Fighting Irish tackle network
- By Katherine Bull
- Oct 19, 2000
Every student at the University of Notre Dame can plug in to any network
port in any university building and immediately access the Notre Dame Network.
That's a contrast to just four years ago, when the South Bend, Ind.,
university did not have a telecommunications leg to stand on. To access
the Internet for research or e-mail, the 6,400-person undergraduate student
body had to use dial-up access to individual Internet accounts or try to
get time on the limited number of networked systems available on campus.
After managing information technology and research departments at the
University of Arizona, the Air Force Weapons Lab, and Lawrence Livermore
Laboratories, Larry Rapagnani, assistant provost for information technologies
at Notre Dame, found the lack of infrastructure at the university an enticing
"It was the challenge of building it from scratch [that brought me here],"
he said. "[I would be the] first to do it and build something that would
last into the future and satisfy student needs. It was nice to see it fired
up the first time, and it worked as perfectly then as it does now."
Universities today operate much the same as any business. And part of
Notre Dame's mission includes equipping students with the tools they need
to stay competitive.
"Our 18-year-old freshmen were born when the PC was built, so they were
brought up in a PC-centric world and don't know any different," Rapagnani
said. "They view their computer as a tool, not as a computer."
Notre Dame's infrastructure was designed on the premise that every student
should be able to plug a PC or Mac into any port on campus and immediately
be on the ND Network. To accomplish that, Rapagnani and his 150-person staff
in the Notre Dame Office of Information Technology built a clustered network
that consists of 6,900 network ports installed in 27 residence halls, the
student center, classrooms and many other buildings on campus.
They use a robust DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) server
to manage all the students' computers from one center.
Although Notre Dame does not mandate that students bring a computer
to the university, Rapagnani says 95 percent of them do. The remaining 5
percent, or any student who doesn't want to lug around a laptop, can use
one of the 600 PCs or Macs and 180 Sun Microsystems Inc. machines stationed
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