Exinda helps Ryerson go up to 1Gpbs

The challenge

Ryerson University is located in downtown Toronto and offers close to 100 PhD, master’s, and undergraduate programs, with a total enrolment of 25,000 and more than 65,000 registrations annually in The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education.

A key priority for Ryerson is to provide fast and reliable access to network applications, which range from a public-facing web site to critical applications such as student registration and learning management. With students, faculty, and staff all vying for the same pool of bandwidth on the network (including as many as 5,000 wireless users at any given time), Ryerson needed a way to prioritize and optimize traffic.

Until 2011, the university had been using a packet-shaping appliance to prioritize traffic. However, when it upgraded its network bandwidth from 600Mbps to 1Gbps, the technical staff found that the appliance couldn’t prioritize traffic at more than 600Mbps.

“We were going up to a gigabit of traffic and we felt we would be expanding that pipe further in the coming years, so we needed a solution that could scale up,” Ken Woo, assistant director for communications services at the university, said.

“We bought additional bandwidth, but we had no way to prioritize the traffic or see what kind of traffic was coming into the university. And the additional bandwidth didn’t help, because as you added bandwidth, applications like BitTorrent would just use it up. We needed to be able to prioritize traffic going to core applications.”

Another challenge was the lack of strong reporting capabilities from the old packet-shaping product. “There was no charting we could show to upper management,” Woo said.

The solution

When Exinda announced a product that could break the 5Gb bandwidth barrier, Woo and his team immediately trialed an Exinda 8000 series WAN Optimization Appliance from Exinda partner EdgeWorx of Markham, Ontario. “We deployed it in line in our internet connection and put it in transparent mode, and we could immediately see all of our traffic and begin to prioritize it,” Woo said.

One obvious issue was that P2P traffic was using 200Mbps of bandwidth alone, crowding out more important applications. Using the 8000 Series’ policy management system, Woo set a policy that limited P2P traffic and within a minute, the P2P applications went from using 200 Mbps to using 30 Mbps. “I was impressed,” he said.

From there, it was simply a matter of prioritizing other applications on the network. “Typically we prioritize our learning management system, web services to the outside world, student registration system and e-mail get the highest priority, plus any VoIP and video conferencing,” Woo said.

“Other traffic that may be going to other parts of the campus is in the second tier of priority, and then P2P traffic is the bottom.”

Significantly, the 8000 Series allows policies that enable flexible bandwidth use. For example, P2P traffic is allowed to scale up to 50% of available bandwidth as long as no higher-priority applications need it.

Another improvement has been in reporting. “We now have a dashboard that shows us more and better information than we’ve ever gotten before, and we can easily produce reports for management that make sense to them,” Woo said.

Since deploying the 8000 series appliance, Ryerson has upgraded to the newest 10000 series model, and with its ability to manage 10Gbps of traffic, this will take care of the university’s needs for years into the future. In addition to traffic visibility, prioritization and reporting features of the new appliance, Woo is considering using the built-in cache to handle video and software updates. “We can relieve a lot of load on our servers by caching video and software updates,” he said.

In all, the Exinda appliance has given Ryerson University a way to see, prioritize, and report on bandwidth consumption throughout its network, making the most of available capacity while pleasing its many users.

About the vendor:

 Exinda is a global supplier of WAN optimisation and application acceleration products. The company has helped over 2,000 organizations in over 80 countries worldwide improve the end-user experience, manage application performance, manage congestion over the WAN and reduce network operating costs for the IT executive. For more information, please visit http://www.exinda.com.