University of Canberra seeks new traffic management solution

Decade old in-house system unable to cope with demands of 15,000 users.

A network traffic quota system developed in-house at the University of Canberra (UC) in the mid 1990s has passed its expiry date, with the university seeking proposals for a new network traffic management solution.

In a request for proposal (RFP), the University states it is currently obtaining network traffic management functionality by using a combination of access control lists in a Cisco router and an in-house traffic accounting, quota and charging system, attached to a squid proxy server that is only able to account for FTP and HTTP protocols.

The University describes its network as primarily a gigabit network connected at Layer 2 with a Cisco Layer 3 internetworking core, capable of 256Gbs throughput. External connectivity is achieved by one 1000BaseTX connection to AARNET3. The AARNet traffic costing model is based on a combination of a subscription fee and volume charges.

UC is comprised of approximately 2000 staff and 10,000 students, and runs a multi-platform (PC and Mac) desktop environment and a mixed UNIX and Windows server setup.

The university's director of infrastructure services, Geoff Rozenberg, said the current network management system met the needs at the time it was developed, but was not envisaged to be in use some 10 years later.

"The weaknesses are that it can manage Web and FTP traffic only; today's needs insist we look at providing a swag of other services like streaming video and messaging protocols," he said.

"Ideally, we desire a traffic accounting/management system that is: turnkey, will manage 15,000-plus user accounts, manages/accounts for any network protocol; would provide traffic shaping if required; and minimises administration."

Rozenberg said that despite having some initial ideas on requirements, a brief survey of solutions failed to uncover a fit for the university's needs, resulting in a broadening of its requirements.

"This would perhaps expose new ways of managing traffic/quotas that we could adopt or develop, changing our model and ideas. The amount of new hardware is difficult to estimate -- a few specific network appliances, servers and perhaps software on each of the 4500 desktops,"

The UC is expecting a combination of various vendor products and some collaborative integration effort.

In its RFP the University said it will consider open source components, but Rozenberg said this would only be in the absence of a commercial product.

"Adopting open source would create a maintenance burden on ourselves that we are not resourced to handle, thus costing more over time. However, it may be the only course if some component is unavailable another way," he said.

UC's corporate systems are predominantly based on the Sun Solaris OS and Oracle database system, with MySQL databases and applications, and Windows systems.

The university states that it is currently in the process of implementing Sun Identity Manager as the core of its user provisioning solution, and any new systems will be provisioned via Sun IdM.

"The actual solution will arise out of discussions with the responders and so, is several months away and yet to be roughed out," Rozenberg concluded.

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