Aiming to provide failover and enhanced network performance, the NSW Department of Fair Trading (DOFT) has split its network in two with a frame relay link.
Supplied by Optus, the new 2Mbit/sec frame relay link runs between two 7000 Cisco routers -- one in DOFT's office in Parramatta and the other in its Sydney city office in Elizabeth Street.
Until recently DOFT's IT branch, based in Parramatta, was linked via 64Kbit/sec ISDN lines to all 28 of the department's regional sites and 1200 PCs, on a Banyan Vines network using Cisco routers.
The frame relay link will enable DOFT to switch 13 of the 28 sites on its WAN across to its Elizabeth Street router. So far, five sites have been moved across.
"We used to have all sites connected to Parramatta, which meant that if Parramatta's router failed, basically all the sites failed," said Larry Murphy, senior communications officer, DOFT.
"Thankfully that never happened," he said. "What we've got now is redundancy. If one of the routers fails . . . all of the sites connected [to that router] will automatically be shifted across to [the other] site."
If such a switch occurred, all sites "would notice some degradation of performance, but at least they would be able to work", Murphy said.
DOFT has also installed a frame relay link between its critical site in Sydney's Sussex Street and the Elizabeth Street office, with the aim of increasing the robustness of the connection between the two.
"The Sussex Street office contains the most critical business application for DOFT . . . the rental bond system . . . We really can't afford for that site to go down," Murphy said.
Com Tech, DOFT's network service provider, is helping the department to implement the project, which is now almost complete. "The Com Tech expertise has been good," Murphy said.
In other news, DOFT has implemented Check Point Software's Meta IP address management product.
Meta IP allows dynamic IP addressing through Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP), and also features an address management tool which correlates dynamic IP addresses with network operating system logins, allowing IT staff to monitor IP addressing.
"Before [we implemented Meta IP] we were using static IP addresses -- in other words, hard-coded IPs where someone would have to physically enter a number.
That was quite a lot of work," Murphy said. "What [Meta IP] does for us is essentially allocate a dynamic IP through the use of this tool called DHCP."
Murphy said Meta IP has enabled staff to manage DOFT's "ever changing" network more efficiently.
He singled out Meta IP's "supernetting", or Classes Internet Domain Routing (CIDR) feature, for praise.
This feature allows IT staff to manage multiple groups of IP addresses within the network without extensive configuration.
However, Murphy reported that he and a number of other DOFT staff members had noticed "a couple of inconsistencies" with the product, associated with Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP).
At DOFT this resulted in one incident where some devices failed to receive a dynamic IP address, he said.
The problem was resolved within an hour, although it had resulted in some staff failing to receive external mail, and some printers failing to work.
Check Point officials claimed there were no known bugs or flaws in the LDAP they have implemented.
Devin Redmond, business development manager, Pacific Rim, claimed the problem DOFT experienced would have been associated with how the product was implemented. "When setting up network naming conventions (DNS and IP addressing) in a directory structure, it is vital to maintain proper indexing.
"The indexing is where this issue would have occurred and has nothing to do with corruption, flaws, bugs or whatever," Redmond said.