Converging on the Future

Lee BelarminoVisions for community colleges to prepare and graduate students for the 21st century global economy are only as viable as the infrastructure to support them. In 2004, San Joaquin Delta College (CA) secured a $275 million bond for new construction. Lee Belarmino, vice president for information technology, describes the converged network Delta built as part of the new construction, which will serve as an enduring IT backbone for the college's longterm growth, no matter what direction it takes.

--"ONE OF THE MAJOR contributions we in IT were able to make to the longterm success of the new buildings relates to what is now known as structured cable design. I had long believed that digital media-- voice, video, and data-- should share the same wiring. But in addition to that, I wanted all other low-voltage systems to share that same infrastructure. Those would include any kind of control systems: Heating and air conditioning, the alarm systems, access control systems, security cameras, fire systems, as well as the telecommunications systems-- voice, video, and data-- now are either digital or are going digital soon, and ultimately should run on the same network. Traditionally, electrical engineers want to set up each of these systems with its own separate wiring, so it took an enormous push on my part to overcome that. We in IT had to insist strongly to them that we were simply going to converge everything onto a single network. But the benefits have been worth the effort we had to put forward to get a true converged network.

Converging on the Future"Now, we are constantly seeing new advantages unfold as we work with the converged network. For example, there are many 'smart building' functions that are enabled as separate systems 'talk' to each other over the converged network. Whenever you schedule a class through the student information system, it will automatically tell our heating and air conditioning energy management system about the schedule for the classroom and handle updates.

"In terms of cost-effectiveness, we've proven that having one converged network is no more expensive than allowing several separate networks for different systems, but the real return is not having to maintain all the separate wiring and media systems. Now all these disparate systems can be maintained on a single network by a single group of us in IT. And with an eye to the future, we can't possibly predict what kinds of systems will be needed... just look at all that has been introduced in the past 10 years. But now we'll be ready for whatever is coming and able to merge it onto the existing data network."

--Interview by Mary Grush

About the Author

Mary Grush is Editor and Conference Program Director, Campus Technology.

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