OIT plans to speed up network access

Several changes in both the interaction with and appearance of the network are planned this summer by the Office of Information Technology (OIT).

Many will help speed access over the network. An additional T1 line is going to be installed before June 15 to increase the college’s connection to the internet. A firewall is scheduled to be brought online after the T1 line is connected, with several implications. The firewall will provide minimal security benefits at first, requiring web requests to proxy through it. It will also cache internet data, enabling faster access to more requested information on the internet.

More switches (devices that control the flow of data) are also being added to the network over the summer, and Hopkins Hall will be entirely rewired. The network is also being cleaned up to reduce the number of packet collisions and speed up availability of bandwidth. “Summers are a very busy time for us,” Dinny Taylor, Director of Information Technology Services explained, “because of the academic year we have a small window of opportunity when we can perform upgrades to machines and software.”

The old network windows system is being discarded. Under the old system, users would log into netware and then run Windows 3.1 directly from the servers located in Jesup. Students who use network windows, about 100 currently over the past six months, some of whom are seniors, were e-mailed about the impending changes months ago.

“Network windows was never designed for a network of this size,” Desktop Systems Administrator Jonathan Leamon explained. “Getting rid of it removes one of the last vestiges of the old network.”

Since then a group of around 25 has replied back to OIT explaining their need for certain applications. The licenses for network windows will still be active.

OIT will be able to install local copies of Windows 3.1 on these machines, while keeping useful applications on a netware server. This will insure that those users who used Windows 3.1 in the past will not be affected adversely from its removal from the network in the future.

The appleshare server Greylock, which many students use to download applications for Macs, will still be in operation next year, but recent applications will now be updated on an apple-accessible netware server, Helen. The new netware server has been operational for months with the most recent Mac programs, and all computers on the network are able to use it instead of just Macs. Most student organizations have already switched their storage to the student netware server, Achilles. By supporting both appleshare and netware, OIT has committed to ensuring that both Apple and PC users are able to access the same resources. Increasing the robustness of the netware servers is part of the solution: all servers, netware, unix and NT, will have their disk capacity roughly doubled over the summer as part of the ongoing upgrades. The realaudio server which is starting to become a more widely utilized technology will also be upgraded, as well as the cd-rom service provided by the library.

“We’re getting caught up this summer,” Directory of Network and Systems Mark Berman explained. Instead of previous years, when upgrades were performed over the summer and continued into the school year he said, “We’ll be getting everything done by August.” In this way OIT can augment smooth operation during the year with minimal downtime for students, faculty and staff.

In addition to the hardware upgrades, over the summer 14 students will team up with faculty through the Mellon project in order to work on the Williams website (among other things) while OIT plans to upgrade the webserver itself, cleaning up the pages and links.

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