06 September 2005

Network issues

Network problems are restricting our ability to work and implement new services.

ICT Services network people would agree that the network has a number of deficiencies that result from historical decisions made locally (rather than centrally) to provide local network services, or ad hoc extensions to the network, that now don't fit in and even conflict with the centralised system.

Recent security limitations implemented in an attempt to protect Windows PCs from malicious attacks have further limited the usefulness of the network.

Other restrictions in place to limit the amount of data that comes into the University (for cost reasons) also limit the range of services available to users.

Some examples of problems encountered include:

  • Marratech eMeeting is not usable on campus.
  • iChat AV is no longer functioning.
  • There are limitations on the use of multicasting for software distribution and live streaming of video due to port blocking and outdated network equipment.
  • Now access to off-campus streaming video has been lost.

The University network is now less useful for teaching, learning, research and administration than it was say a year ago. Pushing the network to its limits (for example by using multicasting techniques to push installations out over the network, or streaming live television around the campus) is causing basic services like access to network storage, email and the web to degrade or fail when theoretically the network should be able easily to cope with the load of all of these services.

How is the University going to ensure it has the resources to keep up with or respond to the dynamic demands of teaching and research at a time when there is great interest and spectacular growth in bandwidth-hungry IP services like VoIP, Google Earth, video streaming and video conferencing? There is no (known) strategic plan for designing and rolling out network support for services (like audio and video services over IP, or video chat and conferencing) that require high bandwidth, on campus, nationally and internationally.

There is still no (known) operational plan or budget to systematically upgrade the network to remove outmoded legacy devices installed in good faith years ago that now impede the potential capability of the network to serve the University community.

As a Division we have had to invest recently in a number of devices to replace older equipment that now no longer serves us well, even though the responsibility for network support has been (quite rightly) ceded to a central service: we still have to provide resources to fix the problems because while ICT Services has the responsibility to look after the network it doesn't have the money.

The University Information Systems Management Committee (UIMSC) should investigate and address these issues.