Wireless device usage forces MU to adopt new technology

Monday, August 1, 2011 | 10:47 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Devices using wireless connections at MU will soon be able to connect more consistently.

The university will migrate the way it handles the assignment of Internet protocol addresses to a new system on Sunday. That will increase the number of addresses available to people using their wireless devices such as laptops and iPads.

Internet protocol addresses, commonly called IPs, are how computers identify one device from another. When a device connects to a network, the network assigns it an IP, which allows the device to talk to other devices on the network. Without a network-assigned IP, a device can't communicate on the network.

When MU originally purchased a block of IPs for its own use, it assigned certain "blocks," or ranges of IPs, to different kinds of connections. However, recently the block assigned to handle wireless devices campus-wide has been in danger of running out of IPs, causing some users to have problems connecting to the network.

The solution for MU was Network Address Translation, or NAT. Terry Robb, a spokesman for the Division of Information Technology at MU, likened the technology to old hotel phone systems: You would call the hotel's number and then ask the operator to transfer you to a specific room.

With NAT, the system essentially functions as the operator. The devices are the individual rooms, with their own system IP; when something from inside the system requests something from outside the system, the system recognizes the request and translates the internal IP into a public IP, which devices outside the system can recognize.

This technology increases the number of devices the wireless block can support to 65,000 since multiple devices inside the network can be run through one IP to outside networks. This is not normally possible without this technology, since normally, each device must have a unique IP that only it can use.

Robb said he didn't know exactly how much money the system would cost to implement but said most of the expense would be in staff time, not money.

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Nathan Whitaker August 1, 2011 | 3:03 p.m.

Wow. MU is going to jump on the NAT bandwagon? I'm not sure they're ready to use such cutting-edge technology...from 1995. I hear that next year they're planning to move to 32-bit operating systems and token-ring networks. What will these university visionaries come up with next?

(Report Comment)
Brad Wilmot August 2, 2011 | 8:24 a.m.

Why in the world are MU's DHCP servers handing out public IP's at all? EVERYTHING should be behind the firewall. This should have never been an issue.

(Report Comment)

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