Connections, cards cause campus chaos

December 15, 2010

by Taylor Stephens, Features Editor

For students and faculty who have had problems with the Internet or server connectivity the past week, the Computing Center urges users to stay calm because they are working as hard as they can to remedy the problem. 

Roy Waters, director of the Computing Center, said he has yet to discover the exact problem with the connectivity, but his team is working on different solutions to fix the connection issues.

“About three weeks ago, we noticed the beginning of a random slowdown with symptoms appearing too briefly to diagnose the source,” Waters said. “Replacing a major component during the Thanksgiving week seemed to remedy the problem. A week later, it reappeared.”

Waters said an Internet core switch controls all Internet traffic at Tech, and several desktops are generating traffic that the switch cannot interpret. He said the switch is usually able to handle routing requests with no problems. 

However, since there is a new type of traffic that it cannot recognize trying to make its way through the switch, the central processing unit (CPU) tries to unsuccessfully process information that causes the system to become bogged down and slow exponentially Waters said.

Waters said he is trying to find a way to relieve the pressure of the CPU’s congestion with every solution in his arsenal.

“For a week we’ve worked intensely with the Internet core switch manufacturer, running tests, submitting data logs for analysis, trying different ideas, options and tests to isolate the cause,” he said.

Waters announced in an e-mail Tuesday that the Computing Center is using a temporary fix to help the connectivity problems until a new switch can be bought.

“Working with a network hardware engineer, late Friday afternoon, we found a fix for the core switch problem and have ‘stuck a finger in the dike,’ so to speak,” Waters said. “I waited to announce everything was back to normal until seeing Monday’s performance under regular workloads. It appears to be holding up okay.”

He also said because Tech Express uses the Internet backbone and switch, there is no doubt it went down for the same reason all of the connectivity of Tech computers has gone down significantly. 

Neta Norman, ID system manager for Tech Express, said problems with Tech Express started Nov. 30, and the problems kept students from using funds or signing up for the program.

“We have not been able to service our students as quickly as we would like, but they have been very understanding,” she said. “We have had increased traffic flow however, due to students’ need to check their balance before making a purchase.”

Norman said she does encourage students to sign up for a Tech Express plan or add funds earlier next quarter to avoid delays in the future. Waters said once this problem is fixed, he does not expect it to happen again.

“This sort of problem is not a regular occurrence,” Waters said. “When funding is available, we can put fault-tolerant, redundant systems in place.”

He said he appreciates the support and patience of those on campus.

“We are doing the best we know how,” he said. 

“Computing Center personnel are stressed more than anyone over this. We will resolve this problem soon.”

E-mail comments to tds026@latech.edu.