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Montana State University in Bozeman has completed an upgrade to its campus network, more than tripling the bandwidth. MSU’s Billings campus will also benefit from the upgrade.

The upgrade will make sure MSU has the network resources it needs for the future, said Jerry Sheehan, the university’s vice president for information technology.

“The network is the foundation for our campus digital infrastructure,” Sheehan said. “It allows us to provide cloud-based tools for collaboration, online learning and our business environments, while also acting as the lifeblood for research. Our new network capacity meets not only today’s need, but prepares us for the years to come.”

Since 2013, MSU has grown its network bandwidth from 10 gigabits per second to a whopping 100 gigabits per second with this latest upgrade.

The upgrade allows MSU to share its bandwidth with other MSU campuses, in particular MSU Billings, vastly increasing that campus’s capacity and making interconnected services between the campuses run more smoothly.

Michael Barber, chief information officer at MSU Billings, said his university is collaborating on a new 10 gigabits-per-second connection between the Billings and Bozeman campuses.

Typically, MSU’s network usage — everything from researchers transferring data between laboratories to students streaming video in the residence halls — peaks at about 15 gigabits per second, he said. But that usage has been steadily growing for the past decade, primarily because students, faculty and staff have more internet-connected devices than ever before, relying on them for the learning, discovery and outreach work of the university.

Having more bandwidth than you need may sound like overkill, but Sheehan said it’s part of making sure that MSU’s aspirations in the digital era aren’t limited by its network. The mission of a land-grant institution, from research enabled by sensors in the field of the agricultural research centers to online classrooms for lifelong learning, requires the transmission of digital data, he said.

Research networking for a two-day conference. The focus of the National Research Platform Workshop, was about building a new sort of information superhighway focused on moving research data between scientists at speeds 1,000 times faster than today’s inter-campus networks.

“We’ll be the epicenter of brainpower for the nation for research networking for scientific needs,” Sheehan said.

The conference was presented by the Pacific Research Platform, a partnership of universities and research institutions in the western U.S., including MSU, the University of California San Diego, Caltech and Stanford.

The five-year partnership wants to turn the regional information-sharing network they’ve built along the Pacific coast into a regional and, possibly, national system to help researchers cooperate better across the country.

Setting up such a network makes sure that all campuses and partners can participate. The Pacific Research Platform makes sure that the approaches developed are flexible and scalable.