Cloud and Student Information Records: Design and Evaluation of the Performance for the National Institute of Technology (NIT) in Saudi Arabia by Riverbed Tools

free essayCurrently, TVTC has a long-term strategic plan to merge two types of institutions: the technical colleges and the National Institute of Technology (NIT). The merger will make it compulsory for NIT students to attend some classes in the technical colleges. The greatest challenge in the merging process is to combine records for both institutions. They will have to exchange information, which ought to be harmonized in a database. They, therefore, need a private cloud to be able to share records, considering that the geographical area of Saudi Arabia is vast. The first scenario is a network that has one data center that would be situated in the capital, Riyadh. The network with one data center will have a disaster recovery center in Jeddah. The second scenario is to build two data centers: one in Riyadh, and the other one in the eastern part of Riyadh. The backup for the two data centers will be located in Jeddah. This paper provides a comparison of having one data center with backup and twin data centers with single backup using the HTTP High and database high loading.

INTRODUCTION

Data centers typically have many components that support the building blocks of any data sharing system. The infrastructure contains such components as core switches of the networks for both colleges and edge routers of the private WAN. The merger will, therefore, use a data center design that can include any or all of the building blocks and any or all of the server farm types. If the TVTC adopts two data centers, each type of the server farm can be a separate entity, depending on the data requirements and the volume of information to be share. For example, the merger may decide to build a data center and share all the resources, such as servers, firewalls, routers, switches, and many other components of the infrastructure. On the other hand, the merger may also decide to have two data centers – in the capital and its eastern part.

PROBLEM OF THE STATEMENT

TVTC intends to merge all technical institutions in Saudi Arabia with the NIT. NIT and other technical and vocational training institutions have a huge store of documents and data that need to be synchronized into one database through cloud computing. TVTC has a choice to use a cloud computing center with a single or a double data server. Considering that cloud computing is the only solution to managing the huge pool of data that would be brought together by the merger, TVTC has to find the necessary resources to make this change effective. NIT and other technical and vocational training institutions need a single reference point when using files and documents. Therefore, they will be stored in one cloud, which will be secured from the unauthorized access. Students’ records also need to be stored in a single system of reference, which requires an efficient cloud system.

BACKGROUND OF THE PROPOSAL

The ministry of higher education is increasingly inclined towards using cloud computing solutions to store data about institutions and students. Storing records in the cloud is flexible and cost-effective. However, this is the first time that TVTC is implementing a cloud program in Saudi Arabia, when NIT is being merged with other technical and vocational training institutions. There are several challenges that the new system will face, such as internet connectivity, security of the cloud, performance of the cloud, the quality of services for students and staff, and privacy of data users. Since the affiliate institutions have confidential information that they will need to disclose for the consolidation of the merger, TVTC must ensure that no information gets in the wrong hands during the process. It is also necessary to ensure that students and staff do not have access to their peers’ data. Therefore, TVTC has a far reaching institutional and technological challenge of implementing cloud computing solutions for NIT. NIT management and the TVTC are still uncertain about storing data in the cloud, especially at a time when the international community does not have a single regulation for information security. Some countries with enhanced IT can access other nation’s confidential information without permission. In such a case, it would be difficult to seek legal solutions due to different existing laws about the extent to which people can access data stored in the cloud. While it is imperative for TVTC to implement cloud computing, the system has to meet high standards for users to be certain about the security of their data.

RELATED WORK

Networking services are currently receiving attention from researchers and providers of cloud computing solutions. For example, companies such as Amazon recently enhanced their VPN services so that their data would be more secure. This service makes it possible for institutions to segment data into subnets and provide exclusive addresses to gain more flexible networks. Recent research also identified different opportunities and challenges of using diverse workloads in the cloud. Some of the network issues that have been addressed through research are: improved control through a synchronized routing system, expanded bandwidth, efficient architecture for aces controls, and isolation and separation in the cloud. The research has also identified the possibilities of reducing service interruption during migration that NIT will experience when other institutions will be transferring their data to the data centers.

Limitations

There are many drawbacks that NIT should prepare to deal with, because they essentially relate to the way cloud computing works at institutions and other organizations. They include:

The need for full-time internet connection. The internet enables the users of connected computers to share documents and applications. Without the connection to the internet, it is impossible to access any online information, including the institution’s files.

The need for high speed internet connectivity: Some technical institutions that will merge with NIT are located in very remote areas. Remote areas in Saudi Arabia have slow internet connection due to the limited infrastructure. In fact, most of the regions only have dial-up services.

The guarantee of data security: The security of all the data depends on the safety of the cloud. Thus, the IP system installed on the cloud must be inaccessible to unauthorized users, because accessing the cloud means accessing the entire database, including the backup systems.

