Posted on 2003-12-07
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2010-04-11
I did not see any other specific area to post this question so I will try here.  With school I just started working with a group on a capstone project.  We are going to use Ethernet for our LANs.  There are 4 schools that will be connected through a WAN.  I will not get any blue prints of the schools for six more weeks.  Each school will have 4 labs with 26 computers but I will have to plan for 100% growth within five years.  With using Ethernet in these schools what information should I look for and get about Ethernet.  I do not have all the details yet I just need to get a base developed to build on.  Thanks,

Bill R
Question by:William Richardson

Expert Comment

ID: 9894923
Aquiring blue prints for data outlets would be a great help/start.  Planning is everything, gather as much data as you can even if it takes walking the buildings and making sketches or notes.  Keep in mind that ethernet twisted pair cable runs have a 100m distance limitation.  I prefer to use stackable switches with fiber backbones, making the most of your bandwidth and greatly reducing any distance limitations.  Are there multiple stories in the buildings?  Do you have adaquate spaces set aside for switch gear closets?  There are standards for implementing wiring in commercial buildings.  I don't really think that I can give a complete outline for such a project in a few paragraphs but here are the basics:

1.)  Obtain building drawings or make some.  Layout where data outlets will need to be (now and in the future if possible).  

2.)  Find an area(s) to put your switches, patch panels, etc.  If I have a building diagram that is to scale, I take a compass that is set to a radius of 60 scale meters and draw a circle around your closet locations.  This will give you close approximations for the number of closets and locations.

3.)  Find and plan common wireways throughout the building to distribute your wire runs.  Keep in mind your 100m distance on Cat5, and that also includes the height of the walls, etc...  Also keep in mind that building construction will often have an effect on where you can and cannot make wire runs.

4.)  It is good practice to keep a service loop (extra cable length at one or both ends of the run - factor this into your distances)

My suggestion for a school is to have the work farmed out by a competent contractor.  They should test all cable runs for cross talk, length, and wiring.  
LVL 18

Accepted Solution

chicagoan earned 500 total points
ID: 9894944
Your ethernet cable plant will be the 1st step. Provide ample data connections for the future and get a contractor who will install a guaranteed "certified installation". Leviton, Belden and Lucent have such programs and it will make your life a lot easier. Go for a gigabit installation. Cat5E or 6. If possible home run all the connection to one closet.

The second step will be your switches. Again plan for the future. Five years is a long time but if you put in GIGe and modular switches with empty slots for expansion. If you have to use satellite closets, get multiple fiber connections on GIGe between them and the central switch, even if you're using 100BaseT to the desktop.

The third step will be your routers. Many areas have fiber initiatives for education you may be able to avail yourself of, don't assume the telco is the only provider. You may find using VPNs over a MAN vs point to point links more economical. Once you know how your WAN links will be provisioned, you can select routers and firewalls.

LVL 35

Expert Comment

ID: 9895097
Assuming that this is not a test question or help with a thesis or some-such educationally-related topic, but is strictly a network design issue for a production environment...

You have to start with the basics.  4 schools, assumed to be geographically diverse, means a WAN connecting four campus locations.

4 labs within each location, potentially physically separated between buildings, means a campus LAN or MAN.

26 computers per lab, means a wiring rack with a patch panel and at least one piece of network equipment per location.

You have to further define 100% growth.  There are various ways that can be calculated, depending on how growth is defined.  If it is defined as 100% growth in sites, that would mean 4 more geographically-diverse schools added to the WAN.  If it is 100% growth in availability per site, that means adding 4 more labs per school.  If it means 100% growth in access per lab, that means 26 more computers per lab.  100% overall growth would imply a combination of growth in all of the areas to a total of twice the initial capacity.

If you limit the growth to the 4 initial geographically-diverse campuses, you would have to allow for an additional 104 total users at each campus. Assuming that limitation, you would need to know if that growth entails a fourfold increase in labs, a twofold increase in computers per lab, or what combination of the above.

In order to effectively allow for a 100% growth, unless all geographical and building-specific factors are a constant, it is very difficult to arrive at your solution.

You should be able to factor in a fiber-optic cable campus LAN at each site, with multiply-redundant links to each computer lab.  That, depending on the fiber-optic cable type in use and how many physical fiber-optic pairs are run, will determine the capacity of each computer lab.

Depending on the desired bandwidth per connection at each lab, you could either establish a patch panel with Category 5e or Category 6 UTP cable runs to the 26 stations, with a switch or router with an adequate number of available ports to service the wired drops, or if gigabit is required, fiber-optic runs to each individual station.  That patch panel at each location would be linked via the redundant fiber-optic links to a central location for the campus, which would then be linked via WAN technologies to the other campuses.

Do you get the picture?  It all depends on where the growth might be.  If you add a lab to another building on campus, you're looking at another fiber run from the central location to the building housing the lab, with a patch panel and cable drops to the workstations.  If you simply add workstations to the same lab, you only have to add devices (switch, hub) to the wiring rack, and additional cable drops from the wiring rack to the workstation locations.

The biggest issues will be security, routing, firewalling, and WAN bandwidth.  The campus LAN should be a walk in the park.

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LVL 18

Expert Comment

ID: 9896055
>if gigabit is required, fiber-optic runs to each individual station.
I'm not sure I'd consider that option in the absence of a hostile environment.
LVL 35

Expert Comment

ID: 9896180
Gigabit over copper has a limited run length and much less tolerance for error than 100-megabit ethernet does.  If you want gigabit to the desktop, the best option would be fiber, unless you can certify each copper run for gigabit.

Expert Comment

ID: 10044489
Going to ITT, eh?  We had the same project.  You'll get an imaginary RFP and little else - it is very difficult to measure/desgin with no real world info (no real buildings) - but our instructors were pretty clueless about some of the solutions we designed. VLANS for the student / teachers, ect ... Good Luck.

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