Oregon School District
This is an analysis of the case study of the Klamath County School District’s (KCSD) project to facilitate high-bandwidth learning (Clark, 2001). Headquartered in Klamath Falls, KCSD includes twenty geographically dispersed schools. The KCSD WAN covered approximately 6,000 square miles, supporting about 7,000 K-12 students, and roughly 2,300 computers, many located a long way from KCSD’s district office headquarters. There was also an uneven distribution of bandwidth consumption because of the disparity in the number of some students at some of the district schools that ranged in size from 100 to 1,500 students. The KSCD’s network consisted of older 56 Kbit/sec frame relay circuits and the company lacked network visibility to monitor network traffic.
The challenge KCSD faced was to provide acceptable WAN performance for core business activities. These included basic Internet and e-mail access, distance learning classes, and educational programming through broadcast and cable TV feeds. The WAN also had to support administrative applications running on top of very large databases that help the district track of students’ grades, attendance, immunization records, and other critical information. In addition, the WAN was necessary for supporting Unix-based accounting systems.
In addition to keeping the business functional, students were interested in the Internet to provide a recreational learning experience. Streaming audio and video, file downloads and instant messaging consumed huge amounts of bandwidth. According to John Hill, KCSD’s coordinator. “Kids would get on the network and start instant messaging each other from school to school. If you get 30 people doing it, pretty soon you’re going to run out of bandwidth.” (Clark, 2001) Further, in order to meet government regulations, and to help qualify for highly prized e-rate funding, KCSD has to limit access to certain types of Web sites, such as those with violent or obscene content.
During 2000 and 2001, the KCSD network’s 56 Kbit/sec frame relay circuits were replaced with T1 lines to each school in the district, but network performance problems persisted as more computers were added to the network and users increased bandwidth consumption. KCSD’s budget limited it to only one T1 per school. It became increasingly clear that the major objective for KCSD has to be to tackle the problem from a bandwidth use perspective rather than bandwidth capacity.
The district wanted a way to control bandwidth use, but did not want to become overwhelmed by having to constantly add to its list of blocked sites or filtered content. KCSD also needed the ability to manage its WAN from a central location to avoid having to dispatch technicians to sites that could take an entire day for certain remote locations.
KSCD first tried software-based solutions such as Novell’s BorderManager and SurfControl’s Cyber Patrol, but discovered implementation issues, cumbersome processes and time-consuming updates of content filters and blocked sites. Next, KCSD turned to hardware, purchasing 30 Kentrox ServicePoint Service Delivery Units (SDUs) to serve as DSU/CSUs and to provide the ability to monitor and control bandwidth at the application level by setting policies for use. The systems also supply monitoring as well as real-time and historical reporting based on LAN and WAN availability, utilization, service quality, and application performance statistics.
Further, ServicePoint included remote diagnostic and configuration capabilities to eliminate technician visits.
The initial implementation process took about six months and involved using the systems for termination only. Once the final version of the software was in place, Hill and his team observed traffic usage patterns and anomalies. Next, the staff began tweaking bandwidth and providing limitations by protocol. If users complain, they are shown reports of how their use impacts the entire WAN.
V. Unanswered Questions
Although KCSD views its implementation of Kentrox ServicePoint a success, there are many unanswered questions:
Isn’t KCSD violating government regulations required for funding by using maximum utilization limits instead of blocking out certain unacceptable Web sites?
The Kentrox ServicePoint SDUs were cheap, but what is complexity of use and the ongoing cost and maintenance of these 30 servers?
Does dedicating 512 Kbits/sec to video traffic as opposed to a T1 line provide acceptable performance? Why give data greater access speed than video?
Should the goal be to shape or limit people’s use of bandwidth as in KCSD’s case or to encourage it?
Although software solutions such as Novell’s BorderManager and SurfControl’s Cyper Patrol are cumbersome and time consuming, they are a necessary reality for limiting violent or obscene content, as required by government regulations for schools. The functionality of product such as KSCD is still necessary for performance monitoring and remote diagnostics, but can be obtained in a single-server solution to reduce complexity and ongoing maintenance and support.
To maximize bandwidth capacity, network routing optimization techniques will be essential to help balance demand between low and high usage schools. Placing video on T1 is far more preferable than relegating it to 512 Kbits/sec access. And, it today’s Internet age, it’s unwise to discourage its use. Instead, organizations must come up with new ways to keep up with demand.
Clark, E. (2001, December 5). Business case: Oregon school district provides higher (bandwidth) learning. Retrieved February 4, 2005 from Web site: http://www.cconvergence.com/shared/article/showArticle.jhtml?articleId=8703266
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