OTS is Caching and Peering

Posted on: May 5, 2017

I want to take a moment this week to mention some awesome work that has been going on in the Office of Telecommunications Services (OTS).  Many may not realize that OTS reports into our organization and has the critical mission to provide reliable, efficient, and cost-effective data, video, and voice transmission for the health, academic, and other Institutions that make up the University of Texas System.

Over the past year, the team has been engaged in the development, engineering, and deployment of a 100Gbps backbone data transport network. This network will facilitate the ever-increasing data communications requirements throughout the UT System and at the same time reduce our operating expense. This effort has already resulted in lower costs and much higher network reliability for our UT System clients. This data network upgrade is scheduled to be completed in August. We have also been collaborating with our colleagues at the UT institutions to standardize and upgrade access to the OTS transport network for improved availability and reliability.  In addition to our network bandwidth upgrades, we have made other network performance and operating efficiency improvements. Two of these initiatives are Facebook Content Caching and Direct Exchange Peering. 

So what are Caching and Peering?  With Facebook Caching, we will place a server within the OTS network. This server will allow the Facebook content that students and staff use often to be served locally, rather than from the Internet.  This type of arrangement is referred to as "Settlement Free Peering" and leverages content providers (like Facebook) to get data as close to the consumer as possible.  By providing a server local to our network, both Facebook and the university save on transport costs, and it usually speeds up download time, or latency.  It is a mutually beneficial arrangement.

OTS has utilized caching for years.  We currently have a Netflix Open Connect Appliance (Netflix content), an Akamai Cache (Apple and various other major content providers), and 2 Google Global Caches (Google and Youtube).  Facebook is identical to these already deployed services, just providing Facebook-specific content.  This method of content delivery is well accepted by the networking world and will continue to grow with customer demand.  Without these caches, the cost of delivering Internet services would be considerably more expensive.

In the same spirit as our caching initiatives, we are pursuing entrance into the Equinix Internet Exchange in Dallas, Texas. This location serves as a hub for content in the state of Texas, and virtually all major content providers maintain a presence there. By entering this exchange, UT is able to privately peer with those content providers that are of interest to our customers (System Institutions) and their students and staff. By initiating this peering solution, we will have greater control and lower costs.

Additionally, campus demand for cloud services has begun to increase, and OTS is securing the means to tie each individual campus into the Equinix Cloud Exchange.  Services such as Office 365, Microsoft Azure, Softlayer, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and Rackspace will then have improved speed and be delivered at a lower cost to the UT System institutions. Another relevant example would be Workday, which has announced plans to reside within AWS. This method of securing content is well established and widely accepted in the industry, as it is mutually beneficial to both the consumer and the provider, each of which may have substantial costs associated with delivery of services. 

As a result of our caching initiatives and the network efficiencies attained by the implementation of the 100Gbps backbone, we have completed service rate revisions for the coming 2017/18 fiscal year. The new rates reflect a significant decrease in the cost of the commodity Internet service for both UT Austin and UT affiliates of approximately 10%. We expect these costs to decrease further with our continued focus on technology upgrades and efforts to improve our operational efficiency.

 

Great job OTS team – clearly moving us in the right direction!!