By Ben Macintosh
CIO Dana Sanderson told the Cadre that improvements to UPEI internet are well underway (Photo credits: UPEI)
Daily users of UPEI’s internet are no strangers to losing connections, having to sign in multiple times, and having internet in one building but not in another.
UPEI’s Chief Information Officer (CIO), Dana Sanderson, is aware of the issues with the UPEI network and his department are currently working on the solution.
In an interview with the Cadre on Friday Oct. 11, Sanderson compared the network to a highway. Instead of cars, the network carries data both around campus and to destinations outside of UPEI.
One of the current issues with the network is the amount of traffic it can handle.
“The highway that is presently in place has switches, those switches could be considered lanes and they can only handle so much traffic,” Sanderson said.
Sanderson said he hears the negative feedback from students about the current network. He understands the frustration and said he is disappointed it got to this level.
“But we have done as much as we can with what we have, we can’t do much more with what we had, we now have to go to something else,” Sanderson said.
The solution for this problem comes in the form of rebuilding the network from the core.
“We’re going to replace everything,” he said.
“We are changing every piece of equipment, that is not without significant investment, significant effort and we need to mitigate the risks so we don’t make things worse.”
Sanderson says the complete rebuild is necessary given that the current networks base is at least 17 years old. The new network will be state of the art of he said.
“We’ve hired an outside company to be the lead implementation partner with a couple of other partners,” Sanderson said.
“We’re putting what’s called a Cisco software-defined architecture network.”
According to the Cisco software website, a software-defined network is more programmable, flexible and automated than a traditional network.
While other schools have this network in parts of their campus, UPEI will be one of the first schools in Canada to implement this across the entire campus.
Sanderson says the student experience is not good enough with the current network, which is why these big changes are necessary.
“We’re not at a place now where doing a bandaid works anymore, we have to do major surgery,” he said.
Sanderson says the upgrading of the network started Sept. 27 and should take about 22-24 months.
One big challenge of upgrading the network is ensuring people still have internet access, he said.
“We have to do it in such a way that improves things for staff, students, faculty, visitors and still allows the campus to run,” Sanderson said.
He says another challenge of this project is the size and scope of it.
“It’s the most significant network technology infrastructure project this campus has ever done,” Sanderson said.
He says that students can look forward to a better network once the project is complete.
“The student experience will be better, if the student experience is not better out of this, there will be a new Chief Information Officer,” Sanderson said.