Business school cabling system integrates video, data, cable TV, and distance-learning.
At Emory University (Atlanta, GA), the Roberto C. Goizueta Business School`s fully integrated cabling system is a dream come true for faculty, students, and administration. The new five-story, 114,000-square-foot business school operates an information network that features total connectivity, with an infrastructure based on a high-tech cabling plant, backbone, and network architecture. The system integrates and delivers advanced, user-friendly technology to enhance teaching and instructional programs from any place in the building. Each classroom is cabled for the integration of video, data, slides, cable TV, vcr, and distance-learning for instruction. Classrooms also are wired to provide data and connectivity for students` desktop notebook computers.
Before this dream came true, the business school`s faculty, students, and administration were crammed into a 50-year-old, three-story building about one-third the size of the new facility. Students literally had to pass each other sideways to avoid collisions in the hallways when going to class. Traditional classroom instruction was supplemented by overhead projectors and wall-mounted tv/vcr consoles. Computer-enhanced instruction was available only via portable carts outfitted with computers and lcd projectors. Network access was negligible at best.
Reinventing the classroom
In building the new school, every aspect of classroom technology had to be reinvented. Needed in this transformation was an infrastructure that could provide easy network connectivity, possessing extensive bandwidth capacity and speed to handle sophisticated data, video, and voice applications as well as the management tools and the flexibility to meet future requirements. The business school`s executive director of information services, Barbara Maaskant, who consults on building technology infrastructures, chose the systimax Structured Cabling System (scs) from Lucent Technologies (Warren, NJ). "The business school recruited me in part because of my role in developing the technology infrastructure at the Grace Crum Rollins School of Public Health [see "atm delivers voice, video and data to the desktop," July 1995, page 27]," says Maaskant. The Rollins building is the first Lucent Technologies systimax scs facility on the Emory campus and was the focus of wide attention for its fiber-to-the-desk and 155-megabit-per-second Asynchronous Transfer Mode (atm) backbone in 1995 and 1996.
"We brought Lucent on early in the development phase of this project," Maaskant explains. "It was important to me to ensure that the new business school was a systimax scs building because of the throughput guarantees, warranty, and my positive experiences at the school of public health."
The systimax scs cabling installation at the business school comprises 21 miles of Optispeed fiber and 43 miles of PowerSum copper wiring in the building. The vertical backbone consists of an accumax 48-fiber multimode cable, an accumax 6-fiber singlemode cable, and a 25-pair PowerSum 1061 cable to each of the five floors. Four of the multimode fibers in the vertical backbone are used for the redundant 155-Mbit/sec atm vertical backbone. The remaining 44 fibers are for backbone expansion and applications, including distance-learning, video-on-demand, internal video-teleconferencing, cable-channel delivery to the desktop, and other data and audio features.
"The additional 1061 cable was something I learned from my previous building," notes Maaskant. "Because of my experiences with the 384A video adapter, I wanted the same flexibility to easily patch video to any location for special events. I also wanted to avoid the requirement of fiber transceivers when going vertically from one floor to another." A 25-pair systimax scs 1061 PowerSum cable between floors was an inexpensive way to do that. Emory recovered the extra cost when it used the first pair for an Integrated Services Digital Network (isdn) patch to the new Bloomberg terminal. A second pair delivers isdn to each floor for video-teleconferencing.
Saving real estate
More savings resulted from the decision to use Lucent`s Optispeed LC connectors for the fiber-cable terminations throughout the building. The LC connector is located in every office and cubicle within the school as well as in public teaching rooms, laboratories, conference rooms, and open areas. The choice of the LC connector reduced the number of line interface units (lius) by one in every voice/data closet (a total of five) compared to the greater space requirement for ST and SC connectors. This real estate savings extended to the racks and lius in the closets as well as to the faceplates throughout the building.
The modularity of the LC connector enabled installers to bypass patch cables and go directly from the horizontal cabling in the liu to the hub by simply removing the jacket in the liu connect. An Optispeed fiber solution is economically feasible in the riser and campus backbone due to the higher bandwidth requirements. The Power-Sum solution was the most economical choice for the horizontal application because of the lower anticipated bandwidth.
"Reports from the installers are that the LC connector is easier to install, making the job go much faster," says Maaskant. "The connectors have proven to be very robust. We were also convinced that any new fiber nics [network interface controllers] would probably take advantage of the new streamlined design of the LC connector."
There are five voice/data closets, one on each floor. The vertical data backbone collapses to the fourth-floor voice/data closet. From that closet, there is a fiber loop to the server room about 50 feet away. There is also an audiovisual control room--the hub for video distribution to the classrooms, seminar rooms, and auditorium--located on the first floor, adjacent to the voice/data closet.
Horizontal data delivery
The building has tremendous variety in horizontal data delivery. Each of the 98 offices and 44 cubicles in the building has two PowerSum unshielded twisted-pair (utp) ports and one Optispeed LC fiber-optic port. Each faculty and staff member receives 10-Mbit/sec switched Ethernet service to the desktop (the equivalent of the entire network capacity in the old building). Notebook PC access is via the dynamic host control protocol on a separate Ethernet local area network (lan) that allows anyone with notebooks to connect from anywhere within the building. The typical application is moving a notebook from the office to the classroom. About 40% of business school faculty and staff use portable notebooks and docking stations as well as their notebook to connect from home or travel. Traffic also is separated into Ethernet lans by floors and centralized server-room resources.
