Friday, 8 October 2010

Under the sea...

Spent most of Wednesday entertaining visitors from JANET, our network provider. A good opportunity to learn from each other. Them to find out  about our needs and how we work, and us to find out about how they deal with the increasing demands on them. On of the things we touched on was the absolute critical nature of our internet connection now - it isn't just to give us a connection to the outside world, but used to run critical services over. As we outsource more services, this dependence will only increase. We also looked at whether our current connection of 2 x 1Gig links is enough. Of course, 2 x 1Gig links doesn't make a 2Gig link.  You have to understand etherchannels to get that one. We think we need at least 1 x 10Gig link, especially to cope with the amount of research data we predict will need to be transported in the future. We also touched on the issues surrounding security and misuse of the network, especially the downloading of copyright material - on the increase at the moment as the new students discover the amount of bandwidth they've suddenly got, but soon clamped down on by our security team.

A good day, and a very useful set of discussions. I'm fascinated by simple things especially the  logisitics of something I haven't really thought about before. Like network links, and the fact that there really are big fat bundles of cables under the Atlantic Ocean which can get pulled up and broken by anchors, or nibbled at by fish.  Wonder how they fix them when they're at such a huge depth.

Yesterday we had a meeting about how we're going to drastically change the process of getting data into our student system on the structure of programmes   - what I remember as the "regulations". The very complex set of rules which governs what students have to do to get their chosen degree. This information drives so many other systems now including registration, the timetables and the VLE, and it is vital that it is entered in a timely way and that it is accurate. We're going to have to make things much simpler and shorten many timescales.

Today I've been preparing for my annual trip to EDUCAUSE which starts next week - the big HE IT conference. Really looking forward to it.  Will blog about as many sessions as I can,  but they may be in note form. This will be the first week long conference I've been to without a laptop, just the trusty iPad. Hope it works OK.

2 comments:

Andrew said...

There's an article at Slate that details how they fix under sea cables.

http://www.slate.com/id/2183693/

The technique they use to work out where cables are broken is called OTDR, Optical Time Domain Reflectometry. We actually have an OTDR machine in the department in the voice and data network team. Why not ask one of them to give you a demo?!

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