Duke Installs ‘Next Generation’ Data Network

The move to 20 Gb capacity means faster data with room to grow

Duke University has completed a massive, complex communications network upgrade that means faster Internet access, video streaming, data transfers, and enhanced web conferencing. 

For perspective, most home broadband Internet systems operate at less than 10Mb, which means the network can transfer 10 million bits of data per second. Duke’s upgrade created a “next generation” network for data capabilities jumping to 20 Gb per second (20 billion bits of data).

“Between the core network upgrade and our work over the past few years with experimental high-speed network options around campus, Duke has as much or more flexibility and capacity on the campus as any research university in the nation,” said John Board, associate chief information officer.  “When you add in our protected network, we’re not only ensuring that our network is ultra fast, but also that it’s fully secure.”

The project, managed over two years by the Office of Information Technology (OIT) Infrastructure Networking Team, involved adding more robust fiber optic cables on East and West campus. It also added extra fiber cables to prevent outages in case one section goes down. The team rewired 215 buildings – one at a time – to create the faster connections to the new core.

Fast data speeds are an important feature for Duke faculty, researchers and students whose work requires large volumes of data processing. For example, researcher Peter Larsen collects and analyzes billions of bits of lemur genome data. Without high speed connections to and from his building, Larsen could not do his work effectively. 

“The new network allows numerous projects on campus to simultaneously transfer information at the fastest speeds possible,” Board said. “This is great news for everyone in the Duke community.”

Currently, Duke only uses about 20 percent of the new 20 Gb data capacity, giving the university ample room to grow along with technology and data needs. The difference can be felt immediately, especially by those transferring large amounts of data.