Mizzou Wireless outage caused by software malfunction

The Mizzou Wireless outage that occurred Wednesday, Mar. 6 was the result of a malfunction in the system software as well as a “resulting lack of stability,” Division of Information Technology spokesperson Terry Robb said.

The wireless network is operated from one central computer, a controller, which bridges together the campus wireless access points, Robb said. A malfunction occurred in the software on that controller and caused the outage. The malfunction was supposed to automatically route to another controller, but, for unknown reasons, the transfer did not occur.

The malfunction was classified as a configuration issue within the system, Robb said. The department had a report on the issue for a month previous, but could not figure out the origin of the failure until the network crashed last week. DoIT is still working to understand the outage.

The outage marked the first campus-wide network failure, Robb said. Past network failures have been restricted to one building or a group of buildings. Now, DoIT maintains enough IP addresses, a unique label given to each technological device in the wireless network, for the active devices in each building.

Despite the growing student body and increasing number of Mizzou Wireless users, the possibility of the network being overburdened with data is unlikely, Robb said. The power of the network and the high amount of bandwidth — the amount of data transferred measured in bits per second — prevents the situation.

Meanwhile, students in residence halls are using their own wireless networks, which can disrupt the Mizzou Wireless system.

“…The policy on home wireless networks is very clear,” Residential Life Director Frankie Minor said in an email. “...They are not permitted as they interfere with MizzouWireless network that is provided in all floor lounges, study rooms and public spaces in the residence halls.”

Minor said there is an exception to the rule in Schurz Hall.

Both Residential Life and DoIT are currently testing a pilot program to provide MizzouWireless in all students' rooms, Minor said in an email. The new program would not be a replacement for the current Ethernet setup but would serve as a supplement.

Both groups are determining the financial and technological impact of the project and its eventual implementation in all residential areas. However, the setup could have an additional cost since it's currently not in the DoIT budget.

At the moment, DoIT is working with the network vendor, Juniper Networks, on resolving the issue that caused the shortage, but there is no guarantee that the network will not fail on a campus-wide scale again until the issue has been resolved, Robb said.

“We built a redundancy (the second controller) because we want good service,” Robb said. “The vendor needs to fix the bug, so that the system can failover gracefully.”

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