Tag Archives: Central Systems & Network Services

Are you reading this post via a feed reader? If so, read on…

On Tuesday May 31st we’re going to change the categories on this blog, so if by any chance you’re using a feed of a specific category, that’s going to break. We suggest subscribing to the whole blog for maximum enjoyment! If you’re not a LIS staff member & would like to filter out the more staff related posts, you can subscribe to the new “Middlebury Community Interest” category after May 31st. The other categories will be “LIS Staff Interest”, and “Post for MiddPoints” which will cause the post to be added to the MiddPoints blog too. All the old categories except “The Essentials” will be converted to tags for easy searching.
The LIS Web team developed this new scheme, following recommendations that came out of the open meeting about the future of the LIS Blog (including a call for simplified categories). The AD Team reviewed and approved these changes. We welcome your comments.

PCI and Blocked Email Messages

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS v2.0) is a standard that has been accepted by all major credit card companies and most credit providers. It is a standard that we must abide by if we are to accept credit cards as a form of payment. PCI DSS is broken into 12 requirements; each focusing on a different domain of security.

While PCI DSS is not an actual law, it is a standard enforced by the credit card industry, and the banks have stated and upheld the policy that they will no longer accept business from non-PCI compliant merchants. The government has used the PCI DSS as a yardstick by which they have measured such regulations as Gram-Leach-Bliley, Sarbanes-Oxley, and most recently the drafting of the Data Accountability and Trust Act.

We employ a device called a Barracuda here at Middlebury which helps us prevent SPAM from flooding our email system. Just shy of a year ago this system was updated to enable it to filter on cardholder information. By default this feature was turned on. We have left this enabled and have begun reporting on these blocked messages and alerting the senders of outbound messages.  The Barracuda is intended to serve both as a SPAM filter and a compliance tool.

Wireless in the dorms

There are approximately 60 buildings classified as dorms here at Middlebury providing beds to over 2400 students in 5 Commons.  From a ‘wireless’ perspective these dorms can be divided into three broad groups in terms of how many Wireless Access Points or WAPs they have:

  1. those that have moderate coverage
  2. those that have minimal coverage, typically in lounges only
  3. smaller houses that require only one or two WAPs

As mentioned in a previous blog post, LIS has embarked on an ambitious project to upgrade the campus network infrastructure, including improving wireless in the dorms.  All dorms are currently getting new network switches added to their wire closets to prepare for phase two, the deployment of new WAPs.  Dorms in the first group above (and gradually those in the third group as well) are getting all of their old WAPs replaced with newer equipment, while dorms in the second group are getting new WAPs deployed throughout. Dorms in the first group will be re-visited later on to determine if there are still gaps in the wireless coverage.

As an example, Hadley, Milliken, Kelly-Lang and Stewart are in group 1.  These dorms have had all of their old WAPs upgraded.  Hepburn is an example of group 2.  It has had new WAPs installed throughout the dorm.

Atwater A & B, Gifford, Battell, and Chateau are in progress now.  New switches have also been placed but not yet connected in Coffrin, Pearsons, Starr and Painter, which will also need new WAPs installed.

As you might imagine, this is an enormous task requiring lots of planning and coordination.  Please bear with us as we try to do this with minimal interruption to your access to the network!

Two new staff in Central Systems & Network Services

Please welcome two new staff members in CSNS:

  • Ian Burke started November 29th as our new Network Security Administrator; he is also on the LIS Security Team.  Ian comes most recently from Amherst, NH and was a Security Engineer for TJX in Framingham MA.
  • Jim Stuart started December 8th as System Programmer/Administrator.  Jim was Chief Technology Officer for Qvault, Inc. here in Vermont.   He previously worked here at Middlebury from 1993-1999 in various positions in ITS, prior to the merger which created LIS.

Campus Network Infrastructure Upgrade

As mentioned in a previous blog post, LIS is improving and expanding the campus network.   Step one was to increase the size of our connection to the Internet, which we have done.

The next step is to upgrade the network infrastructure on campus.  This step can roughly be divided into three phases: 1) replace the core network gear in Voter, Davis Family Library and Carr Hall; 2) replace the edge network switches in academic and residential buildings across campus; and 3) replace existing wireless access points in dorms and add new ones.  Obviously, this is a vast oversimplification of what is in fact an extremely complicated project!  (To give just one example, there are 136 different wire closets to be worked on in phase 2, many containing two or more old switches.)

But we are making progress.  Much of the physical installation of the new core equipment is done.  Now, as each academic and residential building gets upgraded, we turn off the routing function for those subnets in the old core router and turn that function on in the new core router.  Finally, we physically move the fiber cables to connect the new edge switch to the new core router.  Most buildings will see a ten-fold increase in network speed when this is done.

On the evening of November 18th, the Donald E. Axinn ’51, Litt. D. ’89 Center for Literary and Cultural Studies at Starr Library became the first major academic building to be upgraded to the new network environment.  16 new switches were installed in the 6 different wire closets in Axinn, the new fiber cables were connected back to the new core router in Voter, and all of the Ethernet cables were moved from the old switches to the correct ports in the new switches.  The entire process took about 5-6 hours.

Next up is McCardell Bicentennial Hall, which is scheduled to be upgraded over two nights, December 15th and 16th.  MBH has 7 wire closets and we’ll be installing 32 new switches and replacing more than 1000 ethernet cables.

A future post will describe our plans for improving wireless in the dorms.

Marcy moving to Enterprise Applications

Danna Gianforte and I (Area Directors for Enterprise Applications and Central Systems & Network Services, respectively) recently agreed to a staffing change.  Marcy Smith is now a member of the Enterprise Applications area.  We believe that having the soon-to-be-hired Database Administrator (DBA) and the Enterprise Systems Administrator (aka Marcy) reporting to the same Area Director will:

  • streamline communications
  • remove roadblocks in the workflow
  • improve service to the functional areas

Central Systems & Network Services will continue to work closely with Marcy, as we do with all of Enterprise Applications staff.  Marcy will be moving to the Davis Family Library at some point, but the details of that move have not been finalized.

I enjoyed having Marcy in my area and certainly learned a lot about Banner and just how complicated it all is from her!  All of us in CS & NS look forward to continuing to work with Marcy.  In fact, the looming upgrade to Oracle 11G will give us plenty of opportunity.  But that’s a subject for another post…

Did the network just get faster?

Generally LIS only hears about it when our systems aren’t responding quickly enough or aren’t working at all.  We almost never get a call saying, “Gee, the servers have been up for a very long time without crashing!” or “My gosh, our network is extremely reliable and response time has been really fast lately!”  Nevertheless, we continue to work very hard to keep everything running and at top speed.  We regularly make improvements behind the scenes to benefit the whole community.  One recent such improvement was a doubling of the size of our primary Internet connection.

The College maintains two connections to the Internet: our primary connection is via Level 3 Communications, while Vermont traffic (and failover protection) is supported by a local provider named TelJet.   (Both Seven Days and the Burlington Free Press have recently run favorable articles on TelJet.)

Anticipating continuing, steep growth in our network traffic, LIS requested some time ago that Level 3 increase our bandwidth from 200 Mbps to 500 Mbps.  (Our TelJet connection is at 100 Mbps.)  Just last month, Level 3 completed the upgrade.  While you may not have noticed the increased speed on your desktop, you can rest assured that, at least for the time being, the tubes connecting Middlebury to the outside should be big enough to support your academic needs.

Stay tuned to this blog to learn of other plans we have for improving and expanding the campus network!