University of Washington
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UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON MOVES TOWARD UBIQUITOUS UNIFIED COMMUNICATIONS
Avaya Aura® the Foundation for Anytime, Anywhere Communication
Home to some of the world’s leading companies, Seattle is a hotbed of innovation. And the state’s flagship university, the University of Washington (UW), plays a major part in helping shape tomorrow’s leaders.
UW serves more students than any other institution in the Northwest — more than 51,000 annually. The university spans three academic campuses, in Seattle, Tacoma and Bothell, and a world-class medical center. UW also recently ranked eighth among public universities nationally.
UW Information Technology (UW-IT) is centrally responsible for keeping the university at the forefront of technology – not an easy job with such a large student population, 31,570 faculty and staff members, 30,000 phone lines and more than 500 buildings. Users’ needs range from basic desktop requirements to high-volume call center operations. As trends like mobility and BYOD grow, so does the challenge.
UW-IT effectively serves as a consultant to campus departments. Departments are free to work with outside providers if they choose, but UW-IT aims to meet as many of their needs as possible to keep UW on the leading edge.
A Vision for Anywhere, Any Device Communications
When Roland Rivera joined UW-IT in 2010, he saw an opportunity to take UW’s communications into the 21st Century. At the time, the outdated telecom infrastructure, hardware and software were not adequate for next-generation trends and applications such as mobility, BYOD, Voice-over-IP and video conferencing.
“The industry is moving away from separate voice and data services, and integration is everywhere,” Rivera said. “The UW vision is to provide users with ubiquitous unified communications (UC), whether from a mobile device, desktop PC or a high-end conferencing system.”
Rivera envisioned university staff and faculty seamlessly communicating through a variety of devices including smartphones, tablets, PCs, Macs, and conference room video systems. This would take provisioning of communications services in the cloud, accessible through whatever device the user chooses. To get there, UW needed to lay the foundation for a unified communications infrastructure that would support departments’ current and future IT environments.
Avaya Aura for a Flexible Core
UW-IT embarked on a multi-year effort to migrate to a unified communications infrastructure to support new, collaborative applications, increase network efficiency and reduce cost. Because of the diverse nature of technology across departments, interoperability was critical. UW-IT had to support a multi-vendor environment, but wanted to deploy a single solution in its core to simplify administration.
With the choice of core technology so pivotal, UW-IT conducted a well-planned and thorough pilot. The team requested roadmaps from vendors that ranked highest in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant.
The team fully tested three solutions, trying their integration capabilities on a small scale for applications such as instant messaging, telephony, video conferencing, unified messaging, and web collaboration. Only the Avaya Aura Session Initiation Protocol (SIP)-based platform met all the university’s needs for a core unified communications system. In the pilot, Avaya proved its flexibility, working with diverse vendors such as Microsoft Lync, AVST, Cisco, and Polycom.
“Avaya Aura was superior in terms of opens standards, integration capabilities and session control compared to other vendors,” Rivera said.
“The pilot gave us the confidence to put Avaya Aura into our core.”
Roland Rivera, Information Technology (IT) Director, University of Washington
Additionally, Avaya Aura provides much-needed survivability. UW can deploy and tie together multiple session managers and create greater geo-redundancy.
A Multi-Year Rollout
UW-IT took a systematic, phased approach to evolving its architecture. The team developed a detailed design with state-of-the-art technology and convergence that would be rolled out over several years.
Concurrent to the pilot, UW-IT had already begun stabilizing its infrastructure, starting with replacing outdated software and hardware primarily for critical users in call centers and medical centers.
Next, the team installed the Avaya Aura platform, including Avaya Aura Communications Manager, Session Manager, and System Manager. The foundation of the core architecture, Session Manager supports the SIP architecture and makes it possible to manage users and multimedia communications across both Avaya and third-party communications systems. Avaya Aura System Manager is a web-based management console for provisioning, user administration, dial plan management, routing policies, security and fault/performance monitoring, and licensing.
With Session Manager, IT isolates different communities of use. They can separate groups managed by UW-IT and those managed by other groups. Though they share an architecture, no information is compromised.
“It’s extremely helpful to have a single mechanism for managing everything in the core.”
Roland Rivera, IT Director, University of Washington
Now, UW is migrating end users to VoIP. Early adopters across departments with different needs are currently testing applications.
“We’re jumping into VoIP technology with both feet,” Rivera said. “Our customers will have a lot of options for communicating beyond the handset – handsets, applications on smart phones or tablets, or clients on their PCs or Macs.”
Next, UW will deploy and integrate unified communications applications to give end users seamless use across their many devices. When fully complete, the new unified communications infrastructure will give end users rich telephony features such as auto call recording and call forwarding, and video options such as virtual conference rooms.
From the pilot to each phase of the rollout, the Avaya team has been right there with UW-IT to consult on the architecture and best practices for the deployment.
Video is a major piece of UW’s vision. Students, faculty and staff can jump into virtual video conference rooms to get business done, rather than traveling to campus.
Currently, UW-IT is running pilots for three types of video communications:
- Online video: Users connect online PC to PC, PC to smart phone or PC to tablet.
- On-premises video: Tied to the Avaya SIP core, customers can seamlessly conduct video calls between mobile devices and conference room systems.
- Hosted video: UW-IT is piloting virtual video conference room solutions for access through any device.
Lower Cost, Higher Productivity
The converged network improves efficiency and productivity throughout the university:
- It reduces the total cost of ownership because the network infrastructure is shared, rather than being duplicated. A common network of routers, switches, and cabling all connect voice and data traffic.
- A shared infrastructure reduces IT management and maintenance time and costs.
- Unified communications and VoIP enables soft clients, reducing the need for physical handsets.
- The core is compatible with departments’ existing infrastructure – avoiding costly replacement – or whatever departments choose to deploy in the future.
- Unified communications systems support high availability with a globally deployable active/active infrastructure core; fully redundant servers; redundant media and network paths; and regional, local and small office survivability.
- UW also anticipates major productivity gains. Employees can choose from an array of options to communicate wherever they are, helping them get work done faster.
UW-IT recently received confirmation of the initiative’s value. A leading telecommunications and unified communications consultant performed a comprehensive review of the project to validate the architecture implemented to date, and review plans for the next phase of the upgrade.
“As a result of the comprehensive review of our efforts, the consultant has confirmed and validated the Avaya SIP core architecture,” Rivera said. “The consultant’s report also recommended proceeding with the next phase of the project to deliver VoIP and UC to the campus and community. This recommendation is conditioned on the requirement that the Avaya Aura and other vendor solutions are effectively packaged in the UW-IT Service Catalog and also are effectively supported with communications programs, adoption support, and necessary UW policy changes so as to meet the communications requirements identified by campus customers.”
“Bottom line, the consultant has concurred and recommended a very deliberate roll-out to ensure high adoption.”
“Avaya Aura was superior in terms of opens standards, integration capabilities and session control compared to other vendors.”
Roland Rivera, IT Director, University of Washington
Founded in 1861 by a private gift of 10 acres in what is now the heart of downtown Seattle, the University of Washington (UW) is one of the oldest public universities on the US West Coast. As the state’s flagship university, the UW serves more students than any other institution in the Northwest — more than 51,000 annually. In addition to UW Seattle, the university has thriving campuses in Tacoma and Bothell and a robust professional and continuing education program.