University of California, Irvine

University optimizes network performance through packet shaping.

The University of California, Irvine combines the strengths of a major research university with a sunny, Southern California location. UC Irvine is known for its top research and graduate programs, commitment to undergraduate education, and a growing number of professional programs. About one-third of the university’s 27,000 students live on campus. Undergraduate and graduate students can choose among traditional residential halls, theme-based housing, and apartments.

UC Irvine Student Housing, as a provider of network services to its residential communities, was an early adopter of WAN optimization – prompted by the rise of Napster and music downloading sites. The Student Housing department has used Blue Coat PacketShaper appliances for more than a decade. With students’ inexorable demand for bandwidth, UC Irvine Student Housing recently upgraded to PacketShaper 12000 appliances.

“When we first started, peer-to-peer was killing the network,”  Ted Roberge, Director of IT for Student Housing

In the past, two percent of the residents could use more than 90 percent of the available bandwidth, which impacted network performance for everyone. The popularity social media sites like Facebook had minimal impact compared to downloading movies. “When everyone wanted to download the same movie, it would saturate the Internet link,” said Roberge.

Student Housing uses PacketShaper appliances to provide equitable bandwidth to all residents by identifying and prioritizing network traffic on the residential housing network. PacketShaper can detect more than 700 applications and Web content categories, and then enforce quality of service for preferred applications and content. “It’s our job to make sure residents have plenty of bandwidth,” said Roberge. “Students rarely go to computer labs anymore. Research labs have morphed into people’s living rooms, so we must provide excellent network performance from their living rooms.”

On the UC Irvine residential network, Web and e-mail traffic receive the highest priority, followed by Skype and selected games to ensure a good quality experience for popular activities. P2P applications such as BitTorrent are blocked, but otherwise residents have wide-ranging Internet access. “As a public university, we don’t want to determine what websites they can access,” said Roberge.

UC Irvine Student Housing has a 2Gbps link to the Internet, with each PacketShaper 12000 appliance moving up to 750-800Mbs. “Bandwidth will only increase – that’s a given,” says Roberge. “But with the new PacketShapers, we should now have enough capacity for two to three years.”

UC Irvine student housing is using PacketShaper 12000 appliances. “These are hot machines,” said Roberge. He particularly likes the easy-to-use graphical interface for application visibility and control.

Roberge is finding new uses for his old PacketShapers. He recently brought them to UC Irvine’s counseling and health services department to give them application-layer visibility to diagnose a common problem – poor Internet performance between noon and 1:30pm – prime time for Netflix and ESPN. “I dropped them in last week,” he said. “It might be a problem with the network. It might be a problem with an application. But if you don’t know what’s on your network, how do you know where your problems are?”