Virtual Appleton Tower

As we prepare to decant from Appleton Tower to Forrest Hill and Wilkie Building, I thought it might be useful to describe how we’re networking the buildings and why we’ve done it the way we have.

In short, both FH and Wilkie will be operated as virtual floors of Appleton Tower.  This makes it straightforward to move machines from one site to another, as we can just configure the ports in a user’s new location to match what they had before.  Machines and VoIP phones can then just plug in and work, for the most part, so minimising downtime and reconfiguration.  It also simplifies network installation and management, as we have all the surrounding infrastructure services already in place.

Each site connects back to our Appleton Tower core over a pair of 10Gbps fibre links.  This allows for load-sharing, as we are collapsing three sets of uplinks into one for each new site.  It also gives us an additional measure of resilience, as it means that one switch failure, either in AT or FH or Wilkie, will not affect the service for all the others. Network diagrams for Forrest Hill are linked from here, and the Wilkie diagram is here.

The disadvantage of this scheme is that it introduces inter-building dependencies, which we normally try to avoid.  In this case, however, it was felt that this would be outweighed by the simplification of the decant process, given that we expect to be in the buildings for only one academic year.

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