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Residential college networks upgraded

By Sydney Garrett     1/18/16 11:36pm

Nine of the residential colleges’ wired networks were upgraded over winter break to a more advanced system that will provide better security, called Identity Service Engine (ISE). The other two colleges, Duncan and McMurtry, had previously been upgraded this summer as part of a pilot program, according to William Deigaard, director of networking, telecommunications and data centers. These changes do not affect the current wireless network.

“For now, this really is just an upgrade of our older network registration system,” Deigaard said. “However, ISE makes it possible to deploy newer services like a game console network, and we are considering development of this in the future.”

No changes were made to the wireless network, so only students who directly plug their computer or gaming console into the network port in their room will be affected. These students will be required to re-register their computers, Deigaard said. However, according to Student Computing Consultant at the IT Help Desk Preston Hill, the students affected by this change have not reached out for assistance.

“We haven’t had any calls from students needing help [with authentication],” Hill, a Duncan College junior, said. “In fact, the process should be easier now with the new setup because it doesn’t require Java. The switch makes the system more secure and makes network authentication easier.”

In addition to providing better security than the old system, ISE will make it possible to provide different levels of access to different devices, Deigaard said.

“Many gaming consoles want or need to have a direct, public connection to the campus,” Deigaard said. “Doing this, however, can create a security risk for other uses of the network for things like coursework, research or administration. The ISE system provides mechanisms that can place game consoles into one network while placing computers into another, more secure network without requiring custom handling of every device.”

This upgrade is part of the migration of the university’s network to RiceNet3, a major overhaul that has been in progress for some time, Deigaard said.

“Performance is improved by the fact that every college network switch now has an uplink to the campus at 20 GB/s versus RiceNet2’s 2 GB/s,” Deigaard said. “Reliability is improved by the addition of a battery backup system into every wiring closet on campus. Campus power outages will no longer disrupt the campus network. If you have a laptop or mobile device with a battery, you can stay online even when the lights blink.”

According to Senior Technical Writer for Campus Services Liz Brigman, the timing of the changes was planned while keeping in mind how the update might affect staff that live or work on campus during the winter break.

“[Winter break] was just a nice opportunity to make the update with all the students out of the colleges,” Brigman said. “We carefully reached out to the [resident associates], college coordinators, masters and Housing and Dining staff who reside in the colleges to make sure their network migration was successful.”

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