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Huawei Helps HEC Build an Efficient and Reliable National Research & Education Network

25/05/2015 12:00:00 AM

“We are planning for at least an 8 to 10 years windows with this network. We must be ready to accommodate new services and applications in the future, such as voice or video on the network. We must be ready for possible growth of higher education in Pakistan. Huawei’s 10G network platform provides us with future proofing, as it can meet our capacity, performance and availability requirements for years to come” ——Mr. Anwar Amjad, Director General IT Higher Education Commission, Pakistan

Background

The Pakistan Education & Research Network (PERN) was designed, operated, and maintained by National Telecommunication Company (NTC) earlier. After 3 years of initial deployment, the Higher Education Commission (HEC) took the responsibility to re-design PERN, and establish a high speed (10G) dedicated National Research & Education Network to be known as PERN2.

Today, the PERN2 is the most important communication network for the development of higher education in the country and the operation of service-oriented government. It is a dedicated digital communication network that connects to all public / private sector chartered universities and degree awarding institutions of Pakistan to provide data bearing services. PERN2 also connects to other national education networks of the world including APAN (Asia), Internet2 (USA), GEANT2 (Europe) etc.,

Key Challenges

Network and services expansion in the PERN2 project brought several challenges which are as follows:

  • The existing PERN lacked integrated services such as voice and video application. It was required that through the upgrade, the PERN2 network should be able to provide unified integrated service communication platform for multiple services and applications. It should provide centralized network management, implement leveled management, further normalize the allocation of IP addresses and proactively develop integrated network applications. 
  • The existing PERN suffered low performance from legacy WAN routers and LAN switches. The network had no enough bandwidth to develop video conferencing system, multimedia application platform, or intranet learning platform.
  • The bandwidths of the links between different cities were only 1 Gbit/s, whereas connectivity to colleges/ universities campus network was even lower than that. This made it impossible to share information between the connected campuses. The PERN2 had to be upgraded to a 10 Gbps backbone network providing at least Gigabit to each campus network

Solution

Huawei provided a state-of-the-art network architectural design for the PERN2 project that covered the core layer, aggregation layer and access layer. The solution uses advanced reliability protection technologies such as MPLS L3/L2 VPN’s to enhance information security and key services protection without increasing investment. Huawei’s solution has the following features:

  • Complete product portfolio for network wide coverage

To set up an integrated IP network, Huawei deployed NE80E core router at 3 central nodes of the PERN2 project and NE40E-X8 on the 12 provincial capitals, all connected on 10GE links. In addition, an active NE20E router was deployed for each of the 78 universities/institutes. These NE series routers share the same hardware, software and network management platforms that ensure consistency of network architecture and functionalities.

  • Isolates universities/colleges of different levels

The solution used the Huawei NE80E and NE40E routers to develop the PERN2 Central Core MAN, backbone WAN, Internet egresses, network management center and provincial network access. The access networks for colleges/universities uses NE20E routers that work as CE to connect to the PE. The solution enables VPNs in all levels to directly access the PERN2 backbone.

The L3VPN traffic of each university in a specific province will aggregate on the core switch provided by each university, then connect to the NE20E (CE) routers. The NE20E will connect to the Regional POP of that specific province which acts as PE (NE40E/NE80E).

The internet visiting traffic is being put in a special VPN; therefore the internet surfing data streams separate with service data, which can better secure service information.

  • Enables universities interconnection

The solution uses the MPLS VPN technologies to allow for interconnection among the Higher Education Commission offices in central government level and provincial level in the horizontal plane. Vertically, it achieves the interconnection of universities/colleges among different provincial levels.

At a higher level, the PERN2 network allows for connecting with international universities across Asia, Europe and USA.

Huawei network management software is deployed at different levels to realize service re-organization, connecting universities both horizontally and vertically.

  • Service provisioning on high speed network

The network adopts the mainstream hierarchal structure design using the MPLS L3 VPN “Intranet”, which allows for service separation and clear division of work. The separation between the Internet and Intranet allowed the PERN2 project to provide rich services such as VOIP, Online digital libraries, Video Conferencing, high speed Internet for universities/institutes, service hosting such as FTP, email etc.,

Customer Benefits

Huawei solution helped the Higher Education Commission optimize its PERN2 network and resolve major issues. The solution provides the following customer benefits:

  • Improved security and reliability and better information linkage for higher efficiency

The solution allows seamless connection with the international education networks for exchange of data and information sharing

  • Economic Benefits

The stability of PERN2 brings confidence to HEC as well as the connected universities/institutes at all levels. The unified platform allows HEC to charge the connected institute for Internet bandwidth. Similarly, the connected institute can enjoy high speed network at a very low rate from HEC and provide high quality services to its end users like students, faculty members within the campus.

  • Social Benefits

The PERN2 is the education network that has the largest number of connected universities/institutes and regions. By 2013, the network is connected to more than 180+ institutes. The PERN2 helps build a unified education network platform, playing a major role in developing the service oriented education system for Pakistan.

Future Development

The Higher Education Commission (HEC) is planning to expand the PERN2 into other major cities of Pakistan. It is planned that by the year 2020 all public/private universities/institutes will be connected to the PERN backbone. Furthermore, PERN has joined hands with Higher Education Department to provide its service at, selected 26 colleges of Punjab to meet the educational requirements at the International level. Higher Education Department has also decided to establish IT Labs in these colleges to boost the standard of education of computer being imparted through Government Colleges across the province, by providing computer labs and PERN Connectivity in the 26 colleges.

Appendix: About Customer

The Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HEC) is an independent, autonomous, and constitutionally established institution of primary funding, overseeing, regulating, and accrediting the higher education efforts in Pakistan. The HEC is made responsible for formulating higher education policy and quality assurance to meet the international standards as well as providing accrediting academic degrees, development of new institutions, and uplift of existing institutions in Pakistan. The HEC also facilitated the development of higher educational system in the country with main purpose of upgrading the universities and colleges in the country to be focal point of the high learning of education, research, and development.

Pakistan Education and Research Network (PERN) is the National Research & Education Network of Pakistan being managed by the HEC. PERN provides high speed Internet and Intranet facilities to the research and academic institutes that are connected to it. Currently, 187 universities/ institutes/ campuses are connected to PERN utilizing 6.25 Gbps Internet bandwidth with Internet bandwidth distribution hovering in between 8 to 200 Mbps.

PERN2 is a true end-to-end IP-based research & education network and is an enabler of modern NREN application and services. PERN2 is a state of the art advance network primarily built around Gigabit Metro Ethernet and DWDM based technologies. The PERN2 Metro Ethernet of Peshawar, Islamabad/ Rawalpindi, Lahore, Faisalabad, Multan, Quetta, Hyderabad, and Karachi regions are fully operational. PERN reflects a very cost-effective investment in next-generation networking for research and education. PERN2 has been connected to other global Research & Education Networks (RENs) namely Internet2, GEANT2 and TEIN3 through an International Private Leased Circuit.

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