Humber College simulates WAN for student training

Humber College Wednesday said it would join other Toronto-area post-secondary institutions this fall by offering networking students an opportunity to get hands-on experience constructing wide-area networks.

Located in Toronto,

both the Humber Institute of Technology & Advanced Learning and the University of Guelph-Humber will be using the WAN EduKit and WANPipe For Educators from Sangoma Technologies Corp. The tools allow instructors to set up a self-contained WAN in a laboratory environment. George Brown College and Seneca College have been using the same products.

Hyder Khoja, a professor in Humber’s Wireless Department, said he’s had no problems teaching local area network technology by setting up his own LAN, but the cost of existing WAN equipment is too out of reach for day-to-day instruction. “”I have nothing to show them,”” he said.

Gideon Hack, Sangoma’s vice-president and CTO, said purchasing two Cisco routers to do Frame Relay, ATM and X25 and connect them back to back might cost $20,000. Users would then have to buy a data scope in order to physically see data on the lines, which could cost another $20,0000. The Sangoma tools, in contrast, cost about $1,000.

The WAN EduKit simulates both a customer’s premise equipment and the network switch, which means Khoja can install two cards in a pair of computers and connect them back to back. This allows him to capture a live frame to demonstrate Frame Relay.

“”It also shows all the hand-shaking that goes on when you turn on the equipment, and it shows all the signals that are flowing back and forth,”” he said. “”It’s not the actual equipment that students will find when they go out in the industry . . . but it is a very good simulation of that.””

Students aren’t simply taking notes but are also involved in the setup and configuration, Khoja said. Although the lectures for his classes can attract more than 40 students, in the lab Khoja divides them into three or four groups of 15.

Sangoma has been in business for about 20 years selling data communications devices, but conversations with academics showed a gap between theory and practice that needed filling, Hack said.

“”Eventually, after being hit on the head with a hammer that many times, we said we should do something about it and actually build products for the educational market,”” he said.

Humber offers a variety of courses that cater to different roles within the IT industry. The three-year diploma programs are designed to prepare students for installation, configuration, programming, testing, diagnostics and provisioning of most LAN and WAN equipment manufactured by companies like Alcatel. The post-graduate wireless program, meanwhile, trains students in deployment analysis so they will be able to determine the best technologies for various projects. The distributed computing degree program also teaches students how to design new applications.

Sangoma has set up a number of “”sample laboratories”” that educational clients can use to guide their own teaching, Hack said. Although relatively standard technology, the products serve a variety of educational needs.

“”This was a learning experience for us,”” he said. “”A very detailed electronics course would use it in a very different way than somebody who wants to just show the students the basics of wide-area networking.””

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