18 April 2006

IPTV to GrangeNet

The future of television, on your desktop computer now at UC and soon across GrangeNet.

GrangeNet (GRid And Next GEneration NETwork) is the experimental high performance computer network funded by Government to support grid and advanced communication services for research and education across Australia [http://www.grangenet.net/index.html].

The television channels that we are currently reticulating around our local UC computer network can be made available across the GrangeNet network simply by reconfiguring some of the settings on the program streams and the switches and routers through which the signals pass: with the right configuration someone at UWA in Perth could be watching one of the satellite services being received on campus here in Building 20, at no cost (GrangeNet is free of traffic charges).

GrangeNet’s bandwidth is such that the 120-150Mb/s of satellite television services will hardly have any impact on other services running on their links, which runs at speeds of up to 10Gb/s between nodes.

For legal reasons we would only provide free-to-air satellite services that originate outside Australia on GrangeNet: no local terrestrial services nor ABC Asia Pacific or network feeds will be included until the legality of providing these services can be determined.

The services would be provided on a purely experimental basis with no guarantees of reliability or availability to see what issues may arise when providing television over IP networks. Since GrangeNet’s funding ceases at the end of this year it is unlikely that services will be available after then unless AARNET takes them on.

It would cost us nothing to provide the streams except for some small amount of time doing some reconfiguration of the streams and liaising with ICT Services’ Network Management Team to ensure the traffic is available on the link to GrangeNet. Once outside the University border any configuration issues will be handled by GrangeNet staff.

iChat with ASU

Video chat has been restored: to a small part of the Division at least.

The Division has successfully negotiated an arrangement that allows the computers in the CLRC to be used by students on campus here at UC learning Japanese to video chat with Japanese students from Aichi Shukutoku University (ASU) in Japan. We were able to negotiate this arrangement because the computers in the CLRC are all Macintosh computers that are not subject to the same malware attacks as Windows PCs, so there is a much reduced risk of the computers being compromised and threatening others on the UC network.

Relocation of the Division’s server room

The Division's server rack is moving to its own room.

Following a successful bid for Minor Works support, the Division’s server will be moved over the period between the mid-year break and the end of the year.

This year’s IT Infrastructure Fund loan provides for the replacement of some of the Division’s IT infrastructure that has or will become end-of-life by September 2006. New equipment to replace the Division’s Network Attached Storage device, tape backup system, Uninterruptible Power Supply, and print server will be installed in the new server room and commissioned before the old gear is taken out of service.

Relocation of other equipment will be scheduled to provide least disruption to end-users and may not be completed until mid-November, after the end of the academic year.

Divisional staff and students who may be affected will be consulted to ensure the changeover is smooth.

If everything goes to plan end-users should not notice any difference in their work environment, but behind the scenes there will be greater capacity and more reliable services. The new server room provides technical staff with much easier access to the server equipment where required and will make it easier and more efficient for them to look after the gear. It also moves the equipment out of their day-to-day workspace so they will enjoy quieter and more comfortable working conditions.

04 April 2006

Initial Project Proposals (Project Mandates)

The University is developing a new way of managing IT projects that have an impact across the campus.

Under proposed arrangements through the University Information Management Systems Committee (UIMSC), any information and communications (ICT) project in the University that involves IT or Information Systems (involving storage or manipulation of corporate data in electronic form), and:

  • will impact on more than one section of the University;
  • requires more than five IT staff days of effort; or
  • involves the development of a new service or system

will need to be considered by UIMSC.

The Division has identified three projects initially that, it would appear, need to be considered by UIMSC. These are:

1. ICT Services hosting of Staff Profiles and Home Drives

Divisions are responsible for providing servers and storage space to hold and manage the profiles and My Documents folders (‘home drives’ or ‘home directories’) for their Divisional Staff. This facility is duplicated across all three Academic Divisions. ICT Services hosts profiles and home directories for the other, non-academic Divisions. There may also be solutions in place in some of the Centres around the campus.

This duplicates facilities across four Divisions at least, and causes problems for staff moving between Divisions in the University.

While shared drives are not covered here, there is also a need to provide staff with access to shared, ‘collaborative’ network file storage space in addition to their own storage. This shared storage (‘network drives’) should be available not only within Divisions but also between Divisions so that groups of people from different Divisions working together can have common space to collaborate.

The Division has requested that UIMSC consider a project to provide staff profiles and home drives centrally.

2. Centralised control of Wireless Access to the University Network

In 2003 the Division of Communication and Education began rolling out experimental access points to allow some students around the Division to access the University network wirelessly. Following a survey in 2004 ICT Services began the rollout of wireless services to a number of spaces around the University, including the Hub, the Refectory, the Staff Club and parts of the Library. It is proposed to wireless-enable Building 2 in 2006.

A Wireless Working Party endorsed a security plan for providing wireless access to the University Network. In brief, this plan involved a Virtual Private Network model that requires all wireless access points to be on a separate part of the network so that only properly authenticated users can access the facilities of the University network. ICT Services Network Management Team must manage the VPN model because only its members have access to the administration services needed to configure network switches to support the Virtual Local Area Network, or VLAN, services needed to implement the system.

The Division of Communication and Education still has three wireless access points in operation (and use) that do not conform to the University’s wireless access policy. These service the 9C25 Conference Room and 9C26 postgraduate room; the 5C15 and 16 Microteaching rooms and the 5C43 Art Room; and the Compatibility Lab in the Curriculum Resources Centre (5A15).

The management of these access points needs to be handed over to the Network Management Group, or replaced by them with suitable access points that fit in with other access points in use around the campus.

Any new wireless access points (there are requests for wireless access to be provided in 1C33 (CLRC) and the ILTC (20B18)) should be the responsibility of ICT Services.

The objective of this project is to provide standardized, central control over existing and proposed wireless access to the University network.

3. Replacement network switches in Buildings 1, 9 and 20

There are network switches in Buildings 1, 9 and 20 that have not been replaced since being installed by the Faculties in 1998. The old switches are not to the University ‘Layer 2’ standard and prevent us from using the network for multicast services like Ghosting machines over the network. Access points for providing wireless access to the University network require upgraded switches to allow for the management of the services in line with University policy on providing wireless access to the University network. Network response at times of peak usage is unacceptably slow, and it is not possible to move large files (for video editing purposes, for example) over the network in its existing state.

It is essential that ICT services (like the network infrastructure, for example) remain up to date so as to not put the University at a competitive disadvantage when compared with other comparable institutions.

This project seeks to have the network switches in the Division of Communication and Education brought up to the University standard within a reasonable timeframe.

Campus Collaborative software

A new direction to integrate email and provide campus-wide collaborative software.

At a meeting help on Monday, 27 March 2006, PVC Research and Information Management announced that the University was seeking external consultants’ advice on the selection of an appropriate campus-wide collaborative tool (to manage, for example, email, calendar, address book, task lists and file-sharing).

PVC R&IM was asked to ensure that the consultants spoke with the Academic Divisions to identify their needs, and that they were asked to include plans for the deployment of their proposed solution within the UC environment in their report.