Matt Brunk
Matt Brunk has worked in past roles as director of IT for a multisite health care firm; president of Telecomworx,...
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Matt Brunk | October 22, 2012 |


Campus Infrastructure: Initial Effort

Campus Infrastructure: Initial Effort Campus locations offer challenges, rewards and more convergence opportunities that prove the value of IP.

Campus locations offer challenges, rewards and more convergence opportunities that prove the value of IP.

Still my favorite projects involve campus locations, probably because they offer challenges, rewards and more convergence opportunities that prove the value of IP.

We always begin with the top key issues, and this particular campus had three core issues: latency, inconsistency and reliability. The site survey reveals surface issues, not necessarily issues you discover until you look deep into the site by doing the work itself. Ask a contractor to repair a weak floor that may seem on the surface a small job, until the old damaged flooring is removed to reveal a weak support system.

In this particular campus, the education wing is a collection of construction projects that expanded the property over decades of growth. The original building was added onto through three different building cycles, including two new buildings. Underground electrical conduits connect two buildings, while additional buildings maintain their own separate utilities and services. There are two key closet (IDF) locations, each very limited in space.

First we documented the general cable layout and drops available in each area, including classrooms, noting the free-flung cables extending over the ceiling tiles to teacher "centers." Next we measured the distance between closets--and I always take three measurements, especially whenever it involves fiber. We also use the fire escape plan (that all schools have) to help place WiFi access points and to gauge the overall effort.

We used "vertical wall racks" that hang on plywood or block, support 60 pounds of gear and 6U of rack space: 2U for the UPS; 1U for the Surge Protection Device (SPD); 1U for the non-PoE switch; 1U for the PoE switch; and 1U spare.

Next, we replaced the IDF unmanaged switches with Adtran 1534 series that provide four additional ports for fiber transceivers or uplink kits. We assigned a new subnet to all the switches in both IDFs and reconnected all the patch cords, knowing that later we would need to move switch ports.

While ping times improved, quirky behavior on the network didn't go away. What we found were two subnets being used: one for the church and one for the school. Then, we found that the DHCP server was the FREE Verizon FIOS router and it was simply overburdened.

Once fiber cable was ordered, the Sonicwall firewall was introduced and assumed the role of DHCP server and in locking down the site. We returned and examined the traffic and found a couple of network loops and removed them; traced them back to a student computer lab and then reconfigured the lab.

Then we installed fiber and--take note--there is no such thing as indoor fiber that runs through outdoor conduit, meaning: use multipurpose cable, Indoor/Outdoor. Then if the cable runs through plenum or non-plenum ceiling determines the next requirement of the cable jacket--CMR (Communications riser cable) or CMP (Communications plenum cable). Cable that is installed in space that is used for air circulation for HVAC that provides airflow must be plenum rated.

There are three separate electrical systems in two buildings. Power transients won't traverse fiber and damage gear, but they will do so on copper. Then because of the distance between the IDFs and because of convergence projects noted, we opted for 10-Gig fiber. At implementation we are only using 1-Gig transceivers and still have available pairs and additional slots for either 1 or 2.5-Gig transceivers that we can aggregate (802.3ad) and trunk in the switches.

We don't use fish tapes in all conduits; in this instance we used the conduit-rodder because of distance and the rise on each end of the conduit reaching about 9 feet above the floor. We added cable lubricant and pushed the rodder through. Next, we tied off nylon pull string to the rodder's pulling eye and connected the pull string to the fiber-cable pulling eye. Then we connected a separate continuous pull string to the fiber-cable pulling eye. This string is for future use after it is successfully back-pulled with the fiber. Removing the rodder entails using mechanic rags found at office supply and discount warehouses to wipe away the cable lubricant.

After connecting fiber, we did some basic ping tests, checked the port statistics and traffic and made note of what we saw along the way of switches, hubs and devices added in different rooms and offices.

Upon returning, we installed access points (AP's) and removed numerous retail WiFi routers, hubs and switches. After we installed the last AP, we ran WireShark and found an infected workstation. We added HP IntelliJacks in classrooms and other work areas. These IntelliJacks are powered via PoE from the switch stack, not local power. We installed 11 APs (802.11n) and may need to install two or three more after the next construction project scheduled to add more space.

The next couple of months that follow will involve workstation replacement and cleanup. The school plans to add whole-panel protectors on each subpanel. The aging phone system is no longer a source of worry since the infrastructure is now in place to support an IP solution campus wide. The school already has about 50 iPads that they've held off on deploying until the initial improvements were made.

What we accomplished in three days wasn't magic. The campus now has in place a fiber backbone network that we will extend to other buildings and into the new construction area for the school. The managed switches provide statistics, VLANs and other features and are power protected with UPS. The initial WiFi in place is about 80% penetration of the entire school. HP IntelliJacks provide needed receptacles in classrooms and work areas to the network without the added costs of re-cabling. The campus has a migration path and one network with many uses and fewer vendors. Legacy gear is a given but with a solid backbone network in place, just having the availability to migrate is another worry removed.


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