MERIT Hosts Visitors From CA*net

By Susan Calcari

In preparation for deployment of the new Canadian national network, CA*net, several members of the University of Toronto Computing Services group have visited Merit over the last six months.

The most recent trip on March 12 and 13 was made by David Wong and David Ming-Sun, both Senior Operations Supervisors at the University of Toronto. Accompanying them were Shift Supervisors Lee Manning and George Polychronis. During their stay they met with a number of Merit staff.

The visit began with an overview of the NSFNET and an update on the National Research and Education Network (NREN) presented by Susan Calcari from Information Services.

NOC tools demonstrated

Following the NREN discussion, some of the tools used by the NOC to monitor the backbone were demonstrated.

Bill Norton from the systems development staff reviewed the theory behind the Merit Internet Rover, a centralized information display with testing capabilities, and he also described its configuration procedures.

In the NOC, Shift Supervisor Rob Skrobola discussed XGMON, the X window-based Graphic MONitor developed for NSFNET by IBM. Both Rover and XGMON are powerful diagnostic tools, which allow the operator to test as far as the FTP port or SMTP port. These tools were demonstrated by Shift Supervisor Kraig Owen, who did demonstrations of actual troubleshooting scenarios using all the NOC tools.

NOC management

NOC Assistant Manager John Labbe reviewed general management of the Network Operations Center including workload distribution, reporting structure, coordination of daily tasks and interfacing with other groups.

NOC troubleshooting procedures

NOC procedures were also discussed, including the development of "cookbook" troubleshooting instructions and documented escalation procedures. The trouble ticket system used by Merit was outlined by Network Operator Sheri Repucci.

At the end of the day David Wong of UTCS remarked, "Merit's NOC staff are a very focused and talented group of people, and were most helpful."

CA*net background

CA*net was initiated by Canada's National Research Council and will include four nodes when the first phase is operational by late spring or early summer 1990. When fully configured in fall 1990, the network will have ten nodes, one in each province.

Peer to NSFNET

The new network will be a peer of the NSFNET, with the backbone at the top of a similar three-level hierarchy.

Regional networks

As with NSFNET, regional networks will form the second level. Regional networks now in existence include: BCNet (British Columbia), ONet (Ontario), RISQ (Quebec), and NSTN (Nova Scotia).

Three of these regionals have connections to NSFNET regional or campus networks. BCNet connects to Northwestnet (Vancouver to Seattle); RISQ connects to NYSERNet (Montreal to Albany); and ONet connects to Cornell's campus network (Toronto to Ithaca).

Campus/organizational networks

Campus or organizational networks will comprise the third level of the hierarchy, and are linked together by the regional networks. At the outset, the circuits in CA*net will operate at 56 Kbps and IBM's Nodal Switching System (NSS) technology will be used. When CA*net is fully configured, UTCS will provide round-the-clock network operations center facilities.

Taken from The Link Letter, Vol. 3 No. 1, April 1990.