NaaS elevates user experience at Stanford’s Computer Science Building

A fundamentally simple architecture and offloaded operations empower IT to help students, staff, and researchers succeed.

NaaS elevates user experience at Stanford’s Computer Science Building

Imagine the pressures of not just being the Director of IT, but doing so for Stanford University’s prestigious Computer Science Department. That’s Andrej Krevl’s role and he describes it as ‘being a doctor to the doctors,’ meaning expectations are high and room for error is small. Along with his six employees, Krevl provides support for the department, running its high-performance computer clusters of 900 machines while also taking care of desktops, workstations, and applications, among many other tasks. Any number of things could keep an IT manager in his position awake at night, and for Krevl, it was Wi-Fi.

“We came back into the office after a remodel and everything was shiny and new, except for the Wi-Fi,” Krevl explains. “We were still relying on old equipment, and it was a bad situation – dropped calls and terrible connectivity.”

Krevl had a choice to make: pour more money into the existing infrastructure or try something totally new. And, you guessed it, he chose to go with the new – Network as a Service (NaaS) by Nile. After all, you don’t find yourself in charge of Computer Science IT at Stanford without being bold and embracing innovation.

At A Glance

Stanford University

Higher Education

700+

Stanford, CA

The needs of the department necessited change within our department, we had to look for areas to modernize operations through simplicity.

Challenges

Outcomes

One goal: simplify

While it was nerve wracking at first for Krevl to shift to an as a service model, once he started working with Nile, he quickly realized that, from a technical standpoint, their goals were aligned.

What resonated most with him was Nile’s idea of radical simplicity. Doing things because that’s how they’ve always been done only complicates a network.

Eliminating performance inconsistencies, adding visibility

The impacts of poor connectivity were felt throughout the Computer Science Department. Lecturers had to find workarounds that didn’t rely on Wi-Fi, research efforts were hampered and Zoom calls were reliably unreliable.

“Our faculty and graduate researchers are on Zoom meetings all the time,” explains Krevl. “It’s never great when a Zoom call gets dropped, but it’s especially bad if you’re on a call asking for a government grant for millions of dollars.”

Meanwhile, the entire IT team was running around the building trying its best to address the network issues, oftentimes sitting with users, laptop in hand, troubleshooting. It was terribly time-consuming, and the IT tickets just kept piling up.

“From a human resource perspective, we were ‘spending’ the equivalent of a full-time employee addressing network issues,” says Krevl. “But then we started using myNile and it simplified the entire process.”

Today, when a user has a connectivity issue, the IT team directs them to the myNile dashboard where they can self-test connectivity and where IT can access pertinent information needed for debugging. This frees up time by eliminating the back-and-forth normally involved with collecting ticket information and it drastically simplifies the troubleshooting process for users. The IT team’s use of myNile has resulted in a faster and more efficient way to rectifying tickets.

“We don’t have a dedicated network engineer, we were just splitting the work up amongst the team,” says Krevl. “With myNile, we went from allocating an entire FTE to using four percent of an FTE for network issues. I’m very happy we can reallocate our team’s time to tasks that help the people in our department innovate instead of just fixing access points around the building.”

Increased visibility into the network has also been a game changer for Krevl and his team. During the Nile site survey, plans were made for the strategic deployment of Nile sensors that continuously analyze the network, self-tuning for optimal performance. Data from these sensors has been particularly important to Krevl in quickly determining the origin of issues. These insights help Krevl quickly understand the problems that were self-corrected with the automation built within the Nile architecture.

“It’s always been a big mystery whether the network is down, or a particular application is down, but the Nile sensors answer that question,” says Krevl. “I can use that insight to troubleshoot and very quickly address any issues with application vendors.”

Authentication is critical for network access

Network security in a campus environment is, of course, critical. And Krevl reports that he considers the baseline zero trust security of the Nile solution to be table stakes. Where Nile delivers above and beyond is simplifying his attribution strategy. He needs the utmost visibility into who is accessing the network so that in the event of an issue he knows who to disconnect or deauthenticate immediately.

The simplified user registration processes enabled by Nile now lets users register with their university ID and hardware addresses through a captive portal. By simplifying registration processes with Nile, users no longer have to run download programs or encounter complications when registering their devices.

Support and cost savings go hand in hand

Nile’s unique OpEx pricing structure is lowering overall TCO for the Computer Science Department. In a traditional network deployment, Krevl would run the infrastructure for years, waiting for something to break, before upgrading. But with Nile, timely equipment refreshes are part of the all-inclusive service, eliminating high CapEx spent on the infrastructure itself.

And thanks to automatic software upgrades and security patches, Krevl doesn’t have to add another FTE to manage the process and support it ongoing, another significant cost savings.

“Nile support has also been key to driving down costs,” explains Krevl. “The team is so responsive and efficient, especially compared to the support we had with our previous vendor, that my FTEs can focus on something other than network support.”

 

The Nile support team is so responsive and efficient, especially compared to the support we had with our previous vendor.

Building on a stable foundation

In the end, Krevl is glad he chose the path less traveled and embraced a new way to network.

“We know from experience that without a stable base for the network, your users are unhappy, you are unhappy, and your IT team is overworked,” says Krevl. “What I love about the NaaS experience is that we finally have that stable base we can build on.”

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