Network Design Considerations

Smart Education Networks by Design (SEND)

There are a few fundamental considerations which come together to determine a network's needs. With an informed estimate of the number of services, amount of data, the number of users, and their access methods (wired or wireless), a designer has the fundamental variables necessary to begin basic network design. 

Additional aspects of design include:
  • Security
  • Topology
  • Addressing schemes (plan for more than one mobile device for some students and staff)
  • Resiliency
  • Redundancy
  • Application needs (quality of service)
  • Adaptation to and integration with cloud services
  • Virtualization
  • Securing and implementing sufficient broadband access — as well as providing for the ongoing network monitoring and management
From a technology perspective, we live in exciting and dynamic times. Just like other industries, education needs to give serious thought to how to use new cloud-based infrastructure to its advantage.
Developments in the mobile broadband market will likely spur increased investment from schools. When designing a network to accommodate the needs of all users, especially in BYOT/BYOD or 1-to-1 initiatives, the old adage "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" definitely applies. Gone are the days of simply throwing more hardware at the problem and expecting things to work smoothly. There's no single solution to meet every need, but the information presented here offers a solid core of considerations and guidelines from which to base decisions.

Design requirements for education networks have changed, as have the service delivery models, available services for information and communications technologies, access devices and access locations. In short, everything has changed during the past few years. Now is the optimal time to re-evaluate and re-build the network, if possible.

A few requirements to consider when re-designing the network: 

  • The Internet is mission-critical and will continue to grow in use
  • 24/7, mobile, anytime computing is critical to the support of Personalized Learning Environments (PLEs)
  • Private, hybrid and public clouds are education network requirements
  • Internet services will grow substantially, meaning that associated school Internet infrastructure components must be sized adequately and scalable
  • The WAN and Internet service design directly correlates to the viability of managed services as a valuable option for schools
  • Wireless network design is about capacity and access
  • Student computing, BYOD/T and mobile devices are untrusted and will likely be the primary devices accessing the network
  • Consider point-to-multipoint network designs
  • Describe and define the current and future roles for mobile broadband (3G/4G) with respect to district network strategies. Wireless Internet (3G/4G) services are eligible for E-rate under certain circumstances.
  • Security models are changing
  • Software-defined networking will impact school network designs and 
  • Virtualization is an important education network component.

A robust, full-service education network envisions many partners and methods of delivering service to schools and to students studying from home or about the community.

Design guidelines and considerations for Internet service include:

  1. Contract with multiple Internet Service Providers if needed for redundancy and sufficient capacityHaving multiple ISPs increases capacity resilience, and service-provider flexibility
  2. Design multiple delivery locations within the WAN for Internet Access: 
    • Allows for better opportunities from alternative providers
    • Increases resiliency
    • Supports secondary network operations locations and secondary data center services
    • Build the WAN for multiple service delivery locations
    • Multiple delivery locations can also double capacity without moving to a high-capacity, expensive service transport network
  3. Consider a professional, carrier-neutral data center as the additional service delivery location. More information is available in the Guidelines.

previous guideline: data and capacity

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