University 'caches' in on Net savings

Edith Cowan University (ECU) could slash more than $100,000 from its Internet communication costs due to a recently installed Internet caching solution.

The Western Australia university has more than 21,000 students across four main campuses. With around 3500 computers connected to the Internet, it was a serious cost issue.

The university's senior data communications officer, Chris Blanksby, said ECU tested a range of Internet caching devices in the lead-up to the project to replace numerous boxes with a single appliance base system.

He said the testing involved loading all the caches with live data to "get an indication if they could actually do what they were supposed to do".

After trialling three appliance-based systems and two software systems, ECU chose a Microbits Intelli-App caching appliance.

"During the trial, the appliance worked straight out of the box at a higher throughput rate than the other caches and has saved us quite a lot of money," Blanksby said.

The cache is a device that maintains a copy of frequently downloaded Web pages, reducing the cost of data traffic and increasing the speed of delivery when these pages are requested.

Blanksby said the detailed logs enabled the university to pinpoint a problem that previously went undetected.

"We discovered that students in our PC labs were repeatedly downloading an application from an offshore Web site to chat with each other. At about 4.5Megs per download -- times hundreds of downloads, this equals a lot of traffic and a huge cost," he said. After detecting the problem, the university was able to take measures to prevent it occurring again. "This one thing probably paid for the cache," Blanksby said, without disclosing the cost of the solution.

He said only one or two minor hiccups were encountered during the installation process, but it was fixed as soon as possible with seamless, minor disruption.

"The university's needs are different to the usual corporate needs; users run different flavours of Unix, different Windows, and we needed something to work with all of these," he said.

"This is already of benefit to every single person within ECU as it gives a faster response. Now, because of the large cache, students get a better quality of services; when they are on the Internet the pages are already there and can pop up in milliseconds. As a lot of material is loaded to the cache, it involves not having to go to the Internet to fetch it every time."

Blanksby is awaiting budget confirmation to purchase another Intelli-App cache, which he hopes to buy before December and install at ECU in early January.

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