By Raymond Arke | The Duquesne Duke
Students finishing the last few episodes of their winter break Netflix binges arrived back on campus to a pleasant surprise: during break, the Duquesne Computer and Technology Services department improved the university’s Internet connection and speed.
In recent years, Duquesne’s network has been swamped with the rapid use of connected devices — from 3,400 devices three years ago to more than 9,000 devices now. All the smartphones and tablets that are now connected to DuqNet had slowed the service down considerably, until now.
By connecting DuqNet to 3ROX, a high-speed network hub that connects universities in Pennsylvania and West Virginia to the Internet, CTS was able to increase the speed of Duquesne connection by 10 times its previous speed, according to Sheryl Reinhard, director of systems, operations, and network at CTS.
The universities that use 3ROX, which include Carnegie Mellon, the University of Pittsburgh and Point Park, are also members of a high-performance research and education network called Internet2.
Chuck Bartell, assistant vice president of CTS, explained that Internet2 is a group of higher education schools, government agencies, and nonprofits. Bartell said 3ROX and Internet2 were designed “with an idea of what educators and students want to do on the Internet.”
Various other universities have already made the switch to Internet2 through 3ROX, 283 in all.
“Those who have gone before us have proven this will be much faster,” Reinhard said.
Bartell used a metaphor to describe the new system.
“Think of the previous system as Forbes Avenue, it’s a longer and slower route,” Bartell said. “3ROX is like the Parkway, much faster and more direct.”
Before the change in late December, Duquesne’s Internet was supplied through regular, “commodity internet,” according to Reinhard. She said commodity internet is the same product sold to private homes by companies such as Comcast or Verizon.
With this old system, information being sent from one location to another via DuqNet had to pass through as many as 15 different routers, called “hops.” These hops slowed the Wi-Fi down considerably. With the new system update, there will only be five hops, according to Reinhard.
The updated system is already getting positive feedback from students. Cullen Buckley, sophomore computer science major, said the Wi-Fi is now “definitely a lot faster.”
Buckley and his friends live in Des Places, where they like to play the online game League of Legends. Last semester, they had to use their cellphones to create hotspots to play the game, because using DuqNet was not fast enough. Now, Buckley said, they have already played a few games since returning from break using the university’s Wi-Fi.
“It’s easily 10 times faster [than it was before break],” Buckley said.
Buckley uses an online test to check the “ping” of his internet connection before playing League of Legends. Ping is a measure of the speed with which a computer can connect to the internet, measured in milliseconds.
“Last semester, we measured DuqNet at about 2,000 ping,” Buckley said. “Now is down to 22 to 30.”
Buckley said that, for him, a fast internet experience is a “primary utility.”
“I feel like internet quality could attract or deter new students,” Buckley said. “I talked with a guy once who used to play a lot of video games at home, and had friends online. He couldn’t talk to his friends through those games when he got here.”