Major Upgrade of the HKU Campus Network Infrastructure in Progress

Vision of a Digital University at HKU

With the rapid and great advancement of Information Technology (IT) in recent years, one can envision that wide-spread use of IT by our students and staff for their learning, teaching, research and administrative activities will be an inevitable development.  We are expecting in the next few years that an increasing number of our staff and students will be relying on the use of computers and access to the Campus Network and Internet resources in their teaching and learning, and a "Digital University" will emerge on the University of Hong Kong (HKU) campus by the beginning of the new century.

Major Upgrade of the University Campus Network Infrastructure

In moving the University of Hong Kong towards a Digital University in Year 2000, it is important for us to upgrade our Campus Network Infrastructure with substantial increases in speed and capacity so that our staff and students can have the support needed in using the latest technologies to facilitate their teaching activities and academic studies.

We are very pleased to inform our users that with the support of the University, we have been embarking on a major development in upgrading the Campus Network since summer of this year.  The development project is divided into three phases to accomplish the following goals:

Phase I -   to extend our Campus Network to places where students spend most of their studying time;

Phase II -  to overhaul the existing Campus Network Infrastructure for supporting 100 Mbps network connections to desktops of all staff and to implement a fast ATM network backbone for the University's major campuses, namely the Main Campus, the Sassoon Road premises, the Queen Mary Hospital (QMH) complex and the Prince Philip Dental (PPDH) Hospital; and

Phase III - to build a "Network-Access-Everywhere" environment to allow students roaming connectivity to the HKU Campus Network and Internet throughout the University campus.

Phase I Development - more easy-to-access network facilities for students

Hall network and dial-up access improvement

This phase of development is close to its scheduled completion.  By the end of this year, each resident in student halls will be provided with a network connection point in his room for access to the University Campus Network and Internet resources.  In order to facilitate students who are not hall residents to have improved access to the network resources from home, Computer Centre has also installed 144 more dial-up lines which are of the x2-56Kbps standard in October.  Please refer to separate articles for more information on the hall network and the added HKUPPP dial-up facilities.

HARNET upgrade

In parallel with the work on the HKU campus, Computer Centre has been working closely with the JUCC (Joint Universities Computer Centre) on a major upgrade of HARNET (Hong Kong Academic and Research Network) and its Internet gateway connection which is supported by a grant from UGC.  The HARNET upgrade project is being implemented in 3 steps :

(a) adding 1.5Mbps HARNET-Internet bandwidth as an interim measure to improve the slow Internet access from HARNET institutions through NetPlus of Hong Kong Telecom,

(b) upgrading the inter-institution network links of HARNET from 1.5Mbps DDS links to 10Mbps ATM links, and

(c) upgrading the HARNET-Internet IPLC (International Private Leased Circuit) from 2Mbps to 6Mbps and providing an additional link of 1.3Mbps guaranteed bandwidth from HARNET to NetPlus for Internet connectivity.

The first 2 steps of the HARNET upgrade had been completed at the end of October and in the first week of December, respectively.  We are expecting that the entire upgrade will be completed before the end of 1997 according to the schedule.
According to JUCC's plan, the HARNET-Internet gateway connection will be further upgraded to 12Mbps in year 1998-99 and hopefully to T3 speed (45Mbps) in year 1999-2000.

With the completion of the HARNET upgrade and the Phase I upgrade of the HKU Campus Network by the end of 1997, our staff and students should then find Internet access from the campus to be much improved.

Phase II Development - an overhaul of the existing network

This phase of development is to modernize our University Campus Network Infrastructure with state-of-the-art technologies so that it can support the sophisticated Digital University applications to be developed and deployed
for teaching, learning, research and administration in the next decade.  In this phase of development, three projects are to be implemented for the purposes of :

With the completion of this phase of development, we shall have a modernized high-speed network for supporting the use of advanced Information Technology by teachers, students and researchers in their teaching, learning, research and academic collaboration, and by the administrators to re-engineer the University's administrative processes for improved efficiency.

Phase III Development - building a "Network-Access-Everywhere" environment

This phase of development is to establish a "Network-Access-Everywhere" environment in the University.  The project is to install wide-spread network access points in all departments at a level of one network point for every 4 fte (full-time equivalent) students of the departments, and in other places of student activities such as the Libraries, Computer Centre and student society offices at a level of one network point for every 12 students.

In the next few years, we shall see that the mode of teaching and learning at the University will shift to rely more on regular use of PCs and access to the Campus Network and Internet.  Noting that the University is in the process of formulating means to encourage and promote academic staff to use modern learning technologies in their teaching activities, the demand of access to networked PCs by students will certainly be ever increasing.  When this phase of development is completed, our students will then have more convenient and effective access to the network resources set up by their teachers, from the Libraries and the Internet.

Combined implementation of Phase II and III Development

It was Computer Centre's original plan to implement the projects of Phase II in 1998 and complete those of Phase III in 1999.  Noting that the University has embarked on the "Laptop Computer Initiative" which will enable all new undergraduate students enrolled in the 1998-99 academic year to own their laptop computers, it has become more desirable if the Phase III development, i.e. the "Network-Access-Everywhere" campus, could be realized sooner.  Therefore, Computer Centre has taken up the challenge to revise the project plan to implement both Phase II and Phase III at the same time and complete them within 1998.

Computer Centre is now in the process of consolidating the requirements from all departments for the design and layout of the network points, and will soon work with the Estates Office and departments on the actual implementation.  We hope that with concerted efforts from all parties concerned, a modernized and sophisticated IT infrastructure will evolve at HKU in a year's time.

For more information on the project, please contact the undersigned.
P.T. Ho
Tel: 2859 2491

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