Internet Bandwidth - Strategy in Pictures

Published October 1, 2008 by soren

Stage 1) Now: UZ Internet Connectivity today (Oct 1, 2008)

UZ Internet Today

Our main campus and Richard’s Bay campuses both have separate 2Mbps connection to the Internet.  The main campus link is heavily congested while the Richard’s Bay link is hardly used at all.

The Richard’s Bay campus is connected to the TENET GEN3 network, but main campus is connected to Telkom’s commercial Internet service as Neotel could not provide TENET GEN3 access to our main campus site.

Total incoming bandwidth: 4Mbps, but only 2Mbps available at main campus, congestion severe.

Stage 2) Very soon: Wireless connection between campuses

UZ Internet - VPN link to R/Bay

Both campuses will get a wireless connection into the Zululand Wireless Networks infrastructure.  This will provide us with a 2Mbps connection between our two campuses and will allow us to use some of the unused capacity on the R/Bay link for servicing the high demand at main campus.  It will also provide a direct connection between the campuses which will provide for easier remote management of the R/Bay site.

Total incoming bandwidth: 4Mbps.

Stage 3) Real soon: additional bandwidth for Student labs at peak hours

UZ Internet - added 4Mbps ADSL

In the next few weeks, ZWN will commission a 4Mbps ADSL link that will be routed through to our main campus network.  This will provide an additional 4Mbps of available bandwidth to main campus.

However, there are two caveats:

  • high speed ADSL packages are always capped.  We have ordered a 200GB/month cap.  This will be used only during peak hours when the contention between staff and student usage is severe.  By our calculations, 200GB month should provide 2.5Mbps x 8 hours/day x 21 days/month of peak hour access, which is 4x what we can currently provide for the student labs.
  • ADSL bandwidth is contended rather than committed.  This means that the ISP does not guarantee that you can always get all of the 4Mbps that the circuit can theoretically provide.  However, we have talked to other institutions who are sucessfully using commercial ADSL to “top up” the capacity for their student labs.

The other aspect that needs to be appreciated — managing this solution is going to be complicated.  We currently have one link to the Internet, and with this solution, we will have three separate links to the Internet for WWW traffic.  We have put in place centralised browser configuration that will allow us to assign different areas of campus to different links for WWW traffic.

Total incoming bandwidth: 8Mbps

Stage4) end-2008: move main campus to TENET GEN3

UZ Internet - move to GEN3

Neotel’s national fibre optic infrastructure runs down the R102 highway, 2km from our campus.  Neotel have assured us that they will soon be able to provide connectivity to our main campus by trenching and laying fibre optic cables on the 2km road from the R102 up to our campus.

When this is complete, we will move our main campus connection from Telkom Internet to a 6Mbps TENET GEN3 connection.  This will provide an additional 4Mbps of bandwidth at main campus.

Total incoming bandwidth: 12Mbps

Stage 5) June 2009: SEACOM lands in Mtunzini, provides International bandwidth to TENET GEN3

UZ Internet - GEN3 with SEACOM

In June 2009, the SEACOM undersea cable will land at Mtunzini.  This will provide 10Gbps of International bandwidth for use by higher education (which is 30x as much as the current 300Mbps provided by Internet Solutions to the TENET GEN3 network).

Initially, TENET will not be able to deliver all this bandwidth to institutions, but the costs of International bandwidth will plummet from approximately R14,000/Mbps/month to about R500/Mbps/month.  We will use these cost savings to upgrade our backbone connectivity to the TENET GEN3 network to 15-20Mbps, depending on the charges at the time.

Total incoming bandwidth: 20-25Mbps

Stage 6) late 2009: SANReN backbone becomes operational

UZ Internet - SANReN

SANReN - the South African Research and Education Network, is a government funded initiative that aims to provide high-speed (1-10Gbps) fibre optic connections to research and higher education institutions.  Funding has been committed and equipment has been purchased for the network, and one fibre ring connecting a number of institutions in the Gauteng region is already in operation.  Negotiations are in progress with Telecomms providers and municipalities for the purchase and/or long-term lease of managed fibre optic capacity for building this network.

Unizulu’s proximity to the Mtunzini SEACOM cable landing have kept us high on the agenda for the planned SEACOM deployment.

SANReN will provide us a minimum of 200Mbps, as Unizulu have committed to funding a 200Mbps portion of the purchase of the 10Gbps capacity on SEACOM that is reserved for higher education.  This will be a minimum of 200Mbps of uncontended, guaranteed bandwidth the the overseas Internet, and we will probably get a 1Gbps connection to the SANReN backbone.

Our short-term ADSL bandwidth solution will fall away after the 2-year contract expires as we will no longer need additional bandwidth (or, to put it in perspective, the ADSL circuit that will be providing 200% of our current available bandwidth will only be providing an extra 2%).

Total incoming bandwidth: >200Mbps.

The Zululand wireless solution is an interim solution, which we will probably continue to use as a wireless backup solution in the event of a SANReN local access failure.  However, the rest of our strategy is based on the premise that we only do things that move us closer to the SANReN solution, and that means getting a fibre connection from Neotel as soon as possible.

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Comments (2)

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  1. Wayne says:

    For my teachings it is essential that we get the VPN up and running as soon as possible.

    I don’t have any mapped networked drives available and access to a LMS is intermittent and painfully slow. This makes training end user computing extremely difficult.

    Technical problems can also be sorted out as they occur. And they do occur - often.

    Posted October 2, 2008 @ 9:21 am
  2. soren says:


    I’ll let the secret out. The VPN is actually working. The student lab web traffic is actually going via R/Bay at the moment for testing purposes.

    Now, access to the LMS over the VPN should be fine. But I really don’t have any intention of delivering the Novell mapped drives in R/Bay. Currently there is a separate server there with mapped drives for users on the TCS server. For phase two, we will be putting in a separate file server for students at the RB campus.

    We really don’t want to try doing file sharing/drive mapping over a wireless WAN link — it’s only 2Mbps (shared by the entire RB campus), whereas the desktops in the lab are on 100Mbps connections that are shared on 1000Mbps backbone links to the file servers.

    Have you talked to Morne about your requirements for fileshares, etc, at RB?

    Posted October 2, 2008 @ 2:36 pm

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