University System

The Challenge

The University System of a large US state oversees public colleges and universities as well as the state archives and public libraries. As part of this, the IT department manages a system-wide communications network comprised of 80 remote sites, data centers, and ISPs for each school.

With an education system spread over 4 states, the network is mission-critical. But it lacked a reliable failover solution for these remote sites and servers, so they began looking for resilient Out-of-Band management.

“We had servers that you could TELNET to and make a change. But if something broke, suddenly your Out-of-Band is down,” according to the Network Specialist responsible for the project. “Or maybe the campus needed a fax line so they unplugged the modem and then your POTS line was gone. We needed a better solution.”

The Solution

He learned about Opengear from a prior position where he worked with a wide variety of different routers in over a thousand buildings. He says, “I didn’t like working on things that could break very easily. I started looking around for a solution and Opengear was both the best solution and more cost effective than competitors.”

Being so spread out without technical staff at the remote sites, he notes, “Cellular was a big advantage to adding Opengear. We were also keen to use Lighthouse for central management.” This combination lets me manage the infrastructure from a central location.

The University System has now rolled out Opengear devices, specifically ACM7004-5-L devices, across their network.

The Cellular Advantage

The cellular aspect was a big selling point for the University. In addition to helping maintain contact when the POTS line was unavailable, he also likes “being able to reach devices by sending a text message or the auto-response. You just send a command to it. And then a password brings it up and you’re ready to go. The POTS line required you to dial into it, and hope everything was working, that the stars were aligned.”

Intuitive User Interface & Simple Cabling

He also appreciates the user interface. “It’s very intuitive. The sidebar is busy but then you start playing with it and it becomes super easy to get everything. The scripting is great. Templates are wonderful.”

The Opengear units use a standard Cat-5 patch cable. He reports, “I’ve switched to slim ethernet cables, and that makes a big difference. With other devices that use octal cable, the cables can only be a certain distance, and then you have to use a coupler. Or you run a foot with it and you have 30 extra feet of octal cable sitting there.” He finds it much neater to be able to use inexpensive Cat-5 cables and determine the length that he wants.

Lighthouse Centralized Management

Having a wide-spread distribution, and a small staff means that Lighthouse Management software is of tremendous value to the network. “Being able to see everything keeping up with the cellular IPs was tedious without central management and being able to VPN directly to the device. Lighthouse is great. It makes centralized management simple and you don’t have to worry about that. It’s really nice.”

Built for Network Engineers by Network Engineers

He sums up why they felt Opengear was the right solution to build resilience into their network, “If you’re looking for a piece of hardware that’s been built by a network engineer who has been lost or without Out-of-Band management, Opengear is where to go. It’s built by someone who been locked out of a router when they just need something to get in quickly. It’s not overly programmed. You can get in there and take a look at it and just know what you need to do very quickly.”