University upgrades computer network

University of Otago network services group manager Maurice Gaut looks at a drum of fibre-optic cable for a major computer network upgrade.A $22 million upgrade of the University of Otago's computer network and major expansion of wireless areas will strengthen Dunedin's tertiary education industry.

Mike Harte, the university director of information technology services, said the major upgrade would not only strengthen the network and the city's education industry, but would also provide ''a boost for the Dunedin economy''.

An international company, Dimension Data, which was undertaking the upgrade project, had set up a branch office in the city because of this project.

University officials said about 3km of new underground ducting had already been added to about 5km of ducting.

And organisers would within about a week begin rolling out 21.5km of fibre-optic cable, sourced from Scotland, as part of the local area network (LAN) upgrade.

A financial report tabled at a recent university capital development committee meeting stated that $15.9 million was being spent on the LAN upgrade, and $6,064,000 was earmarked for a closely related expansion of the university's wireless network.

Officials said the overall project, which had involved extensive earlier planning and testing, was about halfway through its timeline.

And the creation of a new network core, or ''centralised infrastructure'', was nearing completion.

The deployment of ''backhaul fibre'', which connects all of the local network with the network core, had already begun, and was expected to be largely complete by mid-year.

Mr Harte said the first users would join the new network about August, and the ''vast majority'' of users would be included by the end of next year, when the overall project would also be ''substantially complete''.

A ''significant modernisation'' of the wired network was being undertaken.

The associated wireless network ''refresh and expansion project'' involved a big increase in ''wireless capacity for staff and students'', he said.

Maurice Gaut, university network services group manager, said the network upgrade would result in an at least 10-fold increase in bandwidth, significantly boosting connection speeds, including for data transfers.

The upgrade meant significant ''investment in Otago'' and would increase the security of the university network, also making it more ''competitive'' and more attractive for staff and students, he said.

University officials said the number of wireless access points (WAPs) would be increased from about 700 to 3000.

These devices were installed on the ceilings in buildings, and in some outdoor areas to provide a Wi-Fi signal to which users could connect.

WAPs were already installed in all university libraries and university-owned residential colleges and these would be replaced with latest-generation equipment providing ''better signal coverage and faster network speeds''.

Wireless coverage would also be extended to all main university buildings of all the university's campuses.

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