Institutes upgrade student email system


9 Jan 2006

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The Irish Institute of Technology Network (ITNet) has completed the rollout of a new email and electronic calendar system hosted on open source software that is being used by more than 17,000 students.

ITNet is a higher-education network project comprising 13 institutes of technology. The upgrade involves replacing the software that runs the institutes’ E-Mail4Life system, which was first implemented in 2001.

For the new project, ITNet selected NetMail from Novell, which is hosted on Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) 9. NetMail will initially provide email and calendaring to 17,000 students from both Institute of Technology Tallaght and Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology.

The new email system gives students the ability to create their own accounts based on a set of credentials supplied by ITNet, including a unique email ID, chosen by each student, which is then linked into the official student ID. This reduces administration and overheads. With the new software, ITNet can easily modify the look and feel of the webpage, without having to make any changes to the underlying code.

The key technology drivers for ITNet in choosing both the email and technology platform were reliability and scalability. Novell NetMail was designed to fit any size environment, from two to 200,000 users (or more) on a single server, and Novell SLES 9 running MySQL is a scalable, high-performance foundation for secure enterprise computing. In today’s information-intensive society students increasingly need to communicate effectively and speedily amongst themselves, lecturers and the institute faculty.

According to Martin McCarrick, ITNet Application Services Manager at ITT Dublin, the deployment enabled ITT to consolidate three servers into one running Novell SLES 9. “Users are empowered to create their own account IDs and control how they want to use their email. The system has a more feature-rich interface and goes well beyond a traditional web-based email system,” he said.

McCarrick claimed that there was a quick return on investment for ITNet due to increased student take-up and the removal of the manual process involved in creating email accounts.

Barry Brown, Novell technical specialist, said that the deployment was an example of a mixed-source solution based on open standards. “Novell NetMail has always been based on internet-standard messaging and security protocols,” he said. “By running this solution on open-source Novell SLES 9 and MySQL, ITNet has confirmed that large-scale deployments across the different institutes can be run more efficiently using a mixed-source platform. The system is ready to roll out to all institutes of technology if the demand is present.”

By Gordon Smith