The University of Washington deploys new unified communications tools.

May 09 2014

UW Goes All In on Unified Communications

The University of Washington's IT department has deployed new UC tools.

When Roland Rivera, director for network strategy and telecommunications at the University of Washington, came on board in 2010, he was tasked with updating the university’s antiquated phone system.

Rivera and his team decided that they would modernize the operation by building a converged network for voice and data. The data network runs over Juniper Networks switches and, after looking at many leading UC products, Rivera and his team deployed the Avaya Aura platform, including Avaya Aura Communication Manager, Session Manager and System Manager.

“We had been running a separate phone network for several years, so it was a big change for the data networking and telecom staff to deliver a converged environment,” Rivera says. “The foundation of the core Avaya architecture is based on SIP [Session Initiation Protocol], so we can manage users and multimedia communications across both Avaya and other third-party communications systems.”

The telecom group serves more than 22,000 users, so the only way it could be managed was in phases over several years, Rivera says.

In the first phase in 2011, Rivera and his team did a UC pilot to test the SIP core, a setup that allowed pilots of Microsoft Lync, a voicemail system and video conferencing from Polycom and Cisco Systems. UW also rolled out an updated voice system for about 6,500 users at its medical call centers, university police and the IT help desk.

“The beauty of going with Avaya is that it lets us deploy best-of-breed solutions,” Rivera says. “Once we showed that these systems can work, we installed the SIP core as Phase 2 in 2012 and 2013."

The Next Phase

In the third phase, now underway in tandem with the fourth phase, Rivera and his team are migrating users out of the old core, onto the new SIP, and replacing 16,000 handsets for campus users, who have the option of using the Avaya softphone. The team will also install 1,000 UPS systems to ensure there is enough backup power for Power over Ethernet switches in the wiring closets. The final phase, which will take over in the next two to three years, will integrate all video and UC services, ensuring students, faculty and staff can run multiple sessions on any device or platform.

“Right now, people can use the features in Microsoft Lync, such as chat, voice, video and conference sharing, on a peer-to-peer basis,” Rivera says, adding that students, faculty and staff in UW’s Department of Chemical Engineering are also early adopters of integrated video conferencing that lets desktop and mobile users participate in video conferences with classroom/conference room systems. “Our goal is to provide these capabilities campuswide. As the technology evolves, we plan to keep the SIP core in-house, but migrate applications to Software as a Service cloud solutions as those become available.”

In early April, UW was performing formal testing of Video as a Service, with an eye toward a potential rollout later this year.