Air Force Base Computer Training Center

The Air Force Base Network Standardization and Evaluation Section is responsible for the training, licensing, and certifying of network professionals through the use of in-residence courses, computer based training (CBT), and formal task evaluations. There are 18 Network Control Center (NCC) personnel assigned to manage the backbone of the base network and over 40 system administrators and workgroup managers who manage their respective units on base. They all require training and certification by October 2000 to be authorized to perform maintenance and operations on the Air Force network.

Our immediate task is to design and install an internal network (separate from the current operational base MAN) to support a classroom consisting of eight students and an instructor. It is important to develop a training program that replicates as many real-world scenarios as possible. The main objectives of the course will be to train individuals on basic networking principles, MS NT 4. 0 Workstation, and Microsoft NT 4. 0 Server. The course will include both lecture and hands-on performance tasks.

To complete this task I will cover the guidelines and limitations associated with planning, classroom set-up, and installing the network. Also, the objective of the course and the curriculum will determine the type of network and the necessary equipment required. We will cover the type of hardware, media, and software required as well as, facility, and personnel issues, keeping within a limited budget. In addition, network types, topologies, protocols, hardware/software configuration and optimization will be discussed.

Finally, it is important that we consider the management, upgrading, and overall maintenance of the network. Before we begin with the planning and installation process we will first look at a brief background of our purpose and mission. The Air Forces goal with this project is to accomplish the task of training and certifying network professionals in the most effective and efficient manner. The cost savings would be tremendous by locally training versus the thousands of dollars spent to send each individual to a commercial course.

Additionally, our training can be tailored to specific features of the AFBs network. One challenge however, is to convince senior leadership and the old heads the importance of new technology and the training that goes with it. You would think that the Air Force being a government agency would have the funding necessary for the project. However, most of the money is put towards operational areas such as flying and aircraft maintenance. Training, unfortunately, is secondary and little funding is allocated to training programs. So cost is a major factor.

When putting our network together in our classroom we had to use what we could find (computers, printers, media, connectors, furniture etc. ). We also have some surplus equipment and materials in various locations throughout the base. We were initially expected to install the entire network with excess equipment we could find throughout the base. However, we convinced them to fund new personal computers. We were able to purchased ten new Dell Dimension XPS T500 systems. These systems include a 500 MHz Pentium III processor, 8.

GB hard drive, 64 MB RAM, and a 10/100 Mbps Fast Ethernet PCI Network card. Eight of these ten systems will be used as student workstations and/or server, depending on the course objective; one will be used as the instructors computer and also act as a main file server, and the last PC will function as an additional server for printing and other special training requirements. With a large surplus of monitors on base we were able to obtain ten 15 monitors to use with each system. We chose 15 monitors over the larger 17 size, due to the limited desk space each student has.

Two Cabletron MicroMMAC-24E 24 port hubs will be used to connect the eight workstations (four per hub). The MicroMMAC-24E is an intelligent workgroup hub combining sophisticated SNMP management with Ethernet repeater functionality and Cabletron’s BRIM (Bridge/Router Interface Module) technology. The MicroMMAC-24E conforms to the IEEE 802. 3 Repeater, 802. 1d Bridge and 10Base-T specifications. Each hub with four workstations connected in a physical star topology will be independent from each other in a peer-to-peer environment for that portion of the curriculum.

A Cisco AGS+ modular router will then connect the two peer-to-peer networks to the two Dell Computers acting as file and print servers in a client-server environment. The AGS+ is a modular router chassis incorporating a nine-slot Multibus backplane and a five-slot high-speed backplane called the CiscoBus. The following figure shows the front and rear view of the chassis: An HP 612 DeskJet Printer will be connected to the print server with an IEEE-1284 parallel cable. It will be used primarily for training purposes to show print capability.

Media selection was made easy because we had several spools of CAT 5 UTP cable and RJ-45 connectors available to us. Because extreme speed is not of real importance and little or no outside noise interference existing, this proved to be more than adequate. We selected Microsoft Windows NT 4. 0 as our network operating system, which is the standard throughout the base and the Air Force. Each computer arrived with a preinstalled licensed version of Microsoft Windows NT 4. 0 Workstation and Office 2000 along with back-up copies on CD-ROM. Additionally, we received the latest upgrade (Service Pack 6a), which we requested from Microsoft.

We had to make a purchase for Microsoft Windows NT Server 4. 0. The cost for 10 licensed copies totaled approximately $6,200. Other software used includes Norton AntiVirus NT v5. 0, Adobe Acrobat Reader 4. 0, and Netscape Communicator 4. 7. The base currently has a multi-user license for this additional software and will be used primarily for training purposes. Each student will configure each system with all the main software just like they would back in their work center. The following chart shows the minimum and recommended system requirements for the software installation:

SoftwareProcessorHard Disk SpaceRAM MinimumRecommendMinimumRecommendMinimumRecommend NT Workstation486 33 MHzPentium II200 MHz117 MB1. 2 GB12 MB16 MB NT Server486 33 MHzPentium II200 MHz120 MB2. 0 GB16 MB128 MB Office 2000Pentium75 MHzPentium II200 MHz250 MB500 MB8 MB16 MB Adobe Acrobat48633 MHzPentium75 MHz75 MB100 MB24 MB32 MB NetscapeCommunicator48633 MHzPentium75 MHz14 MB100 MB16 MB32 MB The course objective and curriculum dictates what type of network will be installed. The cabling will be preinstalled within the classroom to the various locations where it will be utilized.

