Campus: CSU Northridge -- April 17, 2002
CSUN's Newest Lab Offers Endless Possibilities In
Testing How Computers Relate to Each Other
In a quiet laboratory on the first floor of Cal State Northridge's Engineering
Building, teams of students are each building a computer network security
system and then systematically trying to crack into another team's network,
looking for its weaknesses.
This is just one of an endless list of uses university computer scientists
envision for the new Interoperability Lab in the Department of Computer
Science. The lab, which opened this semester, is set up to study how
computers and computer networks relate to each other.
"There is incredible potential for the lab," said Steven Stepanek,
chair of the computer science department. "Trying to hack into
a computer network system is one very small use. There are many, many
more things we can do. What we can do with the lab is basically limited
only by our imagination and the kind of support equipment we get from
the technology and business communities."
The lab is the result of more than $300,000 in equipment donated by
Enterasys Networks and its industry partner e-Systems Design. In addition
to the equipment for eight separate computer stations, officials at
both companies also donated their time in designing and installing a
lab that could test different sorts of network topographies and protocols
and check the interoperability of different networking equipment from
"The network security class is just the first to use the lab,"
Stepanek said. "In the future we will have classes that will explore
all the lab's capabilities."
Stepanek said several people already have expressed an interest in exploring
the quality of service provided by a computer network and what that
quality of service means when different types of information are put
on the network.
"This idea of quality of service is very important when people
start thinking about putting something like video conferencing or other
things using video on to the Internet. You don't want strange pauses
or signal loss to occur," Stepanek said. "This is still a
relatively new area of Internet research and this is an ideal lab for
doing some of that testing."
Computer science faculty and students already are planning to use the
lab to test how well a computer network would receive video depending
on how much that network is being used.
"We want to see what happens when a network is running at 50 percent
capacity and then crank it up to 70 or 80 percent and see how well the
videos work then," Stepanek said. "There's so much we can
do with the lab."
He said faculty are working with other network- and hardware-based companies
which are interested in using the lab to test their equipment. Those
research projects would be integrated into the department's academic
"The skills our students are learning in the lab and will be learning
are the skills businesses are looking for," Stepanek said.