Never has the need for more bandwidth become so urgent as today driven by educational 1:1 and BYOD programs.
We’re not talking about incremental or even geometric growth – we’re talking about exponential growth – think hockey-stick chart.
That’s what happens when your school implements wireless and goes from one computer for every teacher, to a laptop for every student (and realistically, we know that many students may have as many as three wireless devices).
As Educational Technologists, we seek to design and implement the most cost effective, yet robust, architectures possible to support future growth.
In the past, we’ve seen the network bottle-neck move from the network edge, to the network core, to the WAN (Wide Area Network), then to the WAP and around again.
But as we push 10Gbps at the network core and theoretical multi-link throughput beyond 1Gbps with 802.11ac, the final network bottle-neck at your school district will likely end up in one location – you guessed it – the Internet link.
The modeling is actually simple arithmetic. Let’s say you’re a small district with 10 schools, 400 teachers and 5,000 students (if we completely ignore the counts of staff and administrative computers – which used to outnumber the classroom computers). This would mean your network would grow from 400 computers to 5,400 computers through a 1:1 initiative. That’s 1,350% growth!
So if we assume you’ve implemented 1Gbps to the WAP, 10Gbps at the LAN core, and 1Gbps on the WAN, anything less than 1Gbps to the Internet (through your ISP) will undoubtedly become the final bottle-neck.
This problem will be exacerbated by the number of cloud-based applications used by students. Traffic patterns will no longer spike at 8am and 2pm, they’ll be hitting peaks throughout the day.
So what can we do after we’ve maxed out both our capital and operational budgets for networking equipment and ISP services?
1 – Implement that data center and SAN (private cloud). Use it for collaboration and student file storage. I blogged recently about how storage is becoming nearly free and unlimited: http://www.vidalcasey.com/?p=308
2 – Implement as many private-cloud applications as possible. If instructional and collaboration applications can be hosted within the district private-cloud, reliance on the Internet can be significantly reduced.
I know, this is easier said than done (ESTD), with GAFE (Google Apps for Education) and most LMS (Learning Management Systems) being cloud-based. But you as Ed Tech director must consider these options. Many SIS and LMS systems today offer private-cloud licensing.
3 – Filter, filter, filter. The more limitations you put on your filtered Guest/Student wireless, the more you can cut down on Internet traffic.
4 – Train teachers and students to store multimedia and video files in the private-cloud.
5 – Increase operational budgets for ISP bandwidth every year. Another ESTD.
I usually don’t like to be pessimistic, but the only sure thing is this, this bottleneck will not be eliminated by school districts in the near future.