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Princeton taking IT network to the next generation, improving speed, security and capacity

Princeton is upgrading campus technology for the next generation. The Next Generation Network project will provide more modern, resilient and secure information technology for the entire University. The Office of Information Technology (OIT) leads the project. The redesigned IT network will have greater capacity, speed and functionality to support the University’s continued growth.

“The opportunity is for Princeton to build a high-performance network that reliably and securely delivers data around campus and to the world,” said Jay Dominick, vice president for information technology and chief information officer.

OIT supports the University’s teaching and research mission through technology services for faculty, staff and students. Cutting-edge research, online academic resources, University email and websites, digital databases, and automated building operations are some of the many things that rely on the IT network.

The Next Generation Network is intended to advance Princeton’s mission and safeguard the campus community’s information.

“We will have affected everyone at the University by the time the network upgrade is completed in a few years,” Dominick said.

Princeton’s IT network supports faculty research, particularly in the growing areas of computer science, data science and machine learning, and neuroscience. For example, Princeton neuroscientist Sebastian Seung has built an unprecedented data set of neurons, which he is now turning over to the public via the Eyewire Museum. These 17 retinal neurons, mapped by Eyewire gamers, include ganglion cell types in blue and green and amacrine cells in yellow and red.

Thirty years of IT growth

The project comes 30 years after Princeton’s first large-scale internet connection. Since then, the world has seen the development of email, Wi-Fi, smartphones, online learning, live streaming and much more.

“In 30 years, our internet bandwidth on campus has grown from 1 megabit per second to 150,000 megabits per second,” Dominick said. “This project is the most significant redesign and reengineering of the campus network since it was established.”

The OIT upgrade also is integral to the physical development of campus.

“Our current network design will not scale to meet the needs of Princeton’s Campus Plan for 2026 and beyond,” Dominick said. “Particularly with the University’s emphasis on data science research, the planned expansion of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, and the development of the new Lake Campus, we need a network that will support future growth.”

Over the next two years, the University will greatly increase wireless capacity, moving from a network based on wired connections to a “wireless first” model for most devices.

“We will make significant investments in the network infrastructure to greatly improve the connectivity, speed and security of the wireless network,” said Donna Tatro, associate chief information officer for OIT’s Enterprise Infrastructure Services.

She noted the explosion of wireless devices on the campus network, from 42,000 unique devices connecting to the network in 2007 to approximately 300,000 in 2017.

“We plan to increase the density of access points, so no matter where you are on campus, even outside, you will have a seamless wireless experience,” Tatro said.

Wireless changes starting Nov. 20

The first major wireless change is for campus guests. Starting Nov. 20, guests must access the “puvisitor” wireless network using a new portal. Visitors can choose either short-term access or register for longer-term wireless access.

Princeton faculty, staff and students (as well as guests affiliated with other academic institutions) should use “eduroam” as their primary wireless network. Eduroam is a global wireless access service for universities around the world. If users cannot authenticate their device on eduroam, they will have to use Princeton’s “servicenet” wireless network.

The current “puwireless” network will be retired in the spring of 2019. To prepare for this shutdown, users should begin to transition their devices to the new wireless networks.

More information about accessing the new wireless networks is available on OIT’s website.

IT integral to University research, operations

Continuing to ensure the reliable and secure transmission of data is also essential for faculty research, particularly in the growing areas of computer science, data science and machine learning, and neuroscience.

“Imaging devices like the light sheet microscopy and fMRI are capable of producing incredible amounts of data that must be stored and processed at the High-Performance Computing Research Center on campus or at outside cloud computing providers,” Dominick said.

For example, experiments in the computational neuroscience lab of Sebastian Seung require cloud-based data analysis at a large scale. Accomplishing that analysis in a timely manner involves transferring data at up to 100 Gigabits per second (Gb/s). Seung is the Evnin Professor in Neuroscience and a professor of computer science and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute.

“Moving this massive amount of data in a timely manner is a significant challenge, and the upgrade gives Princeton an opportunity to leverage our network in greater support of academic research,” Dominick said.

In addition to supporting faculty research and student learning, the IT network is increasingly used for University operations.

For example, Facilities’ Energy Management System remotely monitors and controls heating, ventilation and air-conditioning equipment in campus buildings to maximize energy efficiency. In Athletics, remote sensors monitor field conditions and automated devices control lighting, heating and cooling inside facilities.

“I can use my phone to access a secure, online system and turn the lights on or off in the football stadium. I’ve even done it from California,” said Jeff Graydon, senior associate director of athletic facilities. “With technology, we have the ability to have much more efficient operations.”

Security is key

And with an ever-increasing reliance on the network for critical University operations, security is key. The Next Generation Network project includes various security upgrades to detect nefarious activity and deflect attacks on the network more swiftly.

“All of our work will put the University at the forefront of secure campus networks in an increasingly challenging and ever-changing security landscape,” Dominick said.

The upgrade project will include rolling network outages and other work that may impact faculty, students and staff. OIT will notify affected users and departments about outages to minimize disruptions. More information and outage updates may be found on OIT’s website.

“With this project we are winding down one impressive chapter in Princeton’s technology history, while another exciting chapter for the next technology generation begins,” Dominick said.

Source:, by Emily Aronson

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