSU these growth opportunities.

“OARnet is uniquely positioned to support us all,” Ellinger said. “You have to be able to crawl out on a limb, and sometimes that’s risky. OARnet is making it a whole lot easier to get out there.”

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