United States Army General Eric Shinseki once said, “If you dislike change, you’re going to dislike irrelevance even more.” The global network and technology landscape is in the midst of tremendous and unprecedented inflection, and “irrelevance” is a risk for most technology organizations. Among the megatrends affecting Merit: Michigan’s first broadband roadmap plan was published; national security concerns with foreign telecommunication companies have emerged; the FCC’s wireless spectrum expansion & 5G rollout are in full-swing; policy wars rage regarding Net Neutrality; wholesale migration to cloud services for enterprises are occurring; data privacy issues and security breaches are in the news seemingly every day; multi-billion dollar federal infrastructure funding bills are being debated; and citizens want to close the “homework gap” to ensure no students are left behind in the 21st century. As one can see, these are tumultuous times! The last year at Merit has been one of planning for significant industry change, to ensure we remain relevant, strong and valuable for our statewide membership over the coming decades and beyond despite the current tumult.
Our fundamental mission remains the same: continuing to be the highest performance network in the state; strengthening the cyber security position of our membership, and; connecting organizations and building a collaborative statewide community. However, the scale of our mission is evolving and it requires us to look over the horizon to set the right foundation for the future.
In this last year, we’ve made significant progress on that long-term foundation. We have completed planning and started implementation to effect the complete merger of the research universities’ Michigan Lamba Rail (MiLR) network into the larger Merit network, in order to bring flexible, high performance capabilities to the entire Merit community. We have launched high-capacity internet service for the K-12 MiSEN network, including often-used DDoS protection for them. Michigan is well on-the-way to achieving a comprehensive K-20 network which will be one of the finest in the nation. We’ve launched our Michigan Moonshot initiative with a goal of closing the homework gap for the 27% of Michigan K-12 students who still lack access to broadband internet services. Working with our research faculty partners at Michigan State University, we’re piloting novel citizen-science/crowdsourcing techniques to measure household broadband access to help accurately direct federal and state investments. And finally, we’ve found a new home for Merit’s headquarters in Ann Arbor, and we’re looking forward to increasing community collaboration in it. All of these things have happened while we’ve continued to provide the highest-quality operational services you’ve come to expect from us.
Recently, a Merit board member told me that his university was built to last centuries at-a-time, and he challenged Merit to plan accordingly, even in the midst of great change. As you can see, we’re trying to do just that. We look forward to working with you as we strive to help make Michigan a great place to learn, discover, work and live over the next decades and beyond.”
JOSEPH SAWASKY, President & CEO of Merit
THE MERIT TEAM
We exist for the benefit of our members and are dedicated to their success. We seek to do what is important and has unique value. We believe that community is built through partnership, cooperation and collaboration.
We implement creative solutions to problems large and small for our members and for ourselves. We are adaptable and embrace change. We take appropriate risks to move ourselves and our members forward.
We are truthful and trustworthy. We communicate openly and effectively among ourselves and with our members. We act in the best interest of our members.
We strive to be the best at all we do. We continuously improve both as individuals and as a team. Every shortfall is an opportunity to learn and improve.
Our staff is our most powerful asset. We trust each other, help each other and hold each other accountable. We support each other as we strive to be the best that we can.
To go far, we will go together. Merit commits to showing community kindness, courtesy and respect through every member interaction.
Looking back over our 66 year history, the Merit Network has grown along with our membership. Networking and technology provided the foundations for our organization and will continue to be an innovative driver of our future. From the early days of our university connections to the robust and ever-growing backbone network, Merit continues to provide resilient scalable bandwidth that our members can count on.
As our networking needs grow, so do that of our members. Bob Stovall, Vice President of Network Strategy & Architecture, and Michael Milliken, Vice President of Technology Operations, continue to work with our members to future-proof their networking and technological capabilities.
One startling trend is the exponential increase in compound annual growth of our members’ bandwidth needs.
Another network update includes the Merit MiLR Merger. The current network is now being fully integrated into the larger network. Along with internet connectivity being brought back from Chicago to redundant sites in Detroit and Grand Rapids at a 100 Gbps capacity, local access to the backbone is providing new paths to use for members on those routes. This merger also allows for wave services where possible.