THE TECHNICAL AND VOCATION TRAINING CORPORATION AND THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY IN SAUDI ARABIA

King Fahad bin Abdualziz Al-Saud established the Technical and Vocational Institute with the sole aim of involving the state in matter of equipping learners with the right skills in the ever-increasing need for technical knowhow in Saudi Arabia. TVTC provides the institutional framework through which NIT and other technical and vocational institutions will merge and operate under one management. As a state agency, TVTC has professionals that act as think tanks for the ministry of higher education. Even as it plans to implement a cloud computing project for the NIT (merger), most of the technical and advisory support would come from or initiated by TVTC technical staff and other consultants hired from outside the organization. In case other institutions join the merger, TVTC is responsible for the licensing and registration process. The merger of NIT and other technical institutions is the beginning of a comprehensive program that TVTC intends to roll out throughout the country. The intention of the merger is to synchronize all the data centers through cloud computing solutions. TVTC regulatory framework targets three institutional categories: vocational training institutes, secondary schools, and technical colleges.

There are sixty vocational training institutes, thirty five technical colleges in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. These institutions are government-sponsored and they operate under the pubic charter issued by the state. However, there are also 1000 private technical institutes and vocational training centers with full accreditation from TVTC. Private institutes and vocational training centers have been registered by TVTC since its formation in 1980. Before the process of licensure and registration of private institutes and vocational training center is complete, they must fulfill the set standards. TVTC sets standards that are reviewed after every three years to meet long term objectives of technical and vocational training. After graduation from the institutes and vocational training centers, TVTC issues them with practicing licenses. Currently, there are about 120,000 practicing graduates under the stewardship of TVTC. All the graduates are posted to specific institutions to provide services and training in the industry. Finally, TVTC connects Saudi Arabia to the other countries that have great standards in technical and vocational training. Some of the countries that TVTC occasionally sends representatives for benchmarking are Malaysia, Singapore, China, The United States, and Australia.

The National Institute of Technology

NIT provides technical training to post-secondary students in engineering, construction management, and other programs that impart technical skills in learners. The institution was established in 2007 by the Al-Najah company that needed to impart technical knowhow to its employees. Later, the state realized the need to empower NIT as the lead institution for technical training in the Kingdom. Although the Al-Najah company still has immense influence over the affairs of NIT, the government invests a lot of resources and manpower for its growth. Today, NIT wards diplomas to graduates who are sent to different fields to practice. Regular class sessions, field work, and laboratory practical symposiums are part of the training that students at NIT must fulfill to earn their diplomas and certificates. All other technical institutes and vocational training centers in the kingdom provide a curriculum similar to NIT and also rely on workshops organized by the faculty on matters of curriculum development.

Riverbed Simulation Solutions

Riverbed solution is the ideal software to test the performance of the NIT merger, because it has the capability to handle a globally connected enterprise. With Riverbed, organizations have the capacity to implement fundamental strategic initiatives, such as cloud computing disaster recovery, without the risk of compromising performance in any way. Riverbed is increasingly becoming the most preferred software for organizations to understand, consolidate, and optimize their information technology infrastructure. If the NIT merger adopts Riverbed, it will have the capacity to build a fast and dynamic IT architecture that will follow the needs of the institutions.

Riverbed’s significance and benefits

This simulation tool that evaluates the performance of the chosen cloud solution is the Riverbed modeler, which is research oriented and has the following benefits:

  1. It provides a user interface that that can establish different networks;
  2. It supports several model families;
  3. Riverbed is the simplest way to create any network;
  4. Riverbed troubleshoots important applications and network problems using high-response monitoring and visualization infrastructure;
  5. It enables the organization to comply with regulatory standards, best practices in the industry, and the policies within the organization;
  6. It enables the organization to reduce risks associated with such issues as misconfigurations by doing a change-impact analysis;
  7. Through Riverbed the NIT merger can optimize the performance of the network through capacity planning, the what-if analyses, and traffic engineering.

The NIC strategic Plan

NIT has a strategic plan that aims to merge it with other technical institutions. The merger will involve creating a datacenter that will enable the merger to access relevant information that formally belonged to affiliate institutions. The strategic plan intends to have either one data center in Riyadh of two data centers in Riyadh and Jeddah. The strategic plans also set the plans to have a recovery center in one of the centers. The establishment of data centers begins in 2016. The merging process will be completed in five years, most of which entails merging the data infrastructure across the Kingdom without necessarily changing the geographical locations of affiliate institutes and vocational training centers. TVTC will oversee the IT operation center for the merger and also host the cloud infrastructure.

METHODOLOGY

This project will be implemented in four stages:

  1. Getting the total population for each institution to be admitted in the NIT merger;
  2. Developing two scenarios of positioning data centers;
  3. Selecting a simulation tool;
  4. Selecting the support applications and performance metrics for the selected cloud solution.

One data center scenario

A single data center can be established when either the Riyadh or the Jeddah data center is deleted and all regions are connected to either one of them. This happens occasionally when one data center breaks down by simply directing the traffic from collapsed datacenter DC router to the one that is working.

