Helping to Advance Research, Education, and Economic Development
Dating back to 1997, NJEdge.net, Inc., commonly referred to as Edge, has had a mission to serve as a valued and trusted partner to its members through secure high-performance optical infrastructure, network services, technology solutions, and expert support, training, and industry insight. That original mission continues to drive Edge to this very day. Over the years, Edge has grown its member community to include institutions of higher education, K-12 school districts, libraries, state and local government agencies, and healthcare facilities. As a nonprofit member-based research and education network, Edge spans New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, and New York, and looks to empower organizations with the tools and services they need on their digital transformation journeys.
Edge’s origin story begins in 1994 when the New Jersey President’s Council was established by statute with the mission of statewide planning for higher education including research on higher education issues. Later in 1997, the Higher Education Technology Infrastructure Fund was enacted, creating a capital bond initiative to help New Jersey colleges and universities develop the integrated technology infrastructure important to increasing their effectiveness and efficiency, educational opportunities, and workforce training. The law established a fund with the New Jersey Educational Facilities Authority to build that infrastructure both within and among institutions and to help enhance connectivity with libraries and elementary and secondary schools.
Within the same year, the Commission on Higher Education convened its technology task force looking to the new millennium and New Jersey’s plan for higher education. The task force was integral in developing the state’s $50 million higher education technology infrastructure fund, setting aside $5 million for interconnectivity. A total of $45 million was committed to enhance individual campus infrastructure and required a dollar-for-dollar match. The funds for interconnectivity also required a combined institutional match by the members and were targeted to support the creation of a single broadband network utility to support the collaborative efforts of colleges and universities in the state.
After the taskforce completed its work, a technology advisory committee was established to assist the Commission and President’s Council in developing a statewide network and governing structure. As part of that effort, the New Jersey President’s Council commissioned a study by consulting firm Walsh Lowe to explore the need for a statewide higher education network. The study revealed that there are many benefits to this network and that establishing connectivity could bring the state into parity with over thirty other states in establishing research and education networks and connecting higher education to the Internet and the national research and education network, Internet2.
Supporting a Collaborative Community
In 2000, the network government structure was established with the President’s Council executive board serving as the board of directors for this not-for-profit corporation named NJEdge.net. The consortium, NJEdge, was developed as part of the state plan for higher education to provide collaborative resources and networked information services to its members and affiliates in support of education, research and development, outreach and public service, and economic development throughout the state. In providing a statewide network infrastructure, NJEdge began to establish standards for interoperability, achieved economies of scale, and supported new and emerging technology that could enable inter institutional collaboration among its member community. Over the years, the leadership structure has changed, including adding a board of trustees to provide leadership and oversight to the organization. In 2015, an amendment to the statutes codified NJEdge as a lead agency or contracting unit for the purposes of procuring technology on behalf of the members. One of the original requirements for institutional participation in the technology infrastructure fund was the commitment to support NJEdge through network connectivity.
Looking to create a collaborative national research platform where institutions could access advanced computing resources, leading-edge technology, and research training and partnerships, NJEdge created the research as a service (RaaS) solution, EdgeDiscovery, in 2019. This technology-based research and discovery framework also aimed to help member institutions fulfill prerequisites to attracting grants from preeminent research funding entities. In particular, the platform aimed to help more institutions in the community gain access to data and research tools and help under-resourced organizations who would otherwise be unable to invest in next generation research infrastructure. Combining a NJEdge research network DMZ with an optimized technology stack residing on their backbone, EdgeDiscovery is outfitted with hardware and software components which enable researchers to streamline their research projects, schedule compute cycles, and access applications, analytics tools, and storage resources.
NJEdge, now known as Edge, celebrated 20 years in 2020 and currently supports 46 connected members in higher education and research, K-12 districts, healthcare, and municipal governments. Since the beginning, Edge’s strategy has been to create network connections that drive additional value, lower costs, and support an institution’s capabilities, while offering technology solutions that help advance research, education, and economic development.
Designing a High-Performance Network
To deliver an exceptional connectivity experience to its members, Edge created the optical fiber network, EdgeNet, a purpose-built solution specifically designed for higher education in New Jersey. EdgeNet was designed to support 100 percent of member demand, so unlike traditional Internet service providers (ISP), Edge never oversubscribes the network where one member’s traffic competes for bandwidth with another member. More specifically, 80 percent of Edge member’s external traffic is exchanged to be private peering relationships as opposed to traversing the unsecure and best effort public internet. Within this 80 percent, there is access to critical cloud services providers, such as Microsoft, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google, and Apple.
