Deltion College Turns to SDN to Boost Performance

Over the last few years, software defined networking (SDN) has undergone explosive growth. IT consulting and market research firm IDC reports that adoption is growing at an 89 percent annual rate and SDN is on track to become an $8 billion market by 2018. One organization that views all of this as more than academic is Deltion College, a school with about 17,000 students and 1,200 administrators and staff in the Dutch city of Zwolle. The college has always prided itself as an early adopter of IT, noted Robert Vos, manager of information and automation.

In fact, SDN adoption at Deltion College was all about dollars and sense.

“We were reaching a point where our infrastructure had to be upgraded and renewed. It was about seven years old. We wanted to make sure that any changes would provide a solid platform for at least the next several years,” Vos explained. “When you look at traditional networking and extend it out beyond a few years, it appears to be obsolete. We felt that we wouldn’t be able to do things we wanted to do using a traditional IT infrastructure approach.”

As a result, IT executives at the college decided to replace a Cisco network with a new SDN environment from KEMP Technologies. The goal was to better deliver Microsoft SharePoint, Lync and Exchange services while providing high availability for various educational programs. “An SDN network is far less complex, easier to manage, more robust and more dynamic and scalable,” Vos said. Not only has the approach trimmed hardware costs for the school, it has freed it from a need to rely on any single hardware vendor while introducing central management features.

The latter capability allows Deltion College to dynamically configure network bandwidth and servers as well as automate upgrades, patches and backups. This translates into better load balancing as well as dynamic application delivery and quality of service (QoS). At the same time, the SDN solution has introduced a better cyber-security framework, including protection against hacking and denial-of-service attacks. Finally, “SDN allows us to innovate in a way that wasn’t possible in the past,” Vos said. “We have a lot more agility and flexibility in how we approach IT and systems. Automated open standards are highly beneficial.” Deltion relies on the KEMP SDN controller as well as the vendor’s LoadMaster 2600 and 5400 appliances manage network traffic across approximately 250 Microsoft Hyper-V servers.

Vos said that the gains from SDN have reached far beyond the IT department. The SDN framework has led to a faster and more robust data environment for instructors, staff and students. It has made it easier to provision and de-provision services and people and introduced a more flexible authentication framework through single sign on (SSO). What’s more, in the event of a failure, the environment can revert to legacy switching, thus adding an extra layer of resiliency to the network and data center.

“IT can now focus on more strategic issues while staff and students are able to handle tasks faster and more efficiently. We are able to use information technology in a way that simply wasn’t possible in the past,” he said.

Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard writes about business, technology and other topics. His book, The Internet of Things (MIT Press) was released in the spring of 2015.

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