Background

The last core network upgrade was carried out between 2013 and 2014 when we moved to the HengQin Campus. The campus network core switches act as one of our critical network equipment. Network core switches were acquired during the construction of the new UM campus, which has already passed functioning lifecycle and will soon reach end-of-support state. Besides, number of users are also increased rapidly in the past few years and the campus core network is reaching its limit in terms of its capacity.

In view of this, ICTO considered that it is necessary to start another network upgrade cycle, not only to replace the obsolete network devices, but also to enrich the network with advanced features such as 10G Ethernet, Native IPv6, Security Control and Network Access Control, etc. With this upgrade, the computational power and capacity of the campus core network will improve and it will be capable of supporting up to 40 Gigabit fiber-optic networks. In addition, upgrading the campus core network is to ready the entire campus network upgradeable to a more high-speed network and capability for IPv6.

Project Details

In comparison to the past campus core network upgrades which required a full network service suspension, a new solution is introduced to break down the project into more than 250 items by the scope of affected services and user groups, and then migrate them to the new system gradually. Each item might cause only a few seconds to a few minutes interruption to its affected service to minimize the service impact.

Implementation Steps

 Step.1Installation of the new core switches. Then, build up a Layer 2 trunk link between core switches and new core switches for communication and a Layer 3 interface for route learning, so a new VLAN interface will be created as broadcast interface. As a result, Open Shortest Path First (OSPF) from any switch will see both core and new core switches.
 Step.2Migrate the VLAN interface (Layer 3 gateway) to the new core switch meanwhile all traffic to that VLAN will be redirected from old core to the new core, then route to its desired destination.
 Step.3Removal the attached fiber and cables on the old core switches then installation of new communication fiber and cables for each system on the new core switches.
 Step.4Disconnect Layer 2 trunk link between core switches and new core switches then un-mount the old core switches. Test network connectivity.
 Step.5Complete.

Implementation flowchart

Project Schedule

The UM campus core network and equipment upgrade project will be carried out during May to August this year and it is divided into 3 phases.

 Project Tasks Project Schedule
Phase 1Equipment Installation13 May 2017
Phase 2System MigrationFrom 15 May to 30 June 2017
Phase 3Removal of Old Equipment and Cable ReplacementFrom 12 July to 11 August 2017

 
Project Challenges

 Tight Schedule
The upgrade project was initialized in late November 2016. In the past few months, we went through the process of production selection, solution design, firmware bug and features test, solution simulation and procurement (PR) before the actual implementation in May 2017. Furthermore, the new switches deployment and the whole upgrade process are targeted to implement during Summer Recess to minimize the service impact, it is considered as the best time for the project to take place.
Minimal Service Downtime
The campus core network is now acting as a centralized network for network connections between buildings, Internet and all critical IT systems of ICTO. Although the upgrading process unavoidably has to affect the network service, we managed to minimize the service downtime and ensure no significant interruption to network services.
Cabling Upgrade
Currently, there are more than hundred fibers and cables connected to the existing campus core network switches. While upgrading the campus core network switches, we are going to re-arrange all network interface and install new fibers and cables on the new campus network core switches so that each pair of cable is a High Availability pair.

 
Current Status and Future Work

Currently, the project is in phase 2 and the system VLAN are migrating from the old core switches to the new core switches. Phase 3 will be carried out after ICTO’s annual drill in July. Upon the completion of this upgrade, the computational power and capacity of the campus core network will be improved. The new campus core network will be capable to support up to 40 Gigabit fiber-optic networks serving the needs of the core campus network in the next five years. Nevertheless, the core network is only part of the entire UM campus network and the campus network upgrade is a continual process. The lifecycle refresh of network hardware is vital to the campus network on which all IT services and systems rely.