NGN: Advancing Yale's network capabilities and security

February 21, 2019

To help advance Yale’s teaching, research, and health service mission, the multiyear Next Generation Network (NGN) project is underway. Over the next five years, NGN will provide Yale with a more modern, resilient, and secure network. Yale’s email, websites, digital databases, and automated building operations are just a few of the many technologies that rely on the university network.

The network will be enhanced through software-defined networking and provide increased data speeds to support our ever-increasing reliance on the network. Data protection will be greater with significant information security and risk reduction improvements. Continuing to ensure reliable and secure transmission of data is essential for faculty research, particularly in the growing areas of science and engineering.

“This project supports one of the university’s principal focuses: making investments across campus to help our faculty, students, and staff do their best work. This support will allow them to solve problems, discover new opportunities, and lead the charge toward a better future,” said President Salovey.

According to Yale Network Engineering - “Currently, Yale experiences building-level network disruptions due to aging equipment, causing reduced options for Yale to respond to resiliency issues.”

Major efforts include:

  • consolidating 5 networks into a single software-defined network
  • remediating 1,450 data closets in over 400 Yale buildings
  • replacing and / or refreshing 8,900 switches / Wi-Fi
  • establishing software-defined access for over 30,000 devices / people / services

To help support this effort, Yale partnered with Cisco, a vendor who brings a vast amount of experience in the network arena with a focus on higher education and government network segmentation. The NGN team and Cisco have kicked-off workshops recently to identify requirements, features, and capabilities to support Yale’s new network. The multidisciplinary team is preparing to bring on a value-added reseller team to help support system architecture and infrastructure for all of Yale.

The network’s foundation will include a security model suitable for the openness required by a research institution, resulting in strong protections for high-risk uses and increased freedom for low-risk uses. Security upgrades will be put in place to detect malicious activity and repel attacks on Yale’s network more swiftly.

“By implementing a differentiated risk model, NGN provides an automation platform which allows Yale to develop an automated response to potential cybersecurity attacks, moving our response from human to computer speed.” – Yale Information Security

In addition to supporting faculty research, student learning, and health services, the network is also heavily relied upon for university operations.  NGN will allow the shift to an intent-based, identity-first network paradigm, allowing for significantly better user experience, including better interoperability with YNHHS, while substantially advancing Yale’s security posture to meet the demands of the future. For example, a professor who is also a clinician will only need to log in once to access the campus network and YNHHS networks.

As design and planning continue, NGN is standing up a network lab to help minimize information technology service disruptions and understand how testing fits into the overall Yale network architectural strategy. This lab will establish the early groundwork needed for our first pilot building, 25 Science Park, in the spring of 2019. The pilot will allow us to test and expand on a large number of use cases that represent the entire Yale network while setting the runway for our deployment strategy.  

To learn more please contact michael.blomberg@yale.edu or louis.tiseo@yale.edu to inquire about an NGN information session.