Google Earth helps ANU deploy disaster recovery

Saturday, 24 January, 2009

The Australian National University (ANU) has deployed a disaster recovery system based on a 1 Gbps free space optics (FSO) link, which it first tested at the IPv6 Summit in 2007 with the help of Google Earth. The FSO-based system replaces the university’s previous 100 Mbps microwave radio-based strategy.

When fibre vendor Molex proposed that the ANU trial the Canobeam FSO solution, the university decided to trial the technology at the IPv6 Summit, which was held in November 2007.

“We recognised the IPv6 Summit: IPv6 at Work as the ideal opportunity,” says Craig Shoard, systems manager of Communications Infrastructure, Networks and Communications Division of Information at ANU.

“We were happy to trial it and saw its long-term potential as a possible data recovery system.”

For the summit, the ANU was responsible for implementing a wireless link from its campus-based network infrastructure to the venue of the conference, the Rydges hotel in central Canberra. The link was to provide bandwidth to all the participants whilst also supporting video conferencing between Australia and Japan.

At the previous 2006 summit, the ANU had implemented a 5 GHz point-to-point microware radio link operating at 100 Mbps. However, the 2007 requirement for the conference meant that GigE capacity was required from a location with line-of-sight view of the ANU.

The ANU set up a 300 m point-to-point link using two Canobeam MFSO-130 units, designed to provide transmission speeds of 1.25 Gbps. The wireless connection was tested by sending both IPv4 and IPv6 traffic over the link. Once the tests established that the link was able to support the summit’s requirements, they began planning the physical location of the units.

To determine the mounting point of each unit the ANU’s Network team used Google Earth to review potential mounting points across the campus and accurately measure point-to-point distances, while assessing any line-of-sight hazards that could affect the clarity of the signal.

Due to the success of the Canobeam solution in supporting the IPv6 Summit, the ANU decided to employ the link to upgrade its disaster recovery system to support the 1 Gbps capacity requirement during any loss of optical fibre interconnectivity between buildings on its campus.

Occupying over 145 hectares, the ANU campus consists of over 200 buildings that are supported by a five node network infrastructure, with a centrally located computer room. At present, 95% of the ANU’s buildings are wired with an Enhanced Category 5 system, with all new buildings being upgraded to a Category 6 horizontal solution — there are approximately 40,000 data outlets across the campus.

The core network is highly meshed and there are no single points of failure on the optical fibre cabling interconnecting core nodes. The same is true for the distribution nodes and major building on the Edge network. However, there are many small buildings distributed widely across the Acton campus which are connected via a single optical fibre cable.

“While some of the buildings have only single fibre cable connection to the network, a rapid response strategy is required to restore network connectivity. There are some 16,000 staff and students who rely on network access on a daily basis. Having data recovery equipment that is easily deployable is always paramount in our thoughts,” says Shoard.

Using the same design and installation techniques that supported the IPv6 Summit, the ANU has mapped out various mounting points and alignment angles throughout the campus, no more than 300 m apart, and has updated its specification to ensure that all new buildings include a power point and fibre outlet on the roof.

With a network that is heavily dependent on fibre-optic distribution the ANU is planning to invest in additional units. Additionally, the pre-arranged mounting points will also continue to provide opportunities to support future conferences outside and within the ANU’s campus.

Shoard says: “The free space optics system provides great insurance for the ANU. In the event of failure, we can continue to deliver a full service. Also, with FSO technology requiring no licensing there are no ongoing costs or fees to consider.

“Considering the mounting network that we are putting in place and the efficiency with which we can set up individual links at each point, the solution has provided great flexibility and guarantees performance for our future.”

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