Amid five-year IT overhaul, Wi-Fi outages cause campus-wide disruption

Disruptions to campus network services due to weather-related issues are impacting student learning as Yale enters the fourth year of a five-year plan to update campus network infrastructure .

Collaborating journalist

By 10 a.m. on September 6, rainfall had exceeded what New Haven typically receives in a month, resulting in campus-wide outages of Yale connectivity services.

In an email sent that morning to the university community, Yale Information Technology Services warned that the outages could impact a range of services, including the campus network, CAS, VPN and home page. status of the computer system, among others. According to John Barden, vice president of information technology and chief information officer, the outages were caused by water ingress into campus network infrastructure located near an active construction site.

“A significant amount of rain fell in a short time, and the switch room of [Kline] The tower has become extremely wet due to ongoing construction there,” Barden wrote in an email to the News. “It was not possible to keep the water out of this active construction site.”

In fall 2019, the University embarked on a five-year plan to update campus network equipment and improve the resilience of its information technology infrastructure to weather-related issues. , Barden said. He added that the combined efforts between Yale ITS and the Facilities Office have made system-wide outages “significantly” less frequent and improved service recovery time in the event of an outage.

Barden pointed out that all of the switch room projects that were completed during those renovations remained dry during Tuesday’s storm. And when the Kline Tower switch room is complete, he said, Yale ITS is confident the facility will remain dry, “reducing the risk of future weather-related network disruptions.” In the meantime, the construction team is actively working to reduce the likelihood of future water infiltration.

Minnie Li ENV ’23 shared that the recent outages impacted an important job interview – an experience she described as “very frustrating”.

“In general,” Li said, “Yale Secure has been a little terrible this year…sometimes I can’t log into it.”

Rebecca Harris LAW ’24 shared similar feelings with Li as she recently had an online interview that required a faster internet connection than she had on campus. Ultimately, Harris relied on her cellphone data for the interview.

Barden told the News that the five-year plan will improve day-to-day Wi-Fi power and connectivity, making it “better, faster” and more capable of covering a larger area.

Some students, however, adjust their course in the short term as their confidence in the reliability of Yale’s network wanes. Li said she would conduct future interviews at home, worried that another important interview might be interrupted by network outages on campus.

A future concern for Harris is the possibility of disruption occurring at crucial times when law students are working virtually with real-world clients.

“Now, in the age of COVID, things like settlement conferences, hearings, and meetings with your clients and opposing attorneys are all happening through online platforms,” ​​Harris said. “I imagine it’s terrifying representing a real client in a real audience and not knowing if your internet is going to be cut off.”

Without a fully functioning Wi-Fi network, students may experience difficulty accessing digital resources and online programs such as Zoom. Barden said Yale ITS is working to refine the engineering design of the University’s network components to isolate future disruptions and minimize the impact of future outages. These changes and other recently employed resilience efforts focused on better localizing disruptions will be tested during the upcoming winter break, according to Barden.

Even so, Yale’s five-year network improvement plan could take a little longer, he added.

“The global network replacement project was scheduled for 2019-24, although that schedule is being reassessed due to significant global network equipment shortages that necessitated slow deployment during the pandemic,” Barden said.

Barden is the senior vice president for information technology at the University Cabinet.

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