Class Act Cabling
"Reading, writing and sneakernet." That was the old motto at New Canaan High School in New Canaan, Conn. "We were operating on sh'estring wiring technology, which we referred to as "sneakernet,'" notes Art Witkowski, district coordinator of technology for New Canaan High School. "Fortunately, in this town there is a unified front in getting technology into the classroom. This has allowed us to become fully wired and ahead of our time."
There will always be reading and writing, but today their networking system has replaced old "sneakernet" wiring with a new high-performance, high-capacity and high-bandwidth networking system to the horizons of advanced education.
"New Canaan is a progressive town. When I designed the system for their high school, I proposed an advanced network system for future scalability to grow as their applications grew," says Donald Bodnar, president of D&D Systems, the communications and engineering firm that originally designed the new networking system. The new cabling infrastructure encompasses a fiber backbone and a beyond-Category 6 horizontal system. This included Berk-Tek LANmark1000 cabling and the Ortronics high-performance, high-capacity, enhanced-frequency GigaMo+ end-to-end channel solution and structured cabling system to handle emerging gigabit technology.
An experienced Ortronics Certified Installation Contractor, Network Installation Services (NIS) of Wallingford, Conn., was awarded the project. "In the high school alone we ran 50 miles of cable, including 600 data connections, 200 voice connections and 230 video broadband connections. Like most schools, the building is primarily concrete and masonry construction. Extensive drilling was required to install sleeves and firestopping material in all fire-rated walls and between floors," explains Robert Walsh, president of Network Installation Services who headed up the installation team.
"Our installation project leader, John Cherry, ran the project smoothly by coordinating with the school's maintenance staff during the summer," continues Walsh. "Most people think that schools are deserted during the summer months, but actually summer school programs, floor strip and wax operations, repairs and painting make it an active work environment. Floor coring and drilling through the walls definitely had to be timed with their schedule."
Making the Connections
The backbone fiber optic cable is terminated in the MTR (Main Telecommunications Room) into an Ortronics ORMMAC 72-port high-density fiber cabinet with SC connectors. From there, 12 strands of multimode fiber go out through inner ducts to the six TRs (Telecommunications Rooms) in the high school, and are connected to Ortronics ORMMAC 36-port fiber cabinets. These are located in the Mighty Mo II cable management and equipment racks.
The horizontal cabling, Berk-Tek's LANmark 1000 Category 6 cable, is connected to the Ortronics enhanced-frequency GigaMo+ Category 6 termination products. This system includes Ortronics GigaMo+ 48-port patch panels with snap-in modules to allow for mixed media (twisted pair, coax or fiber). From the patch panels, the horizontal cables are terminated at each workstation through Ortronics Series II workstation outlets.
"The Series II workstation outlets each contain three dual-port snap-in modules. Depending on the applications, the outlets can also contain any combination of voice, data or video connectors for a total of six ports," says Walsh. Each outlet has seven or eight different configurations, depending on the application, and has a pre-printed identification number that corresponds to its respective port in the telecommunications closets.
A typical workstation in the classroom consists of two ports for data, voice or modem. In many classrooms there are video connectionsfed via RG6 cabling from the TRs. These connections communicate with t he video headend via RG11 cabling. For computer-based group instruction applications requiring high resolution, Ortronics Series II outlets with snap-in II Mini DIN 4-pin and dual RCA Composite audio/visual modules were used.
All cable routing, layout and labeling identification was configured and designed as part of the initial engineering process by D&D Systems. "The extensive documentation has streamlined the entire process. At the approval stage, this documentation allowed the Board of Education to easily review the new infrastructure and construction, which aided in funding," explains district coordinator of technology Witkowski.
"Between the high school, other schools in the town, administration offices and town offices, we have over 4,000 users on approximately 2,000 drops on the WAN, all with Internet access," says Witkowski. "All grading, scheduling and accounting is tied into the central office of the Board of Education, which is two and a half miles away. We tied all our WAN connections together through the local phone system utilizing T-1."
LAN segments are separated by using VLAN technology, because it allows the school and town offices to use a standard cabling platform while providing security to keep the files separate. This is essential to keep students from accessing administration files.
"With our upgraded cabling system, we also manage broadband video distribution through the two-way video headend room," adds Witowski. "This allows a teacher to broadcast classes through the use of a sub-band modulator, upstream to the video headend. These classes can then be redistributed throughout the school, effectively creating our own television intranet."
Witowski's plans for the future of New Canaan are clear. "Our goal for the next year is to be fully networked in this school and in this community. In the spring we will be trenching to install underground fiber optic cable between municipal offices and schools. This fiber will act as the backbone for our private WAN. Once it is implemented, the town can realize substantial cost savings due to the elimination of leased T1 lines. This will also allow voice-over IP and multicast video applications to be converged with our data network. Next, we would like to migrate gigabit networking to the desktop so we can broadcast full-motion video over our data network where applicable."
Bodnar notes that New Canaan is setting the pace for other similar towns. "Town managers and planners are beginning to look at the lifetime costs of a network, rather than just the initial installation cost. The only significant initial costs are in installing the cabling, hardware and labor. By installing a modular and flexible cabling infrastructure system available today, school systems and towns, such as New Canaan, are realizing the long-term benefit of being able to support higher data-rate systems without re-cabling or unnecessary capital investments in the future."
New London, CT
This article originally appeared in the 06/01/2000 issue of THE Journal.