Question: how to efficiently and securely connect your students, lecturers and staff, especially now, during the pandemic? Answer: You do it like Kibbutzim College – one of the largest and most innovative education hubs in Israel, which leveraged Extreme solutions to propel its digital transformation.
Dubbed “Silicon Wadi,” Israel ranks third in the World Economic Forum Innovation Rating. This small country, which happens to have the highest concentration of start-ups per capita worldwide, is raising new generations of entrepreneurs who are disrupting markets around the globe.
The spirit of innovation courses through the Israeli’s blood, but it’s only half the battle. To succeed in today’s world, you need proper education. And that cannot be achieved without well prepared, forward thinking educators…
Ambitious goals call for innovative solutions
Founded in 1939 in the non-stop city of Tel Aviv, Kibbutzim College of Education, Technology and the Arts is an initiative of Israel’s collective kibbutz movement to establish a strong training seminar for teachers. Today it is the country’s largest academic college, with over 6,000 students each year in a variety of innovative study programs in the field of education. In fact, one out of every four educators in Israel is a Kibbutzim College graduate!
The mission? To train broad-minded and influential educators who will be able to bring meaningful and innovative projects to the education system.
Ambitious goals call for innovative, reliable, efficient and secure networks. To provide a response to all the computerized activities, Kibbutzim College commissioned the modernization of its existing solution at the renowned campus on the Mordechai Namir Rd and the establishment of a new, digital campus in the Shalom Meir Tower (commonly known as Migdal Shalom), Israel’s very first skyscraper.
All synergy, no disruption
The idea was to enable both campuses to operate in synergy and provide a solution for thousands of users and serve as backup when needed. Since that was no small undertaking, Kibbutzim College asked for the assistance of Bezeq International – Israel’s largest communications company, which specializes in end-to-end IT solutions for large organizations.
“One of our primary goals was to avoid disrupting the working environment on campus and affecting the remote work routine of thousands of users while installing and deploying new core switches, edge switches, network controllers and 6th generation access points”, says Shlomo Blanka, IT Director at the Kibbutzim College.
“One of the biggest challenges was the need to provide a parallel solution for two locations, where both campuses had to be interconnected and complement each other”, adds Eran Luzon, Enterprise Customers Presale Director at Bezeq International. “We had to do it all while activity continued at the College on a regular basis and in a way that our implementation process would not be felt at all”.
Networking in the time of pandemic
Additional factor was that the COVID-19 pandemic forced Kibbutzim College to enable distance learning. Several decades worth of habits had to be changed overnight so that the College’s thousands of students, lecturers and staff could continue with their work and study routines.
“Broadband, communication quality and response time have become much more significant because of the pandemic. When you have 7,000 students connecting remotely on a regular basis, standards have to be raised in order to provide continuous service without failures”, says Eli Kendel, Country Manager Israel & Romania at Extreme Networks.
The college’s activities went online, and all its curricula transitioned to streaming. This posed a significant technological challenge, especially in respect to the modernization of the old campus’ infrastructure.
“This required a technology capable of providing multicast solutions that are fully integrated with unicast solutions at a level of reliability that only an advanced, single pane of glass management system can provide. Our solution was more than capable of addressing the customer’s growing needs”, Eli Kendel adds.
A new way of educating, a new way of networking
In order to provide synergy between the campuses, enhance operational efficiency, simplify network management, and strengthen data security, Bezeq International proposed to use Extreme Management Center (XMC) in conjunction with Extreme Fabric Connect – a solution that represents a new way to design, build and operate networks. One that delivers simplicity and agility while at the same time improving security and stability.
“Edge equipment that connects to the network, whether a computer, printer, camera, or any other device, will receive authorization and settings automatically and the connection will be protected at the highest security levels”, Shlomo Blanka explains. “Automation provides optimal service for each user, who will be routed by the core switches and the servers to the shortest and quickest possible path in the network. And whenever a disconnection occurs, whether initiated or resulting from a malfunction or a cyber-attack, the service notifies of this immediately and dramatically raises the level of information security.”
And with much of the College’s activity being converted to remote education, security was a matter of paramount importance.
“To deal with any potential threats, we set up a hidden SDN network”, says Eli Kendel. “For each network user, a security camera is connected, whether it’s a student connecting to a class or a lecturer with privileges – there is an option to only access the level to which said user is designated. In other words, if you do not have permissions, the network simply does not exist for you.”
A complex project to a tight schedule
The success of a project is measured not only by the quality and benefits of the implemented solutions, but also by the added value of cooperation.
“One of the tasks which we imposed on Bezeq was realization of the new campus project in Migdal Shalom to a very short time schedule, prior to the start of the new academic year”, Shlomo Blanka admits.
“In a project of such a significant scale like the Kibbutzim College, success arises first and foremost from a true understanding of the client’s needs. It is important to conduct deep examination of the expectations, the tools and the capabilities, to build a topography of the move, and to kick off the project in a manner that will ensure a quiet installation and a perfect system upgrade”, says Eran Barak, Director of Strategic Clients at Bezeq International. “I am pleased to admit that in this project too, we have fulfilled all the tasks with great success”, concludes.