School Is in Session for the Passive Optical Network

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By: Larry Loeb|

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The White Plains School District has big plans for its 7,000 students. It wants them to be able to link up, learn and collaborate with their school-provided laptops or tablets.

Doing that amount of connecting was a burden that needed a solution — but it had to be one that didn’t strain the school district’s financial or infrastructural resources. That’s where IBM’s passive optical network came into play.

What MIS Does for White Plains

The district’s management and information systems (MIS) group supports more than 4,000 networked devices across the district’s nine schools and three office locations.

Core to their capabilities is the district’s local area network (LAN). Ron Velez, MIS director for the White Plains School District, recognized the size of the problem. He stated, “We need a robust, reliable network infrastructure that can provide the bandwidth for these technologies plus a growing number of devices and applications.”

Upgrading the existing LAN with copper was going to be too costly. White Plains needed something that would meet its needs without busting the budget.

The answer was Gigabit Passive Optical Network (GPON) technology from IBM.

Why a Passive Optical Network?

“A GPON uses less equipment than a copper network, so we can reduce installation costs and avoid expenditures for switching, cooling and battery equipment,” Velez explained. “Using fiber also gives us better flexibility and scalability. Making changes or increasing bandwidth does not require replacing fiber, just changing the equipment at either end.”

IBM’s Global Technology Services team took on the project management chores, as well. “The IBM GTS team led us through each phase of the project, including connecting with the right vendors, designing the network and setting up a proof of concept in a high school classroom,” said Velez. “This is new technology to us, so having an experienced, knowledgeable team to help oversee the project was critical.”

Since the installation of a passive optical network would save 30 to 50 percent in construction costs alone compared to a copper-based solution, capital costs were greatly reduced. Ongoing costs like electrical and cooling were also reduced, freeing up resources that could be used directly on hardware for students.

Since there is less equipment to manage, administration costs were reduced, as well. As a bonus, the advanced encryption standard (AES) used in the system ensures compliance with student data protection policies.

Designing for the Future

White Plains knows that it is prepared for whatever the future holds. “The demand for network resources will continue to grow, and the schoolwork will continue to change,” Velez said. “The new network gives us more flexibility and scalability to accommodate that change. After working with IBM, we are much better prepared for whatever lies ahead.”

If you’re considering adapting a new network for your organization or simply want more information about this example, read the entire case study “Enhancing the educational experience in the White Plains School District.”

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