Arts College Designs High-Tech Network For Voice, Data And Video

Known for its art, design, architecture and film studies, the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) may not be what comes to mind first when thinking of high-tech campuses. However, the private college has built a savvy, high-speed IP network that supports thousands of students and faculty across multiple campuses, including a multitude of applications including voice, rich media, high-definition video, computer clusters, or render farms built to render computer-generated imagery (CGI) and m

February 8, 2010

4 Min Read
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Known for its art, design, architecture and film studies, the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) may not be what comes to mind first when thinking of high-tech campuses. However, the private college has built a savvy, high-speed IP network that supports thousands of students and faculty across multiple campuses, including a multitude of applications including voice, rich media, high-definition video, computer clusters, or render farms built to render computer-generated imagery (CGI) and more.

"Technology is one of the core strengths of the college," says Brad Grant, SCAD's executive director of Campus Technology Systems. "An investment in high-performance networking using products like the Brocade BigIron and SX series devices allow us to extend services like 802.11n networking, render farms, high-definition video storage systems, and voice and video conferencing applications to our entire college community, regardless of location."

Grant says the most powerful proof of the network's efficiency and value is the size of staff relative to the size of the network, which links the Savannah and Atlanta campuses, supports about 10,000 students and 2000 faculty and staff who use it a daily basis, and in Savannah alone, consists of over 100 miles of fiber.

The network also supports students and staff in Lacoste, France where SCAD offers an e-learning program. In the fall of 2010, it will open a satellite campus in Hong Kong. "For this large network, I have a network manager, a voice person and a data person," Grant says. Moreover, thanks to the network's unified communications and converged networking functionality, SCAD's network team can share responsibility; the voice manager can now work with data and data manager can work with voice, boosting operational efficiencies within the team, Grant says.

SCAD's network has evolved from an ATM network built in 1996. In 2001, SCAD deployed traditional telephony on top of the ATM network. In 2003, the college moved its data traffic onto a new Gigabit Ethernet network designed primarily around the spanning tree protocol, utilizing Brocade's FastIron chassis and FastIron edge switches. Two years later, the Gigabit Ethernet network was extended to the Atlanta campus, and in 2006, the college replaced its voice systems with full IP telephony over the network and fully retired its ATM network. "Since then we have redesigned our network as a 10Gb Metropolitan Ring, and today nearly everything connects to our network in some fashion," Grant says. Since 2003, SCAD has spent more than $3.2 million with Brocade (some of that was spent with Foundry Networks before Brocade acquired it in 2008).SCAD's triple-play IP network now consists of Brocade FastIron SX 800 chassis and FastIron CX Power over Ethernet Plus (PoE+) fixed switches, as well as the FastIron GS switch, which supports modular upgradability for speeds of up to 10Gb (gigabit) Ethernet and PoE capability in a 1.5U high form-factor. It features hot-swappable, load-sharing AC and DC power supply options and a variety of security features and automatic healing in case of link or switch failures. SCAD is also using Brocade BigIron switches, which can deliver up to 3.2 Terabits per second of switching capacity and 2.2 Billion packets per second of forwarding performance. The high-availability design of the BigIron switches feature redundant and hot-pluggable hardware, hitless software upgrades, and graceful BGP and OSPF restart, according to Brocade. The college uses Storage Area Networks (SANS) from Compellent at its Savannah and Atlanta campuses, and Brocade 5100 switches for connectivity between its servers and SANS, Grant says.

Such a robust network with high-capacity, availability and redundancy is necessary for SCAD. "With large metropolitan campuses and locations in multiple cities, we rely on our network to extend all types of systems across our enterprise and to build consistency into everything," Grant says. The network is also necessary to continue to roll out new features and functions. "When we roll out a new solution, whether it is online scheduling or e-mail and collaboration enhancements we leverage our network to provide those enhancements enterprise-wide. We can't do that without a stable, scalable, manageable network," he says. Currently, SCAD is prepping its new Hong Kong campus and will install Brocade network equipment there. In addition, it is completing an upgrade from 802.11B/G to 802.11N at its Savannah and Atlanta campuses.

The upgrade to 802.11n will give the college more bandwidth, distance and range, and the 802.11n upgrade is possible thanks to the FastIron CX PoE Plus fixed switch, according to Harry Petty, director of product marketing at Brocade. SCAD was one of the first customers to get that switch, which Brocade begin shipping at the end of July 2009. "PoE Plus was a big consideration enabling them to deploy wireless so students can get access anywhere anytime," Petty says.

 

 

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