Facilities and infrastructure

ICT manages and supports the following facilities and infrastructure at the university

Campus Network

The computer facilities on campus (staff workstations, student labs, servers, Internet) are all connected by a state-of-the-art Cisco three-tier campus backbone network.  The network provides switched 100Mbps connections to the desktop, with a layer-3 Gigabit fibre backbone that segments the campus into 13 zones.  In the near future, this same network will be carrying all of our campus voice traffic using VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol).

We have WiFi access in a few areas (Bhekuzulu hall, Guest houses), and are in the process of providing additional wireless (WiFi) access in selected areas of campus (library, some lecture venues, admin conference venues)and in some student residences.

Computer labs

There are 2 main public access computer lab venues (HP Academy and B-block) with 7 lab rooms ranging from 20 to 150 seats. These venues total approximately 500 workstations.  Additional lab specialised facilities exist in the library, in D-block (computer science) and in various departmental facilities.

Staff computers

Since 2006, we have standardised our desktop hardware on HP/Compaq machines (DX6120/ 7300/7400/2400). We have deployed approximately 1200 of our standard desktop machines across our student labs, staff and also at our TuziGazi campus.

Our staff desktops are replaced on a 4-year cycle, and all our legacy desktop machines should be replaced by early 2010. Together with our new Richard’s Bay campus that will open in 2010, we should have approximately 1750 desktop machines deployed.

We are currently in the process of selecting a “standard issue” staff laptop and currently evaluating the HP550.

E-learning

We have some support for e-learning in the form of a portal for our learning management systems. Currently we use open-source solutions, Moodle and Joomla for the LMS and portal development. An e-learning task team oversees the deployment and adoption of this system. We are motivating for the creation of a stand-alone e-learning support unit that will be able to drive the adoption of LMS usage and other ICT support for teaching and learning.

Most (90) of our main classrooms are equipped with computers and data projectors for in-class demonstration and presentations.

Support Services

ICT operates a helpdesk and workshop service during core hours (Mon-Thu 07h30-16h00 and Fridays from 07h30-14h45) which provides general software support, PC repair/upgrade and software installation and configuration. The workshop staff also provide onsite/in-office support and problem resolution.

File servers and storage

We have 18 IBM blade servers in two computer rooms, with an IBM SAN in each computer room providing storage for the servers. We run a mix of Novell (File, Print and NDS/LDAP directory), Linux (Internet services, DNS, DHCP, HTTP proxies, mail servers, dialup access) and Windows (specific applications, SQL server, academic timetable management, access control, IT asset management and tracking).

ITS Admin system

Our current Campus system is ITSv13, which runs on IBM AIX 5.3L on IBM pSeries servers, on an Oracle 9iAS database and application server.  This system provides student registration, academic records and financial accounts as well as a complete finance and procurement management system as well as our HR and payroll system.

Internet connectivity

Current Internet connectivity is provided by a 1984Kbps Telkom TI-DIS link.  This link is severely congested due to the high level of usage by both staff and students.  We currently augment our Internet capacity with two 2Mbps ADSL links connected to the TENET GEN3 ADSL service to provide additional bandwidth for our student lab use and for library resources.

We have a 2Mbps wireless VPN link to our TuziGazi campus provided by Zululand Wireless Networks, a local WISP. At the TuziGazi campus, there is an additional 2Mbps TENET ADSL link that provides Internet access for the staff and student labs at the TuziGazi campus.

The current scenario of many relatively low-capacity links being used to segment our bandwidth demand is messy and unsatisfactory. Currently, a complicated system of web proxies is used to assign the load of HTTP traffic (which is approximately 85% of our incoming IP traffic) to various links.

Congestion on our Internet access is one of the most significant impediments to effective ICT support for on-line teaching and learning, as well as for the provision of quality library resources.

We are hopeful that in late 2009 our campus will be connected to SANReN, which is a high-speed NREN (National Research and Education Network) that will offer gigabit-speed connections to the national backbone.  Together with SANReN, we have committed to purchasing an IRU (Irrevocable right of use) for 200Mbps of bandwidth on the SEACOM undersea cable that will provide 10Gbps of International bandwidth to SANReN. The SEACOM cable will be commissioned in July 2009, and plans have been advanced for managed fibre optic solutions to provide last mile connectivity to both our main campus and our new Richard’s Bay campus.

Other Campus Systems

  • We are starting with implementation of a Mitel campus IP-based voice solution that will replace our existing 650 analogue handsets with IP phones.

  • We support the existing staff/student card and access control systems

  • The bookshop PoS system uses student cards for purchase and we support the provisioning of accounts on the bookshop system and the integration of transaction data with our central admin system.

  • The student dining halls run the ITS PoS system which also uses student cards to manage a prepaid/credit-based meal purchase system.

Richard’s Bay Campus

Our current Richard’s Bay campus at the TuziGazi waterfront has a 2Mbps ADSL link to the TENET GEN3 network.  The current TuziGazi campus has 90 computers in two separate labs.

A new campus is currently being built that will open in January 2010. This facility will have approximately 180 PC lab seats in 6 labs and initially a total of approximately 250 workstations (including presentation machines in all classrooms and conference venues).

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