DEVELOPMENT OF THE MERIT K12 SECURITY FRAMEWORK SERIES
Merit, in collaboration with MISEN and MAISA developed a K12 Security Framework document. This framework was created to walk through the Top 20 Security Controls from the Center for Internet Security and to provide tactics for implementation. The aim is to improve the security posture of K12 organizations, who often have limited budgets and human resources.
An ongoing educational series, comprised of webinars, roadshow workshops and conference presentations will continue throughout 2019 and 2020.
TWO NEW MICHIGAN CYBER RANGE HUBS OPENED:
NORTHERN MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY CYBER HUB GRAND OPENING
The sixth installment in the Michigan Cyber Range Network opened May 2, 2019 in Marquette, MI at Northern Michigan University. The NMU Cyber Hub grand opening included a tour of the new cyber range and a live, virtual Capture the Flag exercise with IT professionals.
WMCAT CYBER HUB GRAND OPENING
The fifth installment in the Michigan Cyber Range Network opened Wednesday, October 10th, 2018 in Grand Rapids, MI at the West Michigan Center For Arts and Technology. The WMCAT Cyber Hub grand opening included a tour of the new cyber range and a live, virtual Red vs. Blue (Paintball) cyber exercise with members of the West Michigan Cyber Security Consortium.
Merit continues to grow! The Merit Community reaches every county in the state. We are proud to have grown to more than 380 member organizations.
Security Summit 2018: Convergence
November 13, 2018
The annually sold out Security Summit 2019 provided CIOs, CTOs, CISOs, analysts, and networking and IT professionals a blueprint to build cross-departmental and industry-wide security keystones to optimize resources and maintain a robust security posture.
Merit Member Conference 2019 : Voyage to the Future
The annually sold out MMC 2019 was attended by over 450 Merit Members and allowed a professional, creative and diverse collection of keynotes, breakouts, and collaborations to bring Membership together for another year.
Southeast and Southwest Security on a Shoestring
June 11 & 13
Cybersecurity and the challenge of protecting your organization is difficult, even to those with available resources to invest. Merit understands the need for all institutions regardless of budget to ensure the safety of their communities. The SOAS roadshow provided our southeast and southwest member regions the opportunity to close the gap on cybersecurity needs while minding the cost (if any!) to implement. This event was made possible by the generous support of our community supports Adva Optical Networking, Cisco, and Juniper Networks.
Infosec Rockstar Webinar I – III
May – June
Merit’s K12 Security Framework series was developed to walk through the Top 20 Security Controls from CIS and to provide tactics for implementation. The aim is to improve the security posture of K12 organizations, who often have limited budgets and human resources.
COMMUNITIES OF PRACTICE
Merit’s Communities of Practice establishes stronger connections within membership. These groups, who each meet on a quarterly basis, come together to problem solve, share advice and discuss best practices within their industries.
This group brings together security leaders to discuss cybersecurity topics, policies and roadmaps.
MiND brings together networking and technology professionals to collaborate on emerging technologies and to address current networking issues, concerns and successes with other skilled network engineers, directors and technicians.
MITE enables tech leaders in Michigan to discuss best practices, share ideas and collaborate on tech-related issues.
LOOKBACK: PRODUCT AND IT ROADMAP
HIGHLIGHTS OF MERIT PRODUCT MANAGEMENT EFFORTS FROM THE PAST YEAR:
- Redeveloped the RADb (Routing Assets Database) product, and continue to roll out new features and performance improvements
- Launched a new Managed Firewall service, featuring Palo Alto Networks technology
- Launched Cloudflare Web Application Firewall service
- Launched the Merit Community Assistance Pact (MCAP) as a way to enhance community DR/BC planning and preparedness
- Launched Michigan Cyber Range: Connected Sandbox product, as well as a related research dataset sharing model
- Continued adding new products and vendors to the Merit Marketplace, including a new national Quilt consortium contract with significant discounts on VMware, Palo Alto Networks, AWS, and more.
- Developed additional enhancements for Merit Community CISO consulting services
- Redeveloped the Merit Member Portal (for a Summer 2019 release)
Merit has also formed a new department, Business Systems, spearheaded by David Dennis Executive Director of Product Management, This department will have direct impact on the ease of doing business with Merit in the coming year. Projects such as digital quoting and improving efficiencies of our business processes are in the works.
