Disparate college campuses connect via fiber

Dec. 1, 2004
The Los Rios Community College District is ever-expanding, and so are its bandwidth requirements.
With 152 buildings on a 2,400-square-mile service area, the Los Rios Community College District in California is upgrading its WAN and LAN infrastructure to stay ahead of student and faculty data demands. Edit this paragraph
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Each year, nearly 80,000 students pass through the halls of the four colleges that make up California's Los Rios Community College District. The Los Rios District includes 152 buildings located throughout a 2,400-square-mile service area. To prepare for an expected 25% increase in enrollment by 2010, Los Rios continues to invest substantially in WAN and LAN upgrades to keep ahead of its faculty's and student body's data demands.

With the passing of a quarter-billion-dollar bond measure, California's second-largest community college district is in an aggressive mode for new construction, renovations, and technology enhancements. One continuous area of improvement is the upgrading of horizontal and backbone cabling. The Los Rios information technology (IT) department has standardized on the NextLAN cabling solution, made up of Leviton Voice & Data(www.levitonvoicedata.com) and Superior Essex (www.superioressex.com) copper and optical-fiber voice and data products.

The IT department's technical services division has a small but highly skilled staff, and has been productive in handling a wide variety of technical responsibilities. To address challenges associated with designing the communications infrastructure for numerous buildings-each with a unique construction and its own set of cabling requirements-a specification team was assembled comprising Los Rios IT department employees and consultants from Angus-Hamer Networking(www. angushamer.com). The firm specializes in intelligent building planning, design, and implementation management services.

With decades of experience in advanced networking technology, the four-person team was tasked with evaluating, choosing, and designing the communications system for Los Rios.

"Because of the electronic nature of Los Rios' diverse curriculum, it is imperative that a reliable cabling infrastructure design be implemented to support our dynamic network," says Joe Kramer, cable plant administrator for Los Rios. "The design team invited three well-known end-to-end cabling systems [representatives] to give a one-hour presentation addressing the merits of the proposed solution. The group unanimously agreed that the NextLAN solution offers the best overall value when using performance, warranty, and customer technical support as the criteria for evaluation."

Having some backbone

Universities require many types of telecommunications services because of their varied applications. To segregate traffic and to guarantee available bandwidth, the network is divided into 512 secure virtual LANs. The backbone systems at the various Los Rios campuses are a physical star-wiring topology.

Nearly 200 telecommunications rooms (TRs) connect the backbone and horizontal distribution systems via high-performance optical-fiber cables. Depending on applications and requirements, the design team selected either a 24-strand singlemode or 24-strand multimode riser-rated indoor/outdoor water-blocked, tight-buffer fiber cable from Superior Essex for the network's backbone.

The multimode fiber supports today's needs while the singlemode fiber positions Los Rios to take advantage of future technology offerings. Redundant singlemode and multimode links were also connected to the gigabit-speed backbone, giving Los Rios a back-up pathway during an outage, plus sufficient capabilities for future expansion and technological advances.

While some of the fiber has been installed indoors, a large quantity was buried; so, it was important that the cable exhibit the characteristics necessary for both environments. Deryle Rowe, a consultant with Angus-Hamer, cited value without sacrificing performance as the basis to specifying the cable type selected.

With the passing of a quarter-billion-dollar bond measure, California's second-largest community college district is in an aggressive expansion mode for new district-wide construction, renovations, and technology enhancements.
Click here to enlarge image

"The tight-buffered configuration eliminates the transition splice associated with loose-tube designs, thus saving Los Rios installation time and cost," Rowe says. "Environmental extremes, such as temperature, moisture, and sunlight, will compromise the integrity of the cable unless that cable exhibits the necessary mechanical protection. Because the specified Superior Essex product meets both Telcordia GR-20 water-block and UL sunlight-resistance requirements, Los Rios is assured that the cable investment is maintained over the life of the system."

Horizontal systems

For the horizontal cabling infrastructure, Los Rios has standardized on the NextLAN 6eX cabling system to handle the high-capacity data and video applications associated with the demands at an institution of higher learning. With a guaranteed 10 dB power-sum attenuation-to-crosstalk ratio headroom and a warranty that promises installed performance will exceed TIA/EIA-568-B.2-1 specifications for all parameters (swept out to 350 MHz), the NextLAN 6eX cabling solution is designed to support an exponential rise in data throughput.

In nearly 200 TRs and at nearly 20,000 work areas, each with three active Category 6 outlet locations, Superior Essex NextGain cable is connected to Leviton eXtreme 6+ patch panels and connectors. The Leviton eXtreme 6+ connectivity uses patented retention force technology (RFT) and a pair-separation tower to enhance performance. RFT maintains the jack's pin positions while the pair-separation tower means that the pair does not need to be untwisted during termination. This feature saves the installer time and maintains the cable's design integrity, ensuring that performance is not compromised.

Kramer notes flexibility and future needs as the reasons for choosing three Category 6 outlets at each work area. "A uniform scheme at the outlet gives us flexibility in that each of the outlets can be used for data or voice," Kramer says. He adds, "Using a premium Category 6 solution positions Los Rios to migrate toward a possible mass deployment of Voice over IP and Power over Ethernet while maintaining a gigabit-speed infrastructure."

Los Rios is evaluating VoIP and is powering a few wireless access points over the Ethernet cabling on a limited basis. Implementation of these technologies on a much broader scale is being evaluated.

Katherine McCreery, telecommunications system designer, credits guaranteed solution performance that is independently verified as the reason for choosing the NextLAN system. "While most every cabling solution commercially available today offers some type of performance guarantee, NextLAN is unique in that system performance is verified quarterly by Underwriters Laboratories to meet published specifications."

While Los Rios designs the networking systems, the installation and maintenance are left up to a select group of contractors who are NextLAN-certified through a training program that has been refined over the past eight years. As is the case with all projects, every permanent link in the system is thoroughly tested and documented by the certified installer, who submits all test-result data to the customer and the cabling vendors. Because of the contractor's certified designation, Los Rios is assured that the technicians are installing fiber and copper cabling in accordance with proper industry practices.

Using a certified installer also lets Los Rios take advantage of the NextLAN systems' lifetime performance, applications, product, and labor warranty on certified horizontal and backbone systems. Additionally, installed verification of permanent-link performance provides automatic full channel warranty when Leviton patch cords are used. The Campus Warranty includes a 10-year warranty on all Superior Essex outside-plant cable-including both fiber and copper cable, and a 15-year warranty on all Superior Essex voice-grade inside cabling that will be installed as part of the overall system.

JASON R. KRAUSKOPF, RCDD, is director of technical marketing at Superior Essex (www.superioressex.com)

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