This article originally appeared in the Sept. 2012 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY
Rowan-Cabarrus Community College in North Carolina offers more than 2,000 courses to a yearly enrolment exceeding 22,000 students. Its courses include fully accredited associate degree programs in more than 40 areas including arts and sciences, business, information technology, health and public services, engineering technologies, and biotechnology.
In 1991, RCCC became the state’s first multi-campus community college when it opened its 24-acre South Campus, 20 miles south west of its North Campus in Salisbury. Since then, the college has continued to grow, opening four new sites in the area of Concord and Kannapolis. This strategy of expansion and improvement continues in the current eight-year forward plan.
In the past, when new sites were added to the college, each one built its own individual network infrastructure. As a result, the college had no common standard for connectivity to serve its students and staff, or its data centers. There was a mix of cabling solutions across the six sites and responsibility for supply and maintenance lay with several different organizations.
By 2010, inconsistent cabling was causing some serious system issues and its various suppliers were making troubleshooting a difficult process. For the next phase of the college’s development, its president, her cabinet and the senior leadership team were determined to remedy this.
To find the optimum solution for its future connectivity, the college enlisted the help of VuePoint Consulting, a holistic technology specialist with expertise in network infrastructure, access control, surveillance, higher education audio-visual systems and data center and computer room design. A key part of the firm’s brief was to compile a shortlist of single source suppliers that could meet all structured cabling needs on every site for the foreseeable future.
“With help from VuePoint, we aimed to choose the best infrastructure supplier for our new desktop strategy and all other connectivity needs at RCCC,” says Bill Plyler, associate chief information officer, who led the project. “With our increasing emphasis on technology-based education, we need a network infrastructure that helps unify the many different IT systems essential to implement our plans for the future.
“Every low voltage application across all our sites will be migrated to communication using Internet protocol, so we need structured cabling that really delivers in this environment – and we need it to be right the first time.”
The college’s plans included the introduction of Windows-based, thin client devices connected via gigabit Ethernet. This system, in particular, demands reliable, high performance network infrastructure to ensure fast access for staff and students across the campuses.
After analyzing the requirements in cooperation with senior college staff, VuePoint recommended an end-to-end, single source infrastructure from CommScope. Having compared the short listed suppliers, it chose CommScope for its extensive, integrated range of proven, high performance copper and fiber solutions. Installation and support by certified business partners, and CommScope’s warranties were also key factors in the decision.
The college chose Performance Cabling Technologies, a CommScope BusinessPartner based in Asheboro, N.C., to carry out the installation. During the project, Performance worked closely with VuePoint consultants who handled design and project management of the network infrastructure. The installation team varies in size according to the stages reached in the project but, at any time, there may be as many as 20 technicians and engineers deployed at the college. In total, the multiple buildings on the six sites have more than 500,000 square feet of floor space and almost all of this will eventually be re-cabled. At the time of writing, 2,000 outlets have been connected with the new CommScope cabling.
In many cases, old cabling have to be removed from existing conduits and additional cableways installed within and between buildings. Added to this, the new cabling is often laid as part of a full building refurbishment and so has to be scheduled alongside other work. Together with avoiding disruption of academic work, this calls for close coordination between planners, installers and the college.
For backbone connections across the sites and within larger buildings, Performance installed CommScope’s LazrSPEED 300 multimode fiber solution. This exceeds specifications of the OM3 fiber standard, providing 10gbps data transmission speeds over distances up to 300m without need for expensive single mode electronics.
The LazrSPEED backbones link telecommunications rooms located across the sites. According to size, major buildings have between one and five of these rooms equipped with Uniprise Ready patching hardware for fiber connections.The Ready range makes use of MPO connector technology for speed of installation and maintenance.
From the communications rooms, the GigaSPEED XL copper solution is used to connect with outlets throughout the buildings. This solution exceeds specifications of the Category 6 cabling standard and can deliver 1gbps performance from end-to-end in a 100m connection with up to six connectors.
Buildings re-cabled so far on the North and South campuses and the NC Biotechnology
Research Park have between 200 and 500 hundred copper cable connections. Changes to these connections can be made using GigaSPEED XL modular patch panels and cords designed for compatibility with the cable. Design and testing tools developed by CommScope ensure components are manufactured such that end-to-end performance of connections is maintained even under adverse conditions.
Laurie Oswald is North America vice president of sales at CommScope (www.commscope.com).
Edited by Stefania Viscusi