On page 11 of the Plan, the main issues in network infrastructure are identified: VoATM telephony, ATM network backbone, bandwidth and disaster recovery. At present I would like to focus on the two main areas that are targeted by the Net56 proposal and what we’re currently here to review — ATM backbone and bandwidth.
ATM (asynchronous transfer mode protocol) is a data link layer protocol. Its main competitor would be IP (internet protocol) with Ethernet. I say “with” because ATM is a straight to desktop solution, whereas IP is a lower level protocol with an Ethernet data link. If one were go into a local Best Buy or Circuit City and look to purchase networking equipment, everything found there would be IP. The best comparison I can come up with would be the VHS versus Beta war in VCRs in the 80s. In the 90s it was ATM vs IP, and the district deployed its current backbone at the height of that battle. I’m sad to report we went with Beta and everyone is now using VHS. ATM is not a bad solution, in fact, it can be a very good one (Beta was technically superior to VHS), and many telephone companies use it as their backbone. The trouble with it is that it is complex and costly (hence it’s derogatory nickname “All That Money”). Complex and costly would be about the last solution that would fit well with RLAS.
So, this begs the question, what to do? One of my biggest questions for our department right now is where we are at in our ATM to Ethernet conversion. When I’ve been in RLHS, I have noted some hubs on the floor that appear to be Ethernet to me so I’m fairly certain we’ve done some “edge” upgrading. These means putting a single ATM to Ethernet conversion in each of our buildings, which allows us to then deploy Ethernet throughout the building. This appears to be the case, I need some clarification.
One of the big complications is that ATM is not only our data backbone, but the backbone for our telephone system as well. So, converting our backbone to IP requires converting our phone system as well. In other words, the district sank a whole bunch of money into ATM up front, our ATM hardware is now dated, and to switch to IP will be more cost effective but still costly.
Since adoption of the Plan I believe the district has made efforts to increase bandwidth to our various sites. Some confirmation of this is needed. Bandwidth becomes an extremely important issue when looking at potential solutions, such as a “thin client” solution. One of the most costly areas in such a solution is bandwidth because this is a shared computing solution and requires contact with a server for virtually every operation, whereas with a traditional “thick client” structure most operations are performed locally.
Addressing the bandwidth issue takes on many forms and we have two sets of bandwidth issues — internally (between the District Service Center and our various sites) and externally (between the District Service Center and the internet). When looking at increasing bandwidth there are a number of solutions.
Traditionally the district has looked at telephone company based solutions — T1 lines and fiber. However, in recent years other solutions have become available, namely wireless. Some local companies have already been providing wireless broadband solutions to residences in the Round Lake Area so it would seem that living on the prairie that is Illinois could have some advantages, since these solutions require a clear line of sight.
Articles on Education Bandwidth Solutions
North Carolina District Goes Ultra-Broadband
School Works With Comcast & Local Government To Lay Fiber
CNET Education Article On Bandwidth Solutions
Vendor Solutions – Brochures, Case Studies, Press Releases
Comcast Business Solutions – Education & E-rate Overview
CDW (Government) – Lake Forest College Case Study
Extreme Networks – Antioch HS 117 Case Study
Lakota Schools Uses Extreme Networks To Go From ATM to Gigabit Ethernet
Colorodo School District Uses Orthogon Wireless Solution
Montana School District uses RAD Wireless Solution
Cisco Connected Schools Program
Cisco – Austin Independent Schools Case Study
Next Section: Deployment Sustainability