Blazing New Communication Trails

Long Island University serves more than 31,000 students across six metropolitan New York campuses in Brooklyn, Brookville, Southampton, Brentwood, Rockland, and Westchester, as well as a university center. Because it is geographically dispersed, with a single administrative center, inter-campus communications are essential to the smooth functioning of the university.

But we learned that inter-campus communication was also prohibitively expensive and redundant when we began performing a cost analysis to provide insight on how to fund a more sophisticated network. For instance, we found the university network was relying on 27 T1 lines for telephone service, 21 T1 lines for data and two T3 lines for Internet. This TDM-based connectivity was costing the university more than $29,000 a month with four service providers.

What is Gigabit Ethernet?

Gigabit Ethernet is a transmission technology based on the Ethernet frame format and protocol used in local area networks (LANs), which provides a data rate of one billion bits per second (one gigabit). Gigabit Ethernet is defined in the IEEE 802.3 standard and is currently being used as the backbone in many enterprise networks. Gigabit Ethernet is carried primarily on optical fiber (with very short distances possible on copper media). Existing Ethernet LANs with 10 and 100Mbps cards can feed into a Gigabit Ethernet backbone. — WhatIs.com

We believed that a Gigabit Ethernet (GigE) network would eliminate the prohibitive T3 loop charges and provide the infrastructure to support the distance learning initiatives the university was eager to deploy, but we needed to develop an ROI model that would help those in charge of writing the checks to see how the initial cost outlay would translate, in the long term, into greater cost savings and efficiencies.

For help with the GigE network—as well as the ROI model—Long Island University turned to Lightpath, the business telecommunications services division of Cablevision Systems Corporation. Long Island University and Lightpath designed a metropolitan GigE system that interconnects the once disparate networks into a single larger geographically defined network—linking the C.W. Post (Brookville), Brooklyn and Southampton campuses via a 2.5Gbps (OC-48) optical network—and creates the first end-to-end educational network on Long Island.

The added bandwidth supports IP telephony for intra-campus, inter-campus and long-distance communications. It allows Long Island University to move from its TDM-based distance-learning program, which is distracting and difficult to watch because of the “Max Headroom”-like delays between sound and picture—to a premium, jitter-free model. The new fiber optic network supports video broadcasting which, among other exciting possibilities, allows Long Island University to broadcast graduations online so that friends and families throughout the nation can log in and participate, should they not be able to visit in person. Long Island University’s radio station, will also gain a ubiquitous presence by the additional speed acquired.

We initially positioned the Metro GigE connection to the university as a cost-saving initiative. If you have a strong relationship with your telecommunications provider, such as the one we have with Lightpath, you actually make them a partner that can show you how to add service without adding cost. The additional cost-cutting allowed LIU to have the funds to invest in a back-up fiber optic provider in case of primary link failure.

For example, Lightpath provided Long Island University with an analysis of the pre-GigE inter-campus telephone patterns that helped us build the case for a GigE investment. With Lightpath’s help, we identified approximately $2,000 that was being spent on calls going from Southampton to Brooklyn each month and nearly as many coming back from the Brooklyn campus during the same period. That analysis helped us sell the pitch for the Metro GigE investment because we could prove that the initial outlay would eventually recoup—in Brooklyn/ Southampton telephone calls alone—nearly $4,000 a month.

It’s imperative to have a vendor that has a staff capable of delivering according to your individual topography. One of the ways we did that with Lightpath was to go to technical meetings with their senior engineers. In doing so, we became confident that Lightpath could deliver what we expected of them. These site visits were extremely important as they enabled us to see firsthand how their Network Operations Center was run. In addition, we were able to observe a site at which a similar initiative had been rolled out. It was an invaluable part of the process.

Ultimately, by looking backward and forward with equal measure, and by trusting the right partner, the road ahead wasn’t so much about doing more with less, as is so often the case these days, but rather doing more for less.

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