MMC SURVEY RESULTS
At the 2019 Merit Member Conference we surveyed our participants regarding their concerns in Network, Security and Community. Read on for the results.
WHAT INDUSTRY ARE YOU A PART OF? (116 responses)
MERIT COMMUNITY SUPPORTERS
Merit Community Supporters are the cornerstone of Merit’s scholarship and Bring-A-Colleague programs. Through their partnership and financial contributions, Merit is able to further our mission of connecting organizations and building communities in ways that would not be otherwise possible.
This year, Merit welcomed a new Community Supporter, Cisco.
FIVE WAYS THAT MERIT COMMUNITY SUPPORTERS MADE A DIFFERENCE IN THE LAST YEAR
- More than 650 students participated in the Governor’s High School Cyber Challenge. This program aims to build a cybersecurity ecosystem by exposing students to security career field.
- Nearly 170 Member organizations took advantage of our Bring-A-Colleague program at our 2019 annual Merit Member Conference.
- 100 Member organizations attended the Merit Security Summit 2018 by utilizing the Bring-A-Colleague pricing. This deep-dive into all things security was another sell-out event and featured a culminating debate on hot-button IT and security issues.
- Our Security Team went on the road this year with the Security on a Shoestring workshops, which our members were able to attend free-of-charge.
- Multiple Merit Members received cybersecurity courses and bootcamps through our Cyber Range Hubs at no cost, thanks to the Merit Community Supporters scholarship fund.
LOOK AHEAD: MICHIGAN MOONSHOT
In response to the State of Michigan Broadband Roadmap, the Michigan Moonshot is a call for community action to improve access to broadband and the internet in rural communities in Michigan.
Our work will:
- Strive to develop potential national standards for citizen-science/crowd-sourcing techniques to assess broadband coverage in a more granular and accurate manner
- Foster public-private partnerships to establish unbiased community connectivity teams
- Seek and support planning grants and one-time construction subsidies
This year saw the successful launch of a Citizen Scientist Broadband Pilot program, the creation of the Broadband Toolkit Framework, an educational webinar series and roadshows for our members.
LOOK AHEAD: MOVING TIMELINE AND UPDATE
Merit is moving to:
880 Technology Dr, Ann Arbor, MI 48108
Expected move will be late fall of this year.
Contact [email protected] with any questions!
LOOK AHEAD: COMING EVENTS
MICHIGAN BROADBAND SUMMIT
September 24, 2019
Information is the great equalizer. Access to, and use of the internet has become an integral component of everyday life in the 21st century. Digital information has reshaped how individuals participate in nearly every dimension of society. It is imperative for communities to leverage broadband network access to eliminate the homework gap and for the benefit of education, socioeconomic equality, telemedicine, Smart Agriculture, public safety and economic development to maintain and grow quality of life for their citizens.
GOVERNOR’S HIGH SCHOOL CYBER CHALLENGE
September 30 – October 31
Teams comprised of up to three high school students are invited to participate in a round of challenges designed to test their knowledge of cybersecurity, computer science and information technology. The only requirements are an interest in cybersecurity and a familiarity with computers. This is a great cybersecurity learning opportunity for all high school students in Michigan.
All schools in Michigan are invited to participate and the challenge is entirely FREE!
MICHIGAN BROADBAND WEBINARS & ROADSHOW
There is a wide gap in broadband connectivity in Michigan and Merit is providing opportunities to join the rural broadband conversation across the state. Whether in person or online, we are coming to our communities with the issue and a step-by-step solution to change our current and future broadband environments.
SECURITY ON A SHOESTRING AND K12 SECURITY WEBINARS & ROADSHOW
Based on the CIS top 20 critical internet security controls, Merit will reveal and explore a security framework centralized on the K12 community. The focus is to provide the 20 most effective steps an organization with constrained budget and manpower resources can take to protect their organization. Look for these events this fall.
MERIT MEMBER CONFERENCE 2020
Once again we will be holding our Annual Merit Member Conference in May of 2020. Check back to our Member Events page and bi-monthly Inbox Insider Newsletter for the latest member conference update, or follow us on social media.