According to the College’s Chief Information Officer Courtney Carpenter, these are not the first issues the load balancing units have had this year. The backup load balancer in Blow Hall experienced problems and was eventually replaced Thursday, Feb. 14.
“The manufacturer finally just sent us a whole new unit. … It was supposed to be fully functional, and we put it online, and it seemed to be working fine,” Carpenter said. “[Then] the primary load balancer went bad. It had some failure in it, and I don’t know what the failure is. It could have been a hard drive failure; it could have been an interface. It’s electronic, so these things do go bad. When [the system] went over to the backup load balancer, that had some bad code in it.”
The Information Technology department fixed the primary load balancer Thursday, Feb. 21, allowing the College’s network to operate normally. Citrix, the manufacturer of the College’s load balancers, has engineers working to fix the bad code in the recently-replaced backup load balancer.
Students experienced inconveniences due to last week’s network problems caused by the load balancers.
“During a typical day, I probably access [Blackboard] at least four or five times throughout the day,” Andrea Blazanovic ’15 said. “[I use it] to get the articles I need to read that professors have posted and then to check due dates for things and get worksheets I need.”
According to Carpenter, over 4,000 separate students log in to Blackboard during a typical day.
“Blackboard is the course management system we have on campus, so it is extremely important,” Coordinator of Instruction and Assessment Paul Showalter Ed.D. ’14 said. “It was frustrating and slow [when it went down], but that’s the nature of the beast when it comes to technology—sometimes it goes down.”
The average lifespan for a load balancer is 4.5 years. Since the load balancers are four years old, the Information Technology department was already planning to replace them by August.
“We are actively looking at replacing the boxes,” Carpenter said. “We’re looking at other vendors. We’re looking at different architecture. Maybe we might have three with the new architecture rather than two. We might be able to do some virtual machines with the software, too. … If we have a failure like this, we can convert to the code running in a regular computer. We have to get the current ones working, but the plan is to get the new ones up and running by Aug. 1 for the new school year.”