Grayslake High School's Infrastructure Goes Wireless to Cope With Growth

As any academic computing administrator knows, classroom computer labs are forever changing. Curriculum, space constraints and class size all conspire to outdate a lab no sooner than the last wire is strung. In addition, the perfect site for a computer lab may not be easily wired for local area networks. At Grayslake High School in Grayslake, Ill., administrators found a technology that is adaptable to the dynamic needs of education. Pressured by an expected doubling of enrollment in the next three years, the school has embarked on an ambitious remodeling and renovation project that keeps even the most permanent of all school facilities-the library- in a state of flux until all work is completed. "We'll grow from 1,000 to nearly 1,900 students over the next few years," says Tom Janiak, Grayslake's media coordinator. "During that time, we also need to increase our academic and administrative computing capabilities." A Wireless Solution Using wireless products from Zenith Data Systems (ZDS), of Buffalo Grove, Ill., Janiak has set up multiple computer labs without stringing more cable. One temporary lab houses 24 ZDS Z-SELECT PCs wirelessly networked to a ZDS Z-SERVER running NetWare 3.12. Because cabling was not an issue, the labs are comprised of six computing islands, each accommodating four students. No wires hang from the ceiling and no cables run along the floors. The ZDS CruiseLAN network consists of an transmitter/receiver ISA card in each workstation and a host transmitter/receiver adapter networked to the main server. The classroom server is tied into the facility-wide network via a coaxial cable backbone. The ISA card is part of a full line of high-speed wireless LAN products introduced by Zenith Data Systems last fall. Also available is a PCMCIA adapter for notebook computers. CruiseLAN products deliver 1.6 Mbps direct-connect performance in client- server and peer-to-peer networks on a variety of operating systems and wired protocols. The spread-spectrum, frequency-hopping technology of the CruiseLAN makes wireless LAN capacity transparently secure, with both hardware and software encryption. Plus, the product's 15-channel capability allows multiple LANs to operate in the same physical space without sacrificing performance. Janiak says the wireless labs have given Grayslake the mobility and flexibility to cope with ongoing construction and renovation projects. For example, he points to one lab that will be moved into the library once the space opens up. "This lab will be housed in one end of the library with partitions separating it from the main collection," Janiak says. "Once we move this lab to that site it will also become a CD-ROM, electronic reference and Internet resource for the school." As new computer classrooms are built, they too will be wirelessly connected to the network. "We'll have two additional labs once we've completed our project, with a total of three new Z-SERVERs and up to 100 Z-SELECT PCs connected with CruiseLAN." In addition, Janiak has installed new administrative servers and desktops-all wirelessly connected to the LAN. He notes that the CruiseLAN products suit many applications: where running physical wire is not feasible (buildings with asbestos insulation), for quick workgroup setups (temporary workstations for consultants), and where users need to access the network while roaming (medical facilities or the warehouse). At project completion, Grayslake High School will have tripled its computing power, with the infrastructure in place to support even further growth. "This is one of the fastest growing counties in the U.S.," notes Janiak. "We need to be prepared."

This article originally appeared in the 10/01/1995 issue of THE Journal.