Designed with redundant nodes and Internet transit providers distributed throughout the state of New Jersey, the network minimizes service interruptions by never relying on any one service provider; delivering a highly survivable, highly available networking experience to connected members. This original design, and all subsequent iterations, has been driven by member input and to help institutions be better equipped to meet their changing needs. Specifically, many institutions needed redundancy in both the network architecture and member connectivity to effectively meet the needs of their students, faculty, and staff. In recent years, esports peering was added to support member organizations as they build and expand world-class esports programs to attract and retain students interested in this field.
Along with celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2020, Edge also extended their backbone footprint into two new points of presence at Princeton University, with added path redundancy to enhance the redundancy to the network. In addition, Edge expanded their capability and capacity for research computing by creating a dedicated research network segment within EdgeNet. The foundation of this Internet2 GigaPOP created a research network that is physically and logically separated from the production network that members use to get to the Internet. As a major interconnection point with Internet2, members can connect with both national and international research assets. During this same year, a new feature was added to EdgeNet where members can access real-time network utilization reporting that shows an organization’s own network connections to the Edge network. This allows an institution to proactively monitor the network and troubleshoot any issues more efficiently.
The New Jersey President’s Council was established by statute with the mission of statewide planning for higher education including research on higher education issues.
The higher education technology infrastructure fund was enacted to help New Jersey colleges and universities develop the integrated technology infrastructure imported to their effectiveness and efficiency.
The Law established a fund with the new Jersey educational facilities authority to build that infrastructure both within and among institutions and to enhance connectivities with libraries and elementary and secondary schools.
The Commission on Higher Education convened its technology task force looking to the new millennium and New Jersey’s plan for higher education. The task force was integral in developing that state’s $50 million higher education technology infrastructure fund which set aside $5 million for interconnectivity.
The network government structure was established with the President’s Council executive board serving as the board of directors for this not-for-profit corporation named NJEdge.net.
An amendment to the statutes codified NJEdge as a lead agency or contracting unit for the purposes of procuring technology on behalf of the members. One of the original requirements for institutional participation in the technology infrastructure fund was the commitment to support NJEdge through network connectivity.
Edge officially launches with first President and CEO, Dr. Samuel Conn, and fifth generation network.
NJEdge, now Edge, celebrates 20 years with major milestones including Internet2 GigaPop.
Successful launch of EdgeNet Research Segment, EdgeMarket cooperative pricing system, and expansion of services to include Digital Transformation Professional & Managed Services.
Sixth generation network introduced.
Post-Pandemic Edge and its partners re-emerge with in-person member events to rave reviews!
During the pandemic when remote work and learning became a necessity, Edge established local broadband peering with major residential providers to improve the student and employee experience. The most recently added cloud connectivity supports members’ needs for digital transformation by deploying cloud infrastructure and software as a service capabilities with major cloud providers. This addition allows members to leverage Edge connections to move data center services into the Cloud, access all major cloud providers without additional access costs, and benefit from a shared services model that helps to reduce expenses.
With network engineers who have decades of experience building wide area network solutions that support members’ needs, Edge continues to expand the features and capabilities that EdgeNet has offered to help institutions meet their evolving needs and step into the future with confidence.
Expanding Solutions and Services
To ease the burden of the procurement process and speed members’ time to implementation and innovation, Edge launched EdgeMarket in 2021. Delivering the latest technologies at an affordable price, EdgeMarket was designed to be a solutions and service “easy button” that gives members access to the latest technology solutions. The cooperative pricing system delivers consortium purchasing agreements and helps minimize the time and resources spent researching, analyzing, and procuring essential tools. With solutions designed to support an entire digital ecosystem, EdgeMarket allows members to take advantage of existing contracts and strategic partnerships to speed the procurement process and shorten the time to implementation for advanced technology solutions.
Throughout Edge’s evolution, the consortium has expanded to not only deliver optimum value to members through network connectivity and technology procurement, but also by meeting the growing needs of its member institutions in the areas of digital transformation, cybersecurity, educational and digital learning technologies, cloud computing, research community engagement, and professional managed services. Edge also hosts signature events, like its annual conference EdgeCon, to allow community thought leaders, industry partners, and solution providers to learn, connect, and problem solve together.
Enabling opportunities for collaboration and technology transformation have always remained at the heart of the Edge consortium, even as the challenges of the pandemic quickly shifted priorities for many member institutions. Amid a rapidly-changing landscape, Edge further broadened organizational capacity to assist institutions with technology solutions and services related to digital transformation and helped them continue to meet the needs of their students, faculty, and staff.
The world has greatly changed in the last several years, where digital learning and collaboration has solidified its position in our everyday lives and classrooms have evolved in many new and exciting directions. In 2022, many member institutions looked to Edge for instructional design support, digital transformation strategies, and subject matter expertise in the development of new courses and programs. By remaining in tune with members’ changing needs and objectives and staying on top of the latest technology trends, Edge will continue to expand its value proposition and help institutions to achieve their strategic goals and capitalize on the opportunities that arise in this digital era.