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How DFN was able to rapidly upscale its video conferencing services

The Deutsches Forschungsnetz (DFN) is the German national research and education network used for academic and research purposes. In 1984, it was founded by universities, non-university research institutions and research-oriented companies to stimulate computerized communication in Germany. In 2020, around 900 institutions in Germany are connected to DFN’s high-quality network.

DFN’s video conferencing services

On top of DFN’s main services, which is providing internet for all its users, DFN offers different services, such as roaming, telecommunication and videoconferencing, to which all institutions have access. Christian Meyer, associated with DFN: “The videoconferencing service started back in 2003 and then quickly evolved into two branches: standards-based videoconferencing and web-based conferencing service.” In 2018, DFN started to bring together the videoconferencing and web-based conferencing services. Meyer: “We chose Kinly as they provided a videoconferencing service based on Pexip. Since then, together with Kinly, we have realized a true fusion of standard and web-based video conferencing by creating a multi-tool. Users can either access this service by using their own legacy video conferencing systems, for example from Cisco, Polycom or Lifesize, or they access through their web browser.”

Cloud room - virtual meetings

Scaling up in weeks instead of years

The corona outreach had a great impact on DFN, Meyer explains: “In the beginning of this year, DFN was still experiencing a steady growth rate, meaning the users had adapted to the new service and had smoothly migrated the meeting rooms from the old platform to the new platform. Early March, as a result of the corona outbreak, DFN experienced a huge increase in this growth rate. Where users normally would get together in a physical meeting room and shared virtual meetings rooms, now all of these users were isolated from the office and fully dependent on the availability of a virtual meeting room.”

Due to this unforeseen growth and to meet the demands of all its users, DFN had to act quickly and upscale immediately. Naturally, this came along with issues. Meyer: “Our first limitation had to do with hardware, as more compute power was needed for our services to run on our on-premises installation. DFN was able to upscale its hardware resources to an acceptable level, a project that would have normally lasted two years easily and was now done in only two weeks time.” A second limitation was the number of available Pexip-licenses. DFN needed more, but how many? Meyer: “Determining the right amount of necessary licenses felt to me like driving my car through fog. We had to establish a process with Kinly to get new licenses as quickly as possible and right at the time we needed them.” This process went pretty well, says Meyer. “During the four weeks of March we increased to more than 3.000 of those licences. In April, we made an order of another 2,000 more licenses. Though we originally planned to upscale to approximately 1,000 video ports by the end of this year, we now possess over 5,000 licenses.”

Kinly’s flexibility in providing these licenses was a huge plus according to Meyer: “Getting these licenses quickly helped tremendously. My contact at Kinly always reacted quickly and was able to act on our demands. After placing an order for licenses, we were already able to activate them on our platform within only a day or two.” Having the current available number of 5,000 licenses instead of the originally planned 1,000 wouldn’t have been possible without Kinly’s willingness to think along with DFN, says Meyer: “A contractual limitation of these licenses is that they last until the end of this year. Luckily, Kinly together with Pexip decided to help us out and provided us with a flexible licensing plan. In our effort to get budget for these licenses, this was a huge help for us.”

What does the future bring for DFN?

How will the future of DFN’s video conferencing services look like after the crisis? Meyer: “When things are getting back to a normal state, it is obvious that the usage of our video services will decrease and so does the number of licenses we need. However, I expect that we’ll still keep a significant number of licenses, because I hope and expect the crisis also brings positive things. Especially in the Education industry, digitization was a slow process. Now, when universities and institutions are getting used to working with this online technology and are more convinced of its possibilities, it for instance offers them a chance to move some of their original campus-based courses to an online-based environment. In general, I expect an impulse to online meetings. That would be great a result after all.”

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