Routers Bring the Internet & More to Long Beach Unified's WAN

Long Beach Unified School District in southern California has already taken major steps to implement networking to improve administrative and instructional efficiency. The second largest school district in the state, behind only Los Angeles Unified, it has 82 schools and serves over 80,000 students. And it has invested in a variety of networks over the past years. Now the district wished to turn all of those independent networks into a cohesive wide-area network (WAN).

Their reasons were many. First, they wanted to connect the district's 22 elementary schools to its five high schools and approximately 20 administrative sites. The high schools and some of the administrative buildings have IBM AS/400 minicomputers holding data that should be accessible to all sites.

Second, and more important for students, the district wanted to provide Internet access at the elementary school level. Finally, by integrating all schools and administrative buildings into a single, manageable WAN, many operations could be streamlined or automated.

Troy Marshall, Network Support Specialist for Long Beach Unified, summarizes: "WAN connectivity from the administrative buildings down to the elementary schools provides faculty and students with the ability to access administrative and educational resources at all levels."

Preserving Investment

A high priority for the district was to preserve its previous investment in Token Ring technology, which is their backbone network between the high schools and administrative AS/400s. At the same time, they needed to provide connectivity for the Ethernet networks that would link the elementary schools. For help they turned to Andrew Corp., of Orland Park, Ill., a vendor with which they were already familiar.

Long Beach utilized the firm's RouteLynx Ethernet routers to connect each elementary school's Ethernet LAN to a GTE frame relay network. "Frame relay is a WAN technology" notes Marshall, "and an easy way to connect multiple sites at high speed without a lot of duplicate equipment."

The RouteLynx units supplied both the speed and flexibility needed for frame relay. While most district router connections are only 56K now, says Marshall, the RouteLynx products can handle T1.

Their WAN's Nuts & Bolts

In general, the frame relay network links the elementary schools to the high schools' Ethernet LANs. Via Novell SAA Servers' gateway function, a high school Ethernet LAN can interface with its Token Ring LAN and AS/400. Once access to a high school's Token Ring LAN is made, connectivity to the administrative Token Ring LAN is done through a second frame relay network.

This last link is handled with other Andrew Corp. products -- a VR/7488 frame relay switch and a PathWise/7622 remote Token Ring bridge. The frame relay switch let the district create a full-mesh network without having to buy Public Virtual Circuits from the phone company, thus cutting costs.

When a user connects to the central administrative site, direct access (soon to be T1) to the Internet and World Wide Web, as well as to student files and to other administrative applications, is possible.

The RouteLynx units supplied the district with a low-cost solution for routing the TCP/IP (Internet) and IPX (NetWare) protocols to and from the computers in the elementary schools' classrooms and labs.

Plus, the frame relay switch and remote bridges enable teachers or staff to access student records, and students to access instructional software regardless of where they are stored.

In the future, the district plans to exploit the RouteLynx routers three WAN ports and separate Ethernet LAN port, as well as their ability to accept LAN and WAN multi-protocols, for plug-and-play expansion. "It takes us awhile to get anything in," comments support specialist Marshall, "so it has to be pretty expandable."

Choosing the Andrew products was apparently an easy decision. "We already had their local, remote and virtual Token Ring bridge products," says Marshall, "and we've been happy with the support they've given us."

This article originally appeared in the 05/01/1996 issue of THE Journal.