22 February 2005

Network issues

Increasing pressures stress the University’s IP network.

The experimental multicasting of live-to-air television services around the University's computer network has highlighted shortcomings in the network. Over summer there were a few issues raised by the University's Network Manager relating to "the more simple minded devices on the campus network, eg building management controllers, CarDAX controllers, some printers, in that they get flooded and hence DOSed by the stream", but by and large the system operated effectively multicasting all five local terrestrial television services around the network throughout the summer at full digital quality. The University Network Manager is supportive of the project because it tests the network and demonstrates shortcomings that should be fixed.

With the increase in network activity as more and more people return to work after the summer break, more issues are arising (especially with the use of the network to upgrade computers for the new semester) that from time to time interrupt normal use of the network.

The network SHOULD be capable of dealing with the traffic generated by the live streaming services, but some legacy, feral or badly-designed systems interfere with the wider network causing slow-downs and sometimes outright failure. These are underlying issues that have troubled us in the past and that are just being highlighted by the streaming television services. The issues need to fixed whether or not the television services continue: it is in fact our intention to add at least ten satellite services to the current five terrestrial services, for a total of fifteen or more services multicasting simultaneously around the network, potentially increasing the current activity three-fold. Once on-demand streaming is added, should the on-demand streaming be popular the additional network traffic will test the network further.

At this stage the multicasting will continue, but there may be pressure to scale back or cease the streaming to relieve the network. The Division should resist such pressure, insisting instead that the network issues be identified and corrected.