The course curriculum includes performance tasks for the students to connect the cable to the various components located on the equipment rack and the individual workstations. There are several issues to consider before building the network. First, the length of the cable from the hub to any component can be no longer than 100 meters (328 feet). If the distance will exceed 100 meters, then the connection requires the installation of a repeater or another hub. In our case, our network will be confined to a single room. Therefore, distance will not be a factor.

Second, be careful not to wrap the cables around power cords, power supplies or fluorescent lights. All of these emit electrical fields that can interfere with the transmission of data on the network. When we installed the cabling, tie straps were used to allow for the securing of cables to avoid unwanted or unexpected disconnects. As we connected each cable, we labeled it at both ends. This helps the network administrator in troubleshooting and isolating any future problems. The CAT 5 UTP cabling will be run through the ceiling plenum and down the wall through 1 conduit to a mounting box with an RJ-45 faceplate with connectors.

The other end of the media will be routed to a 19 equipment rack, which stands in the corner of the classroom. The rack will contain a 24-port patch panel, 2 hubs, and the router. Our facility consists of a main entrance hall with adjacent offices and classrooms. It provides adequate space and functionality. The following figure gives the basic floor plan: The classroom is set up with eight small tables with chairs to accommodate eight student workstations. The instructor has a podium style set-up, which facilitates the server and monitor.

To the instructors right is a 37 NEC Multisync XM37 television set to be used as the classroom display screen. The instructors monitor and the viewing television are connected using an Extron RGB 118 Computer-Video Interface. The RGB 118 is a universal analog, ECL and TTL computer-video interface providing compatibility with any computer, mainframe terminal or PC. This allows the instructors display to be viewed by the students. The equipment rack is located in the back left corner of the classroom along with a small table for the second server and network printer.

The two hubs and router will be mounted on the equipment rack and will be positioned in a manner to which the students will have access to all the ports to aid in training. The wiring is routed through a 24port patch panel which aids in troubleshooting. As mentioned earlier, the type of network will be determined by the course objective. The first task for each student is to start with a completely formatted hard drive and configure their system as a stand-alone system by using their boot disk and installing Microsoft Windows NT Workstation 4. 0.

The naming convention for each computer will be student01, student02, student03etc. The instructors computer will be named instruct01 and the print server will be named print01. This naming convention will aid in locating the various devices within the network neighborhood. Eight Independent Stand-Alone Workstations Another course objective will be for each half of the class to set-up a peer-to-peer network through a hub. This will show the students the simplicity in setting up this type of network, its advantages for use in a small office, and how it allows for the sharing of resources.

This would not be a good choice, however, if security were of high importance. The two peer-to-peer networks will be physically connected in a star topology using the 24-port hub mentioned earlier. Each will be configured using the IEEE 802. 3 Carrier-Sense Multiple Access with Collision Detection (CSMA/CD) standard and the TCP/IP protocol. This is the standard, routable, enterprise-networking protocol used for Windows NT and is also the standard throughout most of the base network. The following figure shows a basic view of the two peer-to-peer networks: Two Independent Peer-to-Peer Networks

After configuring the two independent peer-to-peer networks, we will then connect them together to form a client-server environment. The Cisco AGS+ modular router mentioned earlier will be used to route the two networks together. In doing this, we will also be adding a file server and print server to provide the additional services which are traditional with the Client-Server type of network. These services consists of file and database storage, shared printing capabilities, better security features, and decreased load off of each workstations allowing for increased performance.

Microsoft Windows NT Server 4. 0 will be installed on the two servers. NT Server provides a service called the dynamic host configuration protocol (DHCP). When a DHCP server is configured on the network, clients that support DHCP (including Windows NT Workstation) can request TCP/IP configuration information from the DHCP server. This includes information such as IP address, subnet mask, and default gateway. This can greatly aid in the configuration of TCP/IP on the client workstation.

If you have a DHCP server available, selecting the Obtain an IP Address option from a DHCP server check box when installing TCP/IP can automatically configure TCP/IP. This option can also be configured at a later time through the Network option, Protocols, TCP/IP Properties in Control Panel. After you select Obtain an IP Address from a DHCP server, no further configuration of TCP/IP is necessary. After the network is designed, installed, and configured, the on-going task of managing the network is important.

We currently have a team of 5 personnel available to monitor performance, troubleshoot problems, perform regular back-ups, install upgrades, and ensure security and proper documentation. Part of managing a network is monitoring the network to avoid problems, and when necessary, troubleshoot problems when they do occur. Performing regular back-ups can ensure current data is recoverable in the case of equipment failure or outages. Upgrading the network can also be an issue as vendors are continuously upgrading their products and introducing new ones.

We have been well informed that the possibility of upgrading from Windows NT to Windows 2000 could happen within the next 6 months. So adequate planning and preparation will ensure a smooth migration to the new operating system. Lastly, documentation is an essential task that will pay dividends when it comes to troubleshooting problems and looking at any trends in network performance. The Computer training Center will save the Air Force several dollars in training costs by establishing a local training course versus commercial training off-base.

To provide this training, we are installing a network to simulate the realistic environment each student will be exposed to. With cost being an important factor, we also have to ensure adequate planning and preparation to stay within our budget. Also, there were also several other factors to consider with ensuring an efficient and effective operational network. An optimal performing and well maintained network would help us to reach our goal of training and certifying the network professionals on the AFB.

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