ITS delivers first software-driven network at NCDC


The ITS Network team has successfully delivered a new ITS network in the North Campus Data Center (NCDC).

Because the network was brand new, the teams explored some exciting network advancements as part of the project, including:

  • adopting more modern networking practices, and
  • including a network architecture that leverages EVPN-VXLAN in lieu of less-stable, legacy protocols.

In addition to providing the network team members with real-world expertise in these modern technologies, this deployment also serves to validate their viability for use in upcoming upgrades to the greater campus network. This project also allowed ITS to implement the first ITS software-driven network with a high degree of automation on the U-M campus. Going forward, this capability allows the team to minimize configuration errors and scale changes across networks.

Reducing workload & significant incidents

Short-term, these practices worked to the team’s advantage, as they were partnering heavily with a networking vendor using cutting-edge and experimental technologies. When the vendor determined that the solution would work better with alternate hardware midway through the project, the modernization and software-driven networking work allowed the team to pivot between hardware, adapt quickly, and minimize rework.

Long-term, these practices should drive down the number of significant incidents with this and other campus networks. Careful design work should eliminate any potential architectural flaws that could cause an outage. Software-driven networks minimize configuration errors. Together, they drive down the overall risk of human errors that are a reality of any IT service.

Relocating services to enable research growth

In 2016, ITS committed to freeing up one megawatt of space for research growth in the Michigan Academic Computing Center (MACC) by moving ITS services and systems to the NCDC. A foundational element of this effort would be to provide networking in NCDC, with connectivity back to campus.

ITS has since scaled back its plans to move a significant number of ITS services to NCDC, because outdated services have been retired, some services have relocated to the cloud, and research computing needs have changed in the MACC data center. However, the networking project is still required to support the resiliency needs of key ITS services and support future growth.

Stay tuned, as we incorporate what we have learned in other network projects.