Nexans completes renovation of entire university campus network
The project to replace and upgrade the entire network has been conducted over the last two and a half years as part of a large scale project designed to upgrade the existing coax infrastructure at the same time as investing in new active data equipment.
The university has been laying coax cabling for Ethernet applications since 1990. Slowly but surely, this coax network expanded throughout the campus with fibre optic cables linking the buildings. In 1996, the university changed over to Fast Ethernet, one of the first in the Netherlands to do so. Then it was still usual to use relatively expensive "routers" to control local network traffic. UvT was one of the first to use "switches" to increase the capacity of the network in this way. This type of segmentation was exceptional because the campus-wide network was not made up of several smaller networks, but actually formed one very large network. Only by means of these "switches" was local traffic kept local.
The end of the existing infrastructure on coax was signalled by the wish to finally bring fast Ethernet (100 Mbps) to all areas. For this wish to be realised, the network had to be modernised and converted from coax network to universal structured cabling system.
A large-scale project commenced resulting in the decision to buy and install new cabling together with new active data equipment.
Look before you leap!
The project was in preparation for approximately two years. From 1997, Mr Van der Walle of UvT invested a great deal of energy into establishing the requirements for a long-lasting network. Several factors had to be considered:
- what type of cable to use -shielded or unshielded?
- What type of network?
- what specifications?
These were some of the questions Mr Van der Walle tried to answer during the preparation period. Together with consultancy firm Tebodin a clear specification was finally reached.
The campus has a very large area and includes various buildings, meaning that there is always renovation going on somewhere.
During renovation, cable ducts are generally open for extensions or adaptations. Cable ducts can normally offer extra protection against outside radiation (EMC), but in this case it was decided that extra shielding requirements were necessary and an FTP Category 5e solution was specified.
The choice of a shielded system involved spending a little extra care and attention on the network earth system to ensure that there were no differences in electrical potential across the infrastructure. With Tebodin's input, this was solved by means of an electrical bonding system to ensure consistent earth potential on the network. This was introduced in parallel with the data cabling system, an arrangement which would benefit both network and computing equipment.
Cable and connector specifications therefore played an important part in the selection process. Not wanting to proceed on the basis of the manufacturers' specifications alone, test reports of independent laboratories were consulted and a supplier shortlist was established. In this way, it was ensured that only fully compliant solutions were considered. The reports of the Danish test laboratory Delta played an especially important role.
In advance of the full installation, work began with a pilot project to gain practical experience of the implications that such a project would entail. UvT and Tebodin used this experience to improve practical planning and logistics issues and also as part of the installer selection process for the main phase.
With the installation of some 12000 connections in eleven buildings over a period of over two years, minimising the disruption to the University staff and students was of paramount importance. Communication was a vital element and to this end, an internal website with information on planning and progress was set up. In addition brochures explaining details of network adaptations and related planning were made available and every housemaster was personally informed in advance with detailed information on the planning for each building. This approach not only resulted in greater understanding, but also increased involvement and cooperation from those affected.
Such a massive, long-term project requires in-depth selection of the party which must carry it out. Consequently, UvT and Tebodin drew up a shortlist of installation companies. These installation companies received an invitation to make an offer on the basis of the specifications. On final selection, not only the cost was considered, but also the presented project approach, the quality of work already carried out, logistical skills and project planning.
Eventually HVL were selected, a large national company (part of TBI Techniek) and who are a Nexans Certified System Installer (CSI).
The logistics and supply of the materials was provided by Nexans distribution partner, Electronics & Telematics.
With the installation successfully completed, Mr Van der Walle believes he made the right choices.
The smooth implementation was a good start but the real proof is confirmed by the speed and reliability of the final system. This was recently demonstrated during a ceremony in which honorary degrees were awarded to Kofie Anan, among others, in the presence of several dignitaries, including Queen Beatrix where the network was used to transmit video images of this event live throughout the university, so that everyone could follow it.
The success of the new network has already started to open up opportiunities which were inconceivable in the past, such as new ideas now being considered to expand learning potential by enabling lectures to be broadcast over the network to a wider audience.
But that is still a thing of the future.
For now Mr Van der Walle is satisfied in the knowledge that UvT has a fast, secure, and reliable network in place which will allow him to start work on future plans - and that is already a real benefit!
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