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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 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).

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