EDUCAUSE 2018: How Intent-Based Networking Helps Montana State Live Up to Its 125-Year Old Mission
Montana State University
Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer
Thought Leadership, Education, Public Sector, Core Networks, Security
As a higher education CIO, EDUCAUSE is one of my favorite times of the year – it’s a unique opportunity to learn from experts in education technology from all around the country. This year, I’m lucky enough to get to share my own story at EDUCAUSE—what I like to call the “digital alchemy” of Cisco’s intent-based networking and how it helped transform my school—Montana State University.
Montana State University is unique because it’s a land grant institution; it was chartered under the Morrill Act over 125 years ago with a mission to teach agriculture, science, military science and engineering to open the transformation and promise of higher education to all Americans regardless of their economic class. Science and technology are the foundation on which land grant universities are built, and at MSU we stay true to that mission both through our focus on research and through our commitment to using innovative technology to enhance all aspects of the learning process.
As part of that commitment, MSU recently deployed a new type of network: an intent-based network from Cisco. When I first arrived at MSU as CIO, we had a very modern but “utility” network built for scale. This meant it was great for general performance. This was a problem because networks are inherently personal – it doesn’t matter what capacity the campus has overall; what matters is your experience on the network, wherever you are and at any given time.
We realized that our network wasn’t providing this personalized experience when one of our researchers wasn’t able to share his huge set of data with his research partner at another university. Our network wasn’t configured to adequately handle that type of data transfer, and manually adjusting it to suit his needs would take time and personnel resources. It’s just not sustainable to physically customize your network for every user who has a non-utility need, so we knew we needed to make a change.
With Cisco’s intent-based network, we can deliver the network at scale and make it personal. It gives us opportunity to use automation to create a personalized network for users based on an understanding of their need (the “intent” in intent base networking).
Since deploying our intent-based network, we’ve seen great results. For my team, it means more efficiency – things that used to take us months now only take a matter of days. This frees us up to work on developing and deploying other innovative technologies to support MSU’s students, faculty and staff.
But beyond just time savings, it allows for a better experience for end users and has empowered our research teams to think differently about the way things get done. Many of our research projects have unique needs, and a network that provides for scalable automated personalization helps us best support each and every one of them.
Intent-based networking helps MSU live up to its land grant heritage of accomplishing innovative, groundbreaking research in science and technology – and share that knowledge with others to benefit the greater good. As more schools follow suit, I sure they will see similar transformative benefits.
If you’re at EDUCAUSE and want to learn more about intent-based networking and what it can do for your school, stop by Cisco’s booth, #731. If you didn't have the opportunity to attend EDUCAUSE, visit Cisco’s website to learn more.