Building the future

Booming student registration forced the Sharjah Institute of Technology to reevaluate its network infrastructure to meet user demand. Sherief Younis reports.

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By  Sherief Younis Published  April 1, 2007

The Sharjah Institute of Technology (SIT) opened in September 2003 to provide students with the knowledge and practical skills required to satisfy the needs of the UAE job market. Now accepting Emirati nationals exclusively free of charge, the institute has seen its student base blossom over the past four years with the number of attendees escalating five fold to 1,000 students.

However, this growth also highlighted problems with its existing IT infrastructure and the institute suffered from recurring downtime as a result of the network's inability to cope with the increased user load.

"We have grown from 200 users to almost 1,000 users since 2003 and because of this growth, problems with our IT network began to arise," explains Khalid Khougali, head of information technology, telecommunications and business at SIT.

"Here at the institute, we start at eight in the morning and work through until two thirty in the afternoon. During that time we have classes going on but at eight o'clock you have 1,000 users logging on and then again at nine o'clock they log in again. Of course that's a substantial amount of traffic and that gave us a problem.

"We needed a reliable network to service this demand, but the old system used to go down at least twice a day," he says.

With the network crashing regularly and the system's busy environment failing to deliver, the teaching of classes was compromised. SIT turned to its various vendors for a solution. It wanted consistent, reliable network access for its students, but found that conflict between vendors made a suitable conclusion unlikely.

"We noticed one of the problems was the flat network. It was supposed to be segmented, but according to our devices it wasn't working that way. We had a mixed environment with a number of different components from various vendors - the problem we had was that all these suppliers were blaming the other products in the network and that didn't help us. The nature of the institute means that all the classes are practical, so students need ready access to a computer. In the end we presented our assessment to the vendors and we outlined our requirements for the project," Khougali says.

The vendors' inability to address the problem lead the institute to take drastic action. SIT decided to streamline its network and migrate everything to a single vendor system.

Once it had decided to go the single vendor route, it then embarked on a rigorous selection process where all the existing vendors were given the opportunity to propose a complete solution to the institute.

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