Ohio University’s information technology network infrastructure is apparently so outdated that the university plans to spend millions of dollars to revamp it in the years to come.

The university Board of Trustees on Jan. 18 approved a resolution to spend an estimated $7 million in one-time costs plus an additional $1.25 million annually to update and “continually improve” OU’s IT network infrastructure.

According to an an inter-office communication to the president of the Board of Trustees, dated Jan. 2 (which was included in the Board’s agenda for the January meeting), “The university’s network infrastructure is exceptionally old for communications technology, and a traditional replacement strategy would include a ‘big bang,’ single point-in-time project with an estimated cost of $20 million.

“(Chief Information officer Craig) Bantz shared a proposal to replace the network through a continuous upgrade strategy involving $5.6 million in one-time costs ($7 million inclusive of potential tariff impacts) plus an estimated $1.25 million annual, perpetual refresh investment,” the communication continues.

The letter states that OU’s IT department has been assessing its operations and attempted to drive down its costs in recent years.

Those cost-reduction attempts have included “strategic restructuring of staffing, functions and service lines; creatively maintaining equipment and sourcing parts; moving to open-source, low/no cost software when advantageous; and yielding savings through procurement contracts renegotiations,” the letter adds.

This new strategy approved by the Trustees will source its money from the savings that OIT has been able to accrue from those cost-saving efforts, the communication states. The $1.25 million annual investment would come from “existing operating budget savings and the debt service maturity from the 2008 upgrade, requiring no request for increased base operating funds,” the document says.

OU spokesperson Jim Sabin confirmed Wednesday morning last week that work on the network update already has begun. According to a news release on the OIT website, the upgrade began last spring.

“The upgrade will start at what is sometimes called the ‘last mile’ – the connections in individual offices, rooms, and classrooms – and work its way back to the network core,” the release states. “…While our core router is fairly new, our last comprehensive wired network upgrade happened a decade ago. Much of that equipment remains in service and will need to be replaced.”

The upgrade is intended to make the university’s network capable of supporting a “wireless first” approach, with infrastructure that can be updated on a regular basis, the release states.

Some of the anticipated benefits of the network updates will include:

• 10x speed increase for wired connections, with an option near the end of the project for 100x speeds in special circumstances like research labs.

• At least a doubling of current Wi-Fi speeds.

• Significant increase in the density and reliability of Wi-Fi coverage.

“This should be the last ‘top to bottom’ upgrade of its kind,” the release continues. “That’s not to say that the university won’t need to continue investing in connectivity. We will, but those investments will happen continuously, with portions of the network being updated every year on a rolling basis instead of all at once every ten years.”

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