Computing and Communication Service Upgrades and Enhancements, 1995/1996

This issue of NACS-News summarizes some of the improvements in Network and Computing services NACS has made during the 1995/1996 academic year. The demand for communications and computing access continues to grow at a fast pace. NACS is tracking the increasing demand and is making critical improvements as resources allow.

UCI Network Backbone

In September 1995, NACS pulled and spliced a significant amount of new fiber-optic cable around the campus to expand UCI’s network backbone. At the same time, the backbone was reconfigured into five switched Ethernet subnets, cabled in a star configuration. These changes not only accommodate current growth in campus electronic communication demand, but also increase UCI’s flexibility in responding to demands anticipated in the next five years and beyond. (See the Web document http://www.nacs.uci.edu/communication/backbone-1995 for detailed information).

Modems

NACS increased the number of modems in the campus modem pool from 220 to 300 in September, 1995 as a part of our Dial-up Remote Access Plan. To improve modem performance including file transfer speed and character echoing, two additional terminal servers were added to those servicing the modem pools in April 1996. Terminal servers are specialized computers with communications electronics that connect the modems to UCI’s backbone network. Further performance improvements resulted from balancing the 308 modems and incoming calls among all five modem terminal servers.

As previously announced, NACS has stabilized the free modem pool at approximately 300 modems at 14.4 kilobytes per second. See the Web document http://www.nacs.uci.edu/communication/Modem_Action_Summary.html for detailed information about 1995 modem changes. Enhanced modem services are now available through commercial Internet Service Providers (ISPs); for more information, see the Web document http://www.nacs.uci.edu/communication under “Internet Service Providers”.

Network Services

UCI’s network is not all wires and data communications equipment, it also includes dedicated computers that service network requests such as hostname to address correlation, mail transfer, and user authentication. In September NACS upgraded the “cpl2” network server to new hardware with over ten times the performance of the old. In March of this year we added an additional Mail Transport Agent (MTA) system which is used to post mail sent via LISTSERV mailing lists. Earlier in 1995 we upgraded the campus USENET News server (news.service.uci.edu). These changes collectively reduce the time required for electronic mail delivery, network computer name lookups, USENET newsgroup access, user authentication and campus directory database access.

EA – Student Educational Access Service

Accounts on our EA (Educational Access) student computing servers have grown from about 3,000 just a few years ago to over 14,000 this year. To accommodate that growth, NACS added a fourth system to the cluster in the Fall of 1995, effectively increasing capacity by about a third. Further configuration enhancements were made in January when two systems were added to handle high-volume “operating system” tasks such as mail transfer and user authentication. We also increased overall EA disk storage space several times to accommodate the additional users and large electronic mail storage need.

Over the summer of 1995 we changed the way students receive their UCInetID network identifiers and EA computer accounts. Students no longer have to visit NACS labs during the day to get their IDs and get started, they can go to any location with computers connected to the campus network. Further, they now use the same ID and password for modem use and logging into the EA systems. This ID is also available to each student as an electronic mail address of the form ID@UCI.EDU.

E4E – Faculty and Staff Electronic Access Service

NACS’ E4E service provides electronic mail and other services for over 3,000 faculty and staff. To meet increased demand there, the E4E server was upgraded in January to a new SPARCserver 5 system, which has approximately three times the computing capacity of the previous system.

NACS Instructional Labs

This past year, we have made several improvements to our Instructional Computing labs and more are planned for the summer. Our classroom Macintosh lab in Engineering and Computing Trailer (ECT) 120 has a new server and has been reconfigured to greatly reduce the amount of time required for programs to load. New user requested software, including ClarisWorks, is now available as well. In the ECT 123 Pentium Classroom lab, we have increased memory and updated software. We plan to move our PC labs to a Windows-NT environment over the summer which will improve system reliability and provide a current software platform for campus use.

UNIX File Backups

NACS has provided a file backup service for campus UNIX computer systems for a number of years. This service frees research groups and departments from having to maintain their own file save schedules and tape archives. In late 1995, this service was migrated from a homegrown solution to a commercial file save product, greatly increasing the efficiency of running saves. This change allows us to keep up with increasing demands for saves without increasing fees and will allow us to offer additional save services in the future for MS-Window and Macintosh computers.

 


 

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