Cooperation wins praise at house of worship

Multiple vendors team up to meet communication needs of Tampa's Idlewild Baptist Church.

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Multiple vendors team up to meet communication needs of Tampa’s Idlewild Baptist Church.

As high-speed networking becomes a priority in new construction, general contractors and information-technology (IT) managers are placing greater emphasis on finding the right vendors to satisfy multiple networking needs. Choosing the right infrastructure is only step one. To ensure system longevity and operation, proper installation and verification of system performance are also important considerations.

With so many elements to account for, it is imperative to include a number of cabling vendors whose core business helps meet the infrastructure’s operation needs. Coordinating the right vendors proved vital to the staff at Idlewild Baptist Church (www.idlewild.org) as it prepared to open a new 440,000-square-foot facility in Tampa, FL.

When it came to choosing the equipment and installation of the church’s cabling infrastructure, the staff sought vendors that could meet five criteria:

  • Pricing;
  • Customization to user needs;
  • Bandwidth requirements;
  • Compliance requirements;
  • Ongoing customer service.

“We had a tough time finding one vendor that could ensure all of our installation and service requirements were met,” says David Bolden, IT manager for the church. “We finally decided on working with multiple vendors, with different strengths, that could work together. In the end, this was our best choice for timely installation and efficient ongoing system performance.”

Choosing the team

Bolden and his staff had many vendors from which to choose, but were not certain which ones would be best for the church’s high-tech needs. “We buy a lot of products from Graybar,” Bolden said, “and that is how I learned about the VIP (Verified Independently for Performance) program. I had worked with products from different manufacturers in the past, and was considering them again. Kathy [Duffield, a Graybar account manager in the Tampa area] explained that VIP is a little more rigorous than the TIA/EIA standards.”

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A robust cabling infrastructure involving multiple vendors lets worshipers view a live service from the church�s website.
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To help customers who have large-scale installation needs, Graybar often provides recommendations of contractors and products, as well as design assistance, local inventory for product kitting and shipping, and help with bid meetings. Additionally, the VIP program provides end users with verification that products chosen through Graybar meet product performance specifications before and after installation. In support of this voluntary program, Graybar’s suppliers are subject to independent testing of their products by ETL Semko Testing laboratories.

In Idlewild’s case, Graybar offered recommendations on products and required verification testing. As a result, the church chose Panduit (www.panduit.com) for the cabling infrastructure system, Metro Services Group (www.metroservicesgrp.com) as its contractor, and Intertek ETL Semko for product-performance post-installation field testing.

Metro Services Group is a certified Panduit installer, trained by the manufacturer on the installation of its systems. With a mission of remaining impartial, Intertek is the chosen third-party testing laboratory for Graybar’s VIP program. Proof of compliance with the VIP program is signified through Intertek’s ETL Verification mark, found on cabling products and systems.

Testing times two

“Part of the RFP we wrote was independent verification of the system after installation was complete,” Bolden recalled. “In the end, it wound up being tested by both parties-the contractor and ETL.” The contractor, Bolden explained, wanted to ensure there would be no service callbacks, so made certain that ETL got a clean system to test.

“We took a simple approach to the whole project, which included more than 240,000 feet of Panduit TX6000 cable; 3,000 terminations; and spanned 13 equipment rooms,” said Cody Moody, president of Metro Services Group. “Our approach was to rely on support from Panduit and Graybar, the continuous communication with a remarkable customer like David Bolden and, of course, our own installation team. The project’s success was inevitable.”

Adds Graybar’s Duffield, “It was important that the vendors Idlewild chose could work together as a team in order to complete the installation project as efficiently as possible. From start to finish, the level of technical knowledge, customer service, and teamwork made the project go very smoothly.”

Cabling for convergence

The church’s installation features 13 telecommunications rooms-one main room and 12 remote. “We have a fiber path between the main and each remote closet,” Bolden says. Fiber-optic, twisted-pair, and coaxial cabling coincide in the system’s backbone, which consists of a 24-strand multimode/12-strand singlemode fiber-optic cable for data, a 100-pair Category 3 twisted-pair cable for voice, and RG-6 coaxial cable for video.

Bolden explains that the convergence of data, voice, and audio/video applications for the church made a robust cabling infrastructure necessary: “I have done a good deal of cabling, and previously worked in a building that had a bad infrastructure. So, I know that if you have a bad physical layer, you cannot build on it. This building’s lighting, audio, and video run on IP, so the plan was to build in enough infrastructure so that we could separate it; if necessary, breaking out the 24/12 fiber-optic cables to run multiple LANs, then VLAN [virtual LAN] them together.”

Networking digital audio

A unique aspect of Idlewild’s infrastructure is the deployment of CobraNet, a proprietary means of networking digital audio technology (see sidebar, page 24). As an IP-based application, CobraNet sends 10-Mbit bursts of data, which had the potential to bog down the system. In this case, however, a planned VLAN for the CobraNet audio system eliminated that potential.

Says Bolden, “There was a lot of communication between myself and the A/V engineers,” during the RFP process, the cabling installation, and when the applications were going live.

The Panduit TX Copper Cabling System provided an integrated end-to-end solution. Beth Halpern, a Panduit datacom specialist, assisted with supervision of the project to ensure proper installation so Metro Services Group could provide Idlewild with a 25-year certification-plus warranty.

Verification for high performance

The final element was to ensure the infrastructure continued to perform to specific criteria after installation. Real-life application testing is the only way Idlewild could be assured their system would continue to hold up after all vendors had left and the church was fully operational. Intertek put its experience to work, conducting independent performance verification testing for cabling products, ensuring Idlewild’s system could withstand the building’s bandwidth and performance needs.

The Graybar VIP 2000 cabling systems, like the one installed at Idlewild Baptist Church, are of the highest technology and quality on the market today,” says Don Nicholson, national sales manager for Intertek ETL Semko. “Cabling systems verified to the VIP standards result in fewer retransmissions and more bandwidth, which extends the networking potential of the cabling system.”

A worldwide message

The testing showed that, as Metro Services Group ensured, the products and their installation performed above industry standards. “We have an incredible team of installers, and welcomed Intertek to verify our work-as should all contractors that take pride in and place high value on quality installations,” Moody remarked.

Now, anyone in the world can log onto the church’s website and view a worship service-live or from the archives. The technology that makes such global access possible is all supported by a robust cabling infrastructure involving multiple vendors.

The installation at Idlewild Baptist Churchis a testament to how choosing quality vendors that work together can add efficiencies in several aspects of the job-from choosing quality products to saving time during installation, to assurance that the network will work well when all the vendors have left.

TRICIA GAGNE is an account manager/cabling products testing with Intertek/ETL Semko (www.intertek-etlsemko.com).


The CobraNet digital audio networking system

CobraNet technology, a trademarked property of Cirrus Logic, has emerged as a popular choice in audio networking technology with more than 500,000 channels of uncompressed, low-latency, real-time professional-grade audio installed to date.

Until recently, designing and building audio distribution systems with any degree of flexibility and intelligence has been a difficult and expensive undertaking, requiring large expenditures on wiring, conduit, switching equipment, and installation labor. Additionally, audio systems such as this using traditional analog technology have the added disadvantage of often being difficult or prohibitively expensive to reconfigure once installed.

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Basic audio networking setups with CobraNet, as used at an installation for Idlewild Baptist Church in Tampa FL, are akin to media conversion--an analog-to-digital converter (ADC) resides near the microphone, while digital-to-analog (DAC) converters reside near each speaker. CobraNet technology lies at the edge of the Ethernet network and connects to ADCs as well as DACs.
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With CobraNet networked audio, any audio input can be dynamically routed under software control to any audio output on the network in any combination, providing routing flexibility-all over standard Ethernet.

Full remote control over the network is a standard part of the protocol, with re-routing of audio accomplished via software rather than recabling or use of dedicated analog switching facilities. The network and protocol itself, not cabling or switching equipment, is the switch.

Use of standard Ethernet wiring further reduces costs. Most facilities with installed sound systems include a data network that carries computer files, cash-register transactions, HVAC control, security, or other applications. Top designers in the audio industry are now seeing the advantage and value of also carrying audio over this type of network. CobraNet technology allows for the co-existence of audio and data traffic over existing standard Ethernet infrastructure, resulting in substantial savings in design and installation.

With previously unattainable routing, control and monitoring flexibility, reduced system setup and installation costs, and professional-grade audio deliver, CobraNet has emerged as a technology of choice in digital audio networking.

-Source: Cirrus Logic (www.cirrus.com)

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