Public connectivity is primarily shared 10-Mbit/sec Ethernet, with no more than 36 ports on a shared 10-Mbit/sec segment. Emory opted to use the telephone company`s adapters to avoid purchasing additional hubs and cards for classroom connectivity and public access. Currently one of the eight case-study classrooms has connectivity to the desktop (64 seats). The executive classroom (96 seats) also has technology to the desktop. Infrastructure for the remaining seven classrooms is in place, and terminating the 448 additional connects is under serious consideration. "The telephone company adapters work well for classroom connectivity," says Maaskant. "I am not sure we will use the adapter when we provide data to the desktop for the remaining classrooms because the added cost for traditional connectivity allowing us to dedicate higher throughput is not that great." Public areas include student banquettes, or booths, on the first floor; the Jenkins Student Commons; and 13 breakout rooms where students can work in case-study groups. There is also connectivity in the outside courtyard.
The computing center is a fully modular lab with 35 multimedia-capable PCs and network connectivity for notebook use. Service to the desktop varies, including shared 10-Mbit/sec, switched 10-Mbit/sec, and shared and switched 100-Mbit/sec capabilities. Because of the backbone hardware design, flexible service in the lab is easy to achieve. The room is lined with PowerSum and LC fiber connects, and small hubs are located in some places to provide additional connectivity. The lab is furnished with standard tables containing wire management that can be easily rearranged. Movable tables in the center of the rooms have seven PowerSum utp cables, one LC fiber connector, and one voice termination for casual notebook connectivity. That`s similar to the configuration in each of the 13 breakout rooms and 2 small conference rooms.
The school had good experience experimenting with wireless technology and the Lucent Wavelan hub before moving to the new building. The hub can be easily relocated when convenient and can accommodate radio-wave nics in notebooks for impromptu applications in the building or courtyard. "We expect that radio waves will be used more frequently once student notebook connectivity becomes well-established," says Maaskant. "Our first serious application is a mobile lab for open-area vendor demonstrations and special training applications."
Standard to Emory`s new campus construction is a 96-multimode-fiber and 48-singlemode-fiber cabling plant. Also standard are 16 broadband connects to every floor. "The business school benefited from the direction and aggressive approach of the Emory campus networking-technologies group responsible for connectivity to the campuswide network backbone," notes Maaskant. "There was no question we would begin by delivering shared 155-Mbit/sec atm via the fiber-optic vertical backbone within the building." The Emory standard is currently 100-Mbit/sec Fast Ethernet as a connection to the campuswide backbone, but it soon will be delivering atm OC-3 to the business school, with the backbone upgrade nearing completion.
The information center on the fourth floor has voice/ video/data connectivity for specialized applications, multimedia use, video development, technology investigation, distance-learning trials, and small-group training. isdn lines feed the building and terminate in the audiovisual control room on the first floor. From there, video can be patched to any room in the building for teleconferencing, distance-interviewing, distance-learning, and satellite receipt of requested programs. Four interview rooms are set up with permanent teleconferencing capabilities. For additional flexibility, broadband is distributed to every classroom and to the voice/data closet on every floor. Mobile or fixed video transmit/receive equipment in the closets can be used to patch video via fiber or copper cable anywhere on any floor.
Back to future-proofing
Classroom instruction has changed dramatically in recent years. Changes include regular access to the Internet, the use of a document camera for image projection instead of creating overheads, access to software packages used in the curriculum, and increased use of online PowerPoint presentations and real-time modeling with Excel and more-specialized software. Some faculty members merely change the font size of their Web browser, online Word, or current word-processor files; project these in place of slides; and type significant points rather than write on the blackboards or whiteboards. Another very popular application is videotaping lectures and presentations.
Classroom technology was by far the most visible and glamorous of the many new capabilities throughout the building, Maaskant explains. All PCs in the computing lab, classrooms, and the 200-seat auditorium are 266-megahertz Pentiums with 64-megabyte ram, cd-roms, 2-gigabyte hard drives, highest-quality video capabilities, and Zip drives. The lab machines, classroom computers, and breakout-room computers are identical to avoid software version conflicts when moving from one machine to another. All this hardware is connected to the network. Instructor-desk PCs currently receive 10-Mbit/sec switched-Ethernet service. These classroom and breakout-room PCs soon will be converted to 25-Mbit/sec atm to take advantage of video-on-demand of taped lectures and special presentations.
All classrooms have high-resolution, ceiling-mounted 1000-lumen projectors and full audiovisual capabilities. Electronic instructor desks have audio, video, data, and voice connectivity and are equipped with a PC, vcr, and document camera. There is also a connection for a notebook, separate audio, a modem, isdn, and additional power. All these systems, as well as lighting and shades, are easily controlled through a touch-panel control system from both the wall and a movable radio control unit.
Instructors can toggle from one input source to another during instruction. Two classroom/seminar rooms have video-recording capabilities. By July, the distance-learning component of the building will offer full broadcast video capabilities and two-way video teleconferencing from two classrooms, the auditorium, and the executive commons on the fifth floor.
The network`s greatest claim to success is the fact that it requires little attention. "After everyone became accustomed to the significant increase in speed, the infrastructure was barely mentioned," observes Maaskant. "The ability to effortlessly connect from anywhere inside or outside, home or office, is now assumed. The school is moving rapidly into video applications and all is still quiet. Perhaps this is the greatest testimonial to a world-class infrastructure."
Emory University students connect their notebooks to the network to do case study work.
Pictured is a typical wire management hub in the voice/data closet. The line interface unit shows vertical multimode fiber connecting to a hub atm card and LC connectors.
A typical office outlet shows terminations for voice (with three possible additional terminations), Category 5 utp cable, and for an LC fiber connector.
Instructor desks have network, cable, and isdn access. A PC, vcr, notebook computer, and document camera are controlled via a Wavelan handheld remote control unit, and information is projected on a larger screen using a 1000-lumen projector.