History of ECN

David Carmichael, Director Engineering Computer Network

In 1976 the School of Electrical Engineering acquired its first department-owned mini-computer. This machine, a Digital Equipment Corporation PDP 11/70, provided much needed interactive computing resources to the Electrical Engineering students, faculty and staff. In addition, it became the focal point in the development of a network of interconnected Electrical Engineering mini-computers.

Dr. C. L. Coates

Dr. C. L. Coates & Dr. John C. Hancock

The Electrical Engineering NETWORK plan was born when the head of Electrical Engineering, Dr. C. L. Coates, noted that the department needed interactive computing resources and that a number of existing small mini-computers in Electrical Engineering research laboratories were not fully utilized. The plan was to purchase a base machine to be generally available to Electrical Engineering staff and students and to link the base machine to the smaller laboratory machines and utilize their excess resources.

In the Fall of 1977, the Electrical Engineering 11/70 was connected to the first small machine, a PDP 11/45. In the Summer of 1978, the A.A. Potter Engineering Center entered into an agreement with Electrical Engineering, and the Potter PDP 11/70 became a part of the Electrical Engineering Network.

In late 1979, the Dean of Engineering, Dr. John C. Hancock, directed the School of Electrical Engineering to assist the other Schools of Engineering in establishing computing facilities similar to its own. These engineering machines were to be part of the Electrical Engineering Network, which then became known as the Engineering Computer Network (ECN).

During the 1980 spring semester, the last Electrical Engineering laboratory machine was converted to the UNIX operating system and linked to the Network. During this semester, Electrical Engineering acquired a DEC VAX 11/780 for student instructional applications. By the Summer the Electrical Engineering Network included two PDP 11/70's, one VAX 11/780 and four PDP 11/45's. In addition, a data transfer link was established with Purdue's central computing facility.

In February, 1981, the Mechanical Engineering VAX 11/780 went on-line. In January, 1982, the first Civil Site VAX serving the Schools of Civil, Chemical, and Materials Engineering became active for users. Also at that time, Electrical Engineering's second VAX 11/780 became operational. The following month, a VAX serving the Schools of Aeronautical, Industrial, and Nuclear Engineering went on the Network. In March, the Potter Engineering Center's Computer Integrated Design, Manufacturing and Automation machine was added.

In August, 1982, the Chemical Engineering graphics VAX system and Electrical Engineering's third VAX system became operational. During the fall semester, second VAX systems for the Mechanical and Civil Sites were installed.

During the year 1983, the Potter Engineering Center added a VAX System, Electrical Engineering added 2 VAX Systems, and Agricultural Engineering placed one VAX System on the Network.

In 1984, Industrial Engineering added a VAX System to the Network.

In 1985, Electrical Engineering added a Gould PN9080 System and Agricultural Engineering added their second VAX System to the Network. Second CPU's were added to the two Civil Site VAX machines.

In August 1986, a Gould PN9080 was installed at each of 3 sites: Mechanical, Civil and Grissom.

In 1987, a Gould NP1 was placed online at Electrical Engineering. Also during 1987, over 100 Sun workstations were installed throughout the Schools of Engineering.

In 1988, three additional Gould NP1's where installed at the Mechanical, Civil, and Grissom sites, replacing the existing Gould PN9080 systems at these sites.

1989 brought the networking of Macintosh computers and the addition of more Sun workstations to ECN. This brought the Sun count up to 36 servers and 350 workstations. Continued efforts at networking resulted in 90% of our 275 MacIntosh computers gaining a network connection.

The year 1991 saw 49 Sun file servers supporting 393 Sun workstations. 50 new MacIntosh computers joined the network and brought our count up to 331. Civil Engineering created an IBM PC clone lab with 20 machines and an additional 30 machine were added in 1992.

In 1993, the Engineering Computer Network consisted of 14 major network hosts, 70 Sun file servers supporting about 600 Sun workstations, and 729 Macintosh computers of which 90% were networked. The systems were maintained and operated by the ECN staff with assistance from members from all the Schools of Engineering. Each machine had applications and priorities which might differ. Most machines ran the UNIX operating system and basically provided the same computation tools. The major host machines of each site were connected with high speed data links and extensive communications software.

The spring of 1994 Dean Henry Yang sponsored a million dollar upgrade initiative that permitted the retirement of older equipment. The VAX machines that remained were decommissioned, all but two Goulds were removed and a major portion of Sun 3/50s retired. A purchase of 10 Sun SPARC 1000 (replacing 4-VME machines) and 150 Sun workstations created a small reduction of seats (the number of machines) while computing power increased by 200% for the portion of the network effected.

As of Summer 1995, the Engineering Computer Network had replaced 70% of its Sun 3 hardware. PC support began and two high speed network links were added to the network. The conversion to the Solaris operating system was almost completed.

In 1996, the ECN backbone was upgraded from Ethernet to ATM. The Engineering Computer Network continued to increase in complexity, as the Sun Ultra architecture was incorporated into the network.

A grant from Intel in 1998 (the Purdue Data Network Infrastructure Intel Grant) drastically increased the presence of Wintel platform around ECN. ECN began to move away from 10 MB ethernet toward 10-base-T lines for increased speed. As of December 31, 1998, there were 14,761 ECN users, 561,700 ECN accounts, 300 Gig of Memory, and 10 Terabytes of disk space.

With the introduction of student technology fees, ECN was able to perform a much-needed equipment upgrade in the year 2000, including servers and workstations. Most networks transitioned to a new high speed campus wiring infrastructure.

In 2002, the number of computers in Engineering reached 3,700 and the total data storage managed by ECN exceeded 5 terabytes. ECN began supporting Linux, installed wireless networking in 4 engineering buildings, and implemented a web server cluster. As of January 1, 2002, there were 18,684 users, 673,862 accounts, and 3,721 computers.

In 2003 Bill Simmons completed his tenure as Director of ECN.

In 2004, Dave Carmichael became the Director of ECN.

ECN was awarded a research grant funded by Sun Mircosystems in 2005.

In 2006, ECN began support of Discovery Park, and Sun Microsystems' research grant was increased. Total data managed by ECN exceeded 25 Terabytes and 250 million files.

End user support housed centrally for Discovery Park was expanded to cover Electrical and Computer Engineering, Industrial Engineering, and Nuclear Engineering in Spring 2008.

In 2009 the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) selected ECN as their departmental computer support provider.

The College of Technology IT support group merged with ECN during the Fall of 2010.