Two data centers scenario

The two centers provide two main functions: disaster recovery and data backup in the case of data loss in the main database. The recovery center would be located in Jeddah and the disaster center would be placed in Riyadh. The two centers have a direct link. Hence, NIT would synchronize the cloud data of both centers. One the other hand, the Riyadh and Jeddah data centers will be connected to the rest five regions through routers and subnets that have at least 12 users each. The routers in each region will be connected to the data centers in Riyadh and Jeddah as follows: the South, East, and South East regions will be connected to the Riyadh data center, while the North and North West regions will be connected to the Jeddah data center. Two data centers will use the web and database applications. NIT can create the required application traffic by configuring the institution’s profile and the application at the profile and application configuration respectively. To impose more database queries on both servers, the system will have a high database load and increased internet and web traffic over the http server. After the required application profile is achieved through profile and application configurations, the performance metrics explained above will be studied to enhance the performance of the system’s cloud computing. The cloud network is designed to make data synchronization continuous even if communication between Jeddah and Riyadh is interrupted. Hence, the problem of single point failure, which is common with single data center systems, is eliminated.

Performance metrics of the NIT (merger) cloud solutions

Metrics of cloud performance are vital at the stage when the technical team decides on the type of cloud to serve the institutional and technical needs of NIT. TVTC will choose the metrics that suit the capacity of the merged institutions. An important metric that NIT can adopt is the Service measurement Index (SMI). This service measures the features of a particular cloud selection to determine its performance, responsiveness, availability and scalability. These properties fundamentally help the institution to distinguish the best cloud option for the merger. The metrics also disclose the data about the operations of each cloud offer so that the institutions can make a comparison before reaching a conclusion.

The metrics for service and agreement (SA)

The SA represents an agreement that binds NIT and a cloud service provider. Some of the elements of SA are: the description of the service, the rights and responsibilities of both parties, and specific definitions for each service. SA also contains important information about the measurement of different features of the cloud service, such as the performance level and institutional objectives. Thus, the metrics for NIC would be based on two vital components of the cloud service: the service level agreement (SLA) and the service level objective (SLO), both of which are constituents of the service agreement between NIC and the cloud service provider.

ANALYSIS AND RESULTS

The data centers and the role of backup

A data center is simply a large sprawl of servers. User applications are hosted in these servers. Servers are installed in a single building in case of a single data center, and different buildings in case of two data centers. Given servers will actually be in different geographical locations, considering that Saudi Arabia has enough space in TVTC and NIT affiliate institutions. The servers will, therefore, be connected by a high speed communication network. They will be distributed for redundancy and disaster recovery. For the purposes of redundancy, high availability, flexibility and security, the servers will be distributed among different locations throughout Saudi Arabia. This will ensure seamless sharing of data among TVTC and NIT institutions in case the data center becomes non-operational due to disaster or accident. The main components of cloud data centers are server, storage, networking equipment, connections, load balancers, and firewall. The critical software includes the metering, measurements, and billing software. Key components of the cloud system are power and cooling system, racks, cables and the physical construction components of the data center.

HTTP High using for the servers

Having two data centers is advantageous for the institutions, because they will have the autonomy, as each data center has its own application and database tiers. Two data centers are also secured form unauthorized access due to the strict requirements of entry. Rather than requiring students to write a cross-WAN for active logins in another data center, using two data centers requires students to be forcibly moved to the data center with active login. This allows users to always be served from a local database with no communication occurring cross-WAN. The only difference is that a student found to be in the “wrong” data center is forcibly moved to another data center which has an active session of the account. The HHTP requests and sessions belonging to an account are served from each data center at a time.

CONCLUSION AND FUTURE WORK

Conclusion

In conclusion, cloud computing is currently one of the best technological solutions to data storage. For learning institutions such as NIT, cloud computing provides the basis for e-learning in a more efficient way than other technological solutions that have been there before. TVTC also faces a variety of challenges when implementing cloud computing due to costs, resistance from important stakeholders, lack of sufficient technical resources to roll out the plant, and other logistical challenges. The TVTC chose the right path of deciding to implement cloud computing, because the merged institutions will have more e-learning sessions for students in Saudi Arabia and foreign students who may want to get higher education from these institutions. As discussed above, fast internet connection remains the cornerstone of a successful cloud computing program for the institutions.

Future work

The future work for the organizations and researchers is to establish a capacity management framework that would be unique for the institutions of higher learning. Currently both public institutions and commercial organizations use the same computing solutions with the same capacity. The following guidelines will determine the basis of establishing a capacity management framework:

  1. Model and size capacity requirements;
  2. The tools to monitor, analyze and report capacity usage;
  3. The tools to supervise, tune and deliver capacity;
  4. The means and expertise to produce and maintain a capacity plan.