Peter Morrissey led the Special Sunday Workshop called “High Availability Networking” at the ACUTA conference yesterday.
Morrissey, Director of Networking at Syracuse University covered multiple aspects of network complications and solutions, drawing off of Syracuse University’s networking experiences.
“We have a 24 hour, 365 day challenge,” Morrissey said. “Students are on the network all the time at Syracuse University. The network peaks at 11 p.m. and trails at two a.m. We have distance learning students on all time zones, staff working weekends, and no time to do things to the network.”
The workshop attendees said their college networks have crashed from students constantly downloading Netflicks.
Morrissey’s session also peeled back each layer of a college’s network, explaining how each one works and what can go wrong with it.
He also detailed specific network protocols and solutions, including spanning tree protocol, rapid standard tree protocol (RSTP), HA networks, HA networks through firewalls and above ground fibers.
Morrissey emphasized the importance of HA networking as a major solution to crashing networks, especially since HA networking contains redundant backup systems and removes single dependencies.
However, Morrissey also said an effective network is a simple network, and that HA networking adds complexity.
When complexity is integrated into a network, its reliability is at stake.
“When you’re designing a network and you had a gadget, you decrease the reliability of the network,” he said. “There’s some probably it’s going to go down at some point. We as technologist love technology and we maybe get carried away sometimes. You have to be careful; adding redundant equipment can burn you.”
Morrissey also offered tips and tricks for colleges to follow when managing their networks.
For example, he said one mistake colleges make with their networks is confusing the meaning of redundancy with load balancing.
“You have to be careful not to mix up redundancy with load balance,” Morrissey said. “It’s a common mistake that people make. If you want true redundancy, you are not going to benefit from load balancing. If both RSTP links exceed 50 percent, you’ll have an oversubscribed link. Depending on how oversubscribed it is, it might as well be down.”
Morrissey also covered the challenges of funding network necessities, including educating management what is needed for the network and proposing why those features are needed.
He also said visualizing and describing the worse-case scenario, such as a network outage, can convince management to invest in network requirements.
“Sometimes a catastrophe is needed [to justify those features],” Morrissey said.
Morrissey said that colleges will always experiment with and seek new solutions for their networks, especially when platforms like Blackboard switch their network requirements.
He said colleges should keep researching vendors, find equipment that works for them and keep testing it for quality assurance.
“We have a hard job as far as network goes,” he said. “There are all kinds of devices in the classroom now that require a network. We grind to a halt if the network goes down.”
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