Otago University touts one of NZ's largest LANs

Several halls of residence in Dunedin have been linked to Otago University's new network, and now there's even demand for access from privately owned flats nearby. The university is at the end of a two-and-a-half year project which created what university IS director Martin Anderson believes is one of the country's largest local area networks (LANs). About 5000 computers are connected to the network, which was a $5.3 million project that began in late 1994.

Several halls of residence in Dunedin have been linked to Otago University’s new network, and now there’s even demand for access from privately owned flats nearby.

The university is at the end of a two-and-a-half year project which created what university IS director Martin Anderson believes is one of the country’s largest local area networks (LANs).

About 5000 computers are connected to the network, which was a $5.3 million project that began in late 1994.

Anderson says the improved access is very important.

“We’re finding our halls of residence are wanting access to the network … and more and more students are wanting to have dial-in access as well.”

Several halls have already been linked to the network, and it’s envisaged all halls will have access eventually.

Anderson says there is even some interest from the owners of rental properties around the university to be attached to the network. The university does not yet have a policy on that, but it might consider it in future.

“I think we would want to make sure that we were providing the very best we could in terms of our own facilities first.”

The networking project was driven by a recognition that having access to a modern, high-speed network was of strategic importance to the university.

“It recognised that the networks we had in place up until then were difficult to manage, pretty patchy, didn’t reach everywhere and really weren’t well set up for the sort of environment that we see ourselves in now — where the use of the network for teaching and for communication with students is just growing enormously all the time.”

The information on the network includes course material and computer-aided learning material.

“And more and more there’s use of the basic packages over the network such as word processing and spreadsheeting. We’re just seeing usage increase very significantly from year to year.”

Anderson believes the LAN will serve the university for the next 10 to 15 years.

“The design of it will allow us to extend it where we need to without difficulty. We’ve also built quite a degree of capacity into it so that we can add new outlets if we need to without adding very much in the way of infrastructure.”

He says new management software will enable better monitoring of faults.

“And we can provide a lot more speed directly to the desktop if we need to. It just really doesn’t compare with the old network.”

He says the FDDI backbone is rated at speeds of up to 155Mbit/s while the old network would have been lucky to achieve speeds of 10Mbit/s.

The campus security system and the telephone system will be able to make use of spare fibre-optic cable capacity.

The project was funded through the university’s capital development programme.

Most of the project cost comes from the LAN at the Dunedin campus, which amounted to about $4.5m. The remainder includes upgrading LANs at Christchurch and Wellington Schools of Medicine, and the establishment of wide area network links. The schools were already linked, but the linkages were very slow.

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