As students settled in to prepare for classes, they found themselves unable to access critical network resources, like their class schedules and the internet itself. For a 26-hour period from early Sunday morning to early Monday, the Denison network was partially functional.
Information Technology Services (ITS) Director Lisa Bazley, explained that the outage occurred as a result of replacing the core of the network. The core, which sits in Fellows, is essentially a big Ethernet switch which “routes communication on the network to the appropriate places, such as the internet or specific services such as MyDenison or the library system. The old core was a work horse but [it was] 10 years old,” Bazley explained. The core is essentially the heart of the network, and replacing it is “the equivalent of a heart replacement” in a human being.
Bazley explained that over the past year and a half, ITS has been “upgrading firewalls, appliances to manage traffic, bridges to the network, increases in network file storage, and
more recently, the core switch to the network.” ITS has avoided making network upgrades during the academic year in order to avoid shutting down the network while students are using it, but with programming and business units operating on campus, it is difficult to have shutdowns even during breaks. Bazley explained that because of these considerations, “we have less and less opportunities to take the system offline.”
However, infrastructure work still needs to be done. Work on replacing the core switch actually started over Thanksgiving break, and continued during winter break. According to Bazley, “the last scheduled work [was] performed the weekend of Jan. 4.” Unfortunately, the switch was not quite completed until the weekend before classes started.
During the 26 hour period, Bazley said “it was not a total outage the whole time; the network has hundreds of components, some of which would come up and bounce back down,” so campus members would occasionally find that they had internet access during this period. For example, systems like MyDenison were shut off for the entire period. Blackboard and e-mail, on the other hand, stayed online for anyone who had internet access.
With ITS working around the clock that final weekend of break, the network was stabilized in the early hours of Monday morning. Once “the network was stabilized, we started bringing systems and services like MyDenison back up, [a process] which took approximately two hours,” said Bazley.
In the wake of the temporary shutdown, Bazley said that she personally received emails from the campus community, mostly from faculty, but also a number from students. “All of the e-mails that came to me directly were just so supportive and thankful… [they] exemplify a patience I’m not sure I would have,” Bazley said.