Case Study

Helping Campuses Support Competitive Esports

KINBER and Internet2 help address an increased infrastructure demand to accommodate competitive gaming across college campuses.

Students are increasingly trading cleats for video game consoles. Competitive esports are rapidly growing in popularity across college campuses. This reflects a global trend in which esports revenue will hit $1.1 billion in 2019, up 27 percent in just one year.

Solution Summary

This uptick is leading to an increased demand for infrastructure to accommodate competitive gaming. Research and education network organizations such as the Keystone Initiative for Network Based Education and Research (KINBER) are supporting esports by providing network services, solutions, training, and support to their member communities.

In anticipation of this demand on infrastructure, KINBER launched its Esports KESDX pilot program in April 2019 at KINBERCON 2019, using Internet2’s Rapid Private Interconnect (RPI) service.

KINBER, in partnership with Internet2, then worked with a variety of campuses in Pennsylvania – from research universities to small liberal arts colleges – to develop esports pilot programs with an eye toward maximizing students’ competitive gaming advantage and to learn from their experiences. KINBER also partnered with Twitch, Riot, Blizzard, and Valve game services.


Products and Services

Internet2 Rapid Private Interconnect (RPI) service.

The Problem

The Esports KESDX pilot program was created in 2019 to better understand and refine service offerings to meet campus requirements in support of the growth in competitive esports programs at educational institutions.

With increased campus esports demand, there are concerns about keeping gaming servers’ latency down and keeping the route tables separately via virtual routing and forwarding (VRF). This KESDX design technology allows multiple instances of a routing table to exist in a router and work at the same time. This improves functionality by allowing network paths to be segmented without using multiple devices.

There are also security concerns like Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks and concerns about the ability to accommodate service demands like streaming and “shoutcasting,” which is commentary over video gaming that is usually being streamed live. Lastly, campuses have to consider logistics like finding a designated arena or game space, A/V room design, and consulting for an A/V service.

The Solution

With the Esports KESDX pilot and service, participating institutions keep latency down by through better robust direct connectivity which minimizes hops, lags, and latency. Schools can also adopt the ability to peer with other schools connected to KINBER. This helps keep the route tables separately via VRF because it allows multiple instances of a routing table to exist in a router and work at the same time.

Internet2 peering router graphic that illustrates how the individual service provider connects with the VLAN and connector.

KINBER used the Internet2 Rapid Private Interconnect Service to utilize capacity already available on their Internet2 backbone connection to establish a dedicated 10G VLAN to the Service Provider (Equinix IX), who peers with the esports providers.

Universities are finding ways to fold esports into athletic programs and academics and use this service to recruit students. At Edinboro University in Pennsylvania, the initial pilot school, the esports team is part of the athletic department. The university also ties the team’s competitiveness to the Animation and Computer Science program. Several colleges are using esports as tie-ins to their curriculum in programs such as Animation and Computer Science, and are offering “The Business of Esports” and similar types of programs. 

Universities are finding ways to fold esports into athletic programs and academics and use this service to recruit students.

KINBER’s Esports KESDX education and outreach included a webinar featuring Lackawanna University’s esports program, an esports community day event (held in conjunction with Merit, the Michigan regional network), a sponsored webinar to share lessons learned, and created a KINBER working group to get input from the community and discuss ideas.

Lessons Learned

Campuses considering esports are doing so to increase student recruitment, to create community and inclusivity for student esports athletes, and to gain name recognition and differentiate themselves.

Campuses are taking advantage of the KINBER esports direct connect service to ensure the low latency and the most direct path with the optimal network environment. This support gives them an edge with the increasingly competitive esports infrastructure requirements. 

What’s Next

KINBER has moved from piloting KESDX to service roll-out as of January 2020. The information gathered during the pilot was essential for initial testing, monitoring traffic data, and successfully meeting institutional needs and requirements. As part of KINBER’s KESDX service delivery option, plans include: