Universal IP at Last
- By Wendy Chretien
There’s no end to what you can do over IP. Prepare your network,
take our test, and go!
Heard the one about the New Age appliance repair person who shows up unexpectedly
at the door, and tells the housewife, “Your fridge e-mailed me”?
Well, now there really are networked, IP-enabled refrigerators.
Your campus may be in the same situation. Traditionally, there have been many
devices and systems running independently, and using separate cabling and control
systems. You now need to prepare to integrate many of these systems into your
data or IP-based networks.
Why You Should IP-Enable These Systems Networked systems allow for remote device
management and troubleshooting, in effect permitting a systems administrator
anywhere on campus (or off, for that matter) to manage and support the systems.
For management consolidation. Devices can be managed from the operations center,
rather than by walking around, saving time and effort.
For cabling standardization. Separate systems and groups of components can
share the same types of wires. This can help contain costs and improve aesthetics
in new construction and remodeling projects.
IP-enabled systems can be set up to proactively send notifications when help
is needed re: environmental conditions, lamp replacement, or fan/filter cleaning.
Many systems link to e-mail or text pagers, to alert managers about issues needing
attention. This proactive communication can minimize classroom downtime and
may also prolong the effective life of devices.
IP is standards-based. This fosters the ability to interconnect many types
of systems, and avoids proprietary-type control issues and costs.
There is global acceptance of IP as a transport mechanism, permitting the vendors
to offer their wares to a larger market, consequently driving down costs.
While voice over IP (VoIP) is the current attention-getter, there are new applications
for IP integration, including:
Video (with audio), both one-way broadcast and
Building Automation systems (control and management
of heating/cooling and lighting management systems)
Physical security systems (cameras and security
Multimedia systems (projectors, monitors—any
device that has an Ethernet/IP connection or a serial connection)
Candidates Make It to the Campus
Video over IP. Back in ’99, Northcentral Technical College
(WI) pioneered a video-over-IP network on a US campus. The new system was designed
for live distance learning courses across several campuses, and the transport
between buildings became IP, replacing an analog video system from the ’80s.
It worked out so well that VoIP was added onto the system later. NTC chose Cisco
Systems (www.cisco.com) for
the network electronics and subsequent IP phones. Polycom (www.polycom.com)
was ultimately selected for the video encoding/decoding units (codecs); Tandberg
also deemed acceptable.
Streaming video and/or audio is another IP application
and already common in higher education. One such application is in evidence
at Washburn University (KS), where courses are streamed “on demand”
to on-campus network users. A student who misses a class can view that session
(with “pause” and “rewind” capabilities) from any networked
computer, whenever convenient.
Video conferencing is another angle for video over
IP. Desktop video conferencing is designed for one-on-one use, but there are
systems for multiple users as well, often referred to as “room-based”
video conferencing. Many of the traditional voice/telephone companies now play
in this market.
IP-connected projectors. Still another IP application
is that of projectors that have built-in Ethernet/IP connections. Some of these
devices can even tell you how many hours of lamp life have been used, and notify
the administrator/technician when it’s time for routine maintenance. Certain
projectors also offer optional wireless LAN cards. The next big thing is delivering
content to the projector over the LAN, rather than using analog or direct digital
graphics cabling. In 2003, UC San Diego installed Sony (www.sony.com)
SuperSmart projectors in a new engineering building, with this in mind. Each
projector has an IP address and industry-standard CAT-5 interface for direct
LAN connection, allowing presentations to be sent via Ethernet. These projectors
also ease maintenance and upkeep by communicating with service and support technicians
via Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) messaging. Manufacturers include Barco
(www.barco.com), Sanyo (www.sanyo.com),
Epson (www.epson.com), NEC
(www.nec.com), and Sony. Interested
in this feature? You’ll need to note that, currently, only a few projector
models are IP-enabled, so check before ordering, and remember to add that Ethernet
outlet in the right spot.
Security cameras. Security is another hot topic,
with new security cameras that utilize IP to deliver video images back to a
switcher and/or DVR. Then too, security control panels and other security devices
are also becoming IP-compatible. Security personnel can now control pan-tilt-zoom
cameras and recall stored video from any convenient desktop. Some manufacturers
with IP-enabled cameras: Sony, Sanyo, Toshiba (www.toshiba.com),
and JVC (pro.jvc.com).
Control help. Another useful option for remote management
of any serial device is Ethernet/IP boxes that have a serial interface (e.g.,
RS-232) for sending commands from a control system to a device that d'es not
already have an Ethernet/IP connection. Crestron (www.crestron.com)
and Extron (www.extron.com) are two manufacturers
with products in this arena. Columbia University (NY), University
of Wisconsin, UC-Davis, (CA) and Sheridan
College (WY) are just a few examples of schools using Crestron IP-based
Now, the only question is: Is your network infrastructure ready for the influx
of IP-connected devices and services? Some of the new applications, such as
security, are in the life-safety category and require a highly reliable network.
Voice and video traffic have additional needs for timely delivery.
The Final Exam
You’re ready for Universal IP, but is your network? Ask yourself the
following six questions:
1—What level of redundancy d'es your network incorporate?
Do you have secondary power sources such as UPS and/or a generator? Do network
switches have connections to more than one other device?
2—How much bandwidth is available? Video eats bandwidth like
candy. If you haven’t checked bandwidth availability, now
would be a good time to do it. Need help? Try MRTG, a freeware package for real-time
monitoring of your traffic (mrtg.hdl.com/mrtg.html).
3—Can your current “data” network equipment support
Quality of Service (QoS)? [Definition, courtesy of About.com:
“The goal of QoS is to provide guarantees on the ability of a network
to deliver predictable results. Elements of network performance within the scope
of QoS often include availability (uptime), bandwidth (throughput), latency
(delay), and error rate.”] If you aren’t sure about QoS, ask the
person who configures your network switches.
4—How secure is your network, both from a cyber
and a physical perspective? If you plan to add IP-based life-safety systems
such as fire alarming, this is truly critical.
5—What environmental conditions do your networked devices
live under? If it’s too hot or humid, network equipment
failure rates go up dramatically.
6—Are your people ready? That is, are they up
to speed on things like QoS in the network? If not, now is the time to prepare
them. Alcatel has an easy-to-follow white paper about QoS at www.alcatel.com/industry_analysts/pdf/qos_custper_wp.pdf.
If VoIP is on the horizon, you should also train your network folks on some
of the peculiar requirements of voice systems, such as echo cancellation. A
recommended site for more about VoIP is www.voip-calculator.com/directory.
Did you pass? If not, make your plans and tackle the issues now, so that you,
too, can support outstanding applications on your Universal IP network.