Eduroam WiFi fixed after connectivity issues
The problems lasted for a week, the latest in a string of issues with the network over the past semester.
The eduroam WiFi network has been fixed after there were a number of connectivity issues across the Brandeis campus, which began on Nov. 12 and continued through Nov. 19, according to the Brandeis Status website.
Over this past summer, there were reconfigurations done to the wireless network that ended up faltering. Reconfigurations were also done the week of Nov. 11; however, there were issues with the reconfiguration that left people unable to connect to Eduroam.
Before the campus wireless network issues began on Nov. 12, there was maintenance to the wireless network scheduled for Nov. 4 through Nov. 12 at 7:00 a.m., according to the Brandeis Status website. Problems with the campus WiFi began at 8:15 a.m. on Nov. 12 and were marked as resolved at 2:48 p.m. that day, but the website also noted that Brandeis Information Technology Services would continue to monitor the issues. At 3:00 p.m. on Nov. 13, Brandeis Status updated to say that ITS was continuing to investigate the connectivity issues.
In a joint interview with The Brandeis Hoot and the Justice, Chief Information Security Officer David Albrecht said that the maintenance that was finished on Nov. 12 was for both a separate issue with the network as well as proactive maintenance, and had nothing to do with the wireless network issues that occurred later that day.
The Brandeis Status website updated on Nov. 19 at 10:35 p.m. to say that “the previously reported issue with the campus wireless network has been resolved.” This was followed by a campus-wide email sent out on Nov. 19 from Chief Information Officer Jim La Creta which said “Information Technology Services (ITS) has been actively working to address reported issues of intermittent connectivity issues with the campus wireless network.”
Albrecht said that the recent wireless network issues “were more of a degraded state where users would continue to work fine and all of a sudden would stop working and it would come back.”
To fix this issue, ITS brought in two manufacturers of the wireless network gear and worked with a team from Aruba Networks, which is the manufacturer of the University’s hardware. Albrecht said that his team worked for 16 hours on Saturday Nov. 16, and 12 hours on Sunday Nov. 17 to try and resolve the issue while working on the phone with people from Aruba Networks. Albrecht said that on Nov. 18, Aruba Networks flew out one of their people, who was the “one they send out for triage for the biggest clients that have essentially a network-wide outage, so it wasn’t a run-of-the-mill engineer,” to try to resolve the wireless network issue. Arista Networks, another company Brandeis works with, flew a representative out on Tuesday Nov. 19 to provide additional support in resolving the issue.
Albrecht reported on the morning of Nov. 19 that the source of the issue was isolated and within two hours of identifying the issue, the wireless network connectivity issues were fixed. Figuring out the issue was the longest part of the process of fixing the WiFi. The issue they identified was one that the companies had never seen before, Albrecht added.
Albrecht said that between 30 and 40 people reported having WiFi issues within the span of a week, which is not unusual for a normal week. Albrecht’s team restarted access points to ensure that the wireless network would work.
Although there have been other incidents during the fall semester, the recent WiFi issue lasted the longest. Brandeis Status reported “intermittent connectivity to the campus wireless network” on Sept. 5. This was marked as resolved on Sept. 7.
“I would rather more complaints or issues that arise to my level so we know what is going on. If no one tells us there's an issue, we don’t know there’s an issue,” Albrecht said.
Between the spring 2019 and fall 2019 semesters, there have been several changes to the wireless network. Over the summer, for example, ITS replaced all 400 switches on campus. Switches are access points for computers and other devices to connect to the internet. They vary in size relative to the number of users who are normally in the building. Many of the switches were upwards of eight years old. Most switches should be replaced after three to four years to stay in good condition, La Creta said in the joint interview.
La Creta also said that replacing all of the switches over this past summer was a $2 million project, which was part of a “capital ask that we put forth a few years ago. It was part of a multi-year plan to get us to a point with our infrastructure to basically catch up on a lot of end-of-life systems and to make it a more secure environment, a more stable environment for the whole campus. … We’re actually going in a really positive direction and there are going to be hiccups unfortunately sometimes.”
Albrecht said that in addition to adding more switches, ITS “reconfigured the wireless network to streamline connectivity and allow for a greater network availability while roaming from buildings.” Albrecht explained that as a device moves from one building to another, depending on which buildings the device travels to and from, the reconfiguration would allow a user to not notice a change in wireless network speed. Additionally, the reconfiguration allows the user to keep the same IP address and not have to re-log on. Albrecht also said that there used to be an issue where there weren’t enough IP addresses.
Another change Albrecht mentioned is that ITS is starting to install access points in each dorm room. This would allow a device to connect to the wireless network in each room. Albrecht said they started with Skyline residence hall and the Foster Mods, causing coverage to nearly triple. ITS is “looking to do across all the residence halls as well,” Albrecht said.
Long term, ITS plans to partner with AT&T and Verizon to provide better cellular service across campus, Albrecht added.