Important Facts about Our Campus Network Utility

Article by Sally Hritz
Originally published in a different format

  • The campus network (or the campus Internet or the campus backbone) was originally called SONNET (Systems of Neighboring Networks). SONNET was the first network of fiber optics installed to connect buildings on campus.
  • The campus network dates back to the mid-1980s when the Presidential Task Force on the Future of Computing began planning for it coincidentally at the same time that UNITS was rewiring the campus with fiber optic cables for new telephone service. The task force recommended that two of the fiber optic cables being laid by UNITS to each building be reserved for the campus network. The task force also recommended that OIT (then IRCC) provide central services for the new network and that campus departments pay for the incremental costs of connectivity.
  • It didn't take long for the campus network to become entrenched in every aspect of daily university life, from academics and research to business and personal interactions. It should rightfully be considered a utility because a central unit (OIT) provides services to maintain the networking infrastructure vital to campus operations. However, maintenance and upgrade costs are only partially funded centrally and must be defrayed by charging departmental users for their connectivity. Some relevant facts:
    • OIT still leases fiber circuits from UNITS in order to provide Internet service to all the colleges and departments in more than 200 buildings on main campus, as well as to the five regional campuses, OSU extension offices, Battelle and Children's Hospital.
    • OIT also purchases bandwidth from its Internet Service Provider to connect the campus network to the rest of the Internet. In 1995, OIT was purchasing three megabits per second (mbps) of bandwidth from CICNet at a rate of $48,000 per year. Those figures have shot up dramatically since then; OIT now purchases 55 mbps of bandwidth from its current Internet Service Provider, OARNet, at a cost of one-third of a million dollars per year.
    • The OIT Enterprise Networking staff is constantly upgrading the backbone, or core network, with new routers, switches, and other electronics to improve performance and dependability to keep up with the extraordinary growth of oncampus and Internet use.
    • In the beginning, campus departments shared the modest, flat rate charge of $195 per month for building connectivity through an entry switch. They also had to share the standard 10-megabit bandwidth, no matter how much each one needed.
    • In the mid 1990s, OIT (then UTS) began upgrading the campus network, a process that is still ongoing.* Part of the upgrade entails installing switch ports, one per department, in campus buildings. The switch ports enable each department to choose how much bandwidth to purchase according to its need. OIT offers tiered bandwidth costs, ranging from $100/per switch per month for 10 megabit-capacity up to $200 each per month for 100 megabits. Departments running popular servers or labs that gobble up bandwidth need to purchase more capacity than those with lower network activity.
    • Among the Big 10 universities, most fund their networking as Ohio State does, by charging departments at least a portion of their Internet costs. Only one Big 10 school requires departments to pay the entire cost of networking, and one university is entirely funded centrally.

All things considered, we think our customers would agree that Internet connectivity on campus is a bargain utility.

* The increased capacity also enables Ohio State to stay on the cutting edge of technology by participating in the Internet 2 project along with other leading universities, research institutions and corporate entities. This consortium has created the high-speed Abilene network, independent of the commercial Internet, for sharing research and developing new technologies.