As Jazz at Lincoln Center prepared to unveil the new Frederick P. Rose Hall last year, IT Associate Director Fred Murphy turned to LightPointe Communications Inc.s Free Space Optics technology to provide high-speed data connectivity between the new facility and the data center in JALCs administrative office building.
The $128 million Rose Hall, in New York City, houses three distinct venues that each can support numerous daily performance events or conferences. However, there was not enough room in the new facility to accommodate the administrative offices, so JALC maintained its offices and data center in the other building.
While each building has its own Internet connection via a T-1 (1.544M-bps) link with New York Public Librarys data center and hosting facilities, Murphy needed a high-speed LAN solution that could connect the two buildings. The solution had to provide enough bandwidth to enable the 20 users stationed at Rose Hall to access JALCs VOIP (voice over IP) network, Microsoft Corp. Exchange services, file and print services, and access to numerous databases—all of which are hosted in the data center across the street.
JALC (www.jalc.org) investigated several common high-speed interbuilding LAN connectivity solutions, but Murphy said he found LightPointes FlightLite-G offered the best mix of low initial cost, high performance, and ease of deployment and ongoing management.
Installing fiber-optic cabling would have provided enough bandwidth between buildings but required getting permission from the city of New York to put a trench under the street. This would have been too costly and time-consuming, Murphy said.
Otherwise, it would have been prohibitively expensive to install the necessary number of T-1 lines between buildings to provide enough bandwidth to support JALCs applications. Likewise, 802.11-based wireless solutions could not handle the traffic load, and Murphy worried that the wireless technology could not provide the reliability required.
Although microwave-based point-to-point solutions were also a possibility, JALC officials were worried about spectrum-licensing difficulties. More important, JALC officials worried about negative PR and feedback from the neighborhood that might come from microwave technology use.
Although LightPointe offers a less expensive 100M-bps FSO (Free Space Optics) system, Murphy went with the FlightLite-G, which supports up to 1.25G-bps throughput over the 60-meter distance between buildings.
LightPointes was the only FSO solution that JALC investigated, although Canon USA Inc. and fSONA Systems Corp. are among a few other vendors that offer FSO-based solutions.
FSO transmits data using beams of light similarly to the way fiber-optic networking works, but without fibers glass medium. FSO requires a constant line of sight for data connectivity and does not require the use of any licensed spectrum.
Weather conditions with tiny particles, particularly fog or sandstorms, can adversely affect FSO connectivity but are more likely to affect connections over a longer distance than JALCs installation required. LightPointe officials claim snow is not a concern unless there is a whiteout.
Whereas FlightLite bridges are often installed outdoors, JALC chose instead to install the FlightLite bridges inside its buildings to avoid the complications, delays and costs associated with gaining permission to install equipment on the roof of the administrative building. In Rose Hall, the equipment is attached to the ceiling in a hallway, while the unit in the administrative building is mounted on the floor of an office.
Although the FlightLite required some signal attenuation to ensure proper function through the windowpanes on both ends, installers had the optical bridge up and working within 24 hours. The indoor installation has the added benefit of providing easy access when its time to clean the lens or make minute adjustments to the connection using the attached scope.
Murphy particularly appreciates the FlightLite systems lack of maintenance costs and administrative overhead. The pair of FlightLite bridges cost approximately $25,000 for the hardware and installation, with no maintenance contract fees. The bridges require few firmware upgrades throughout their life cycle, which is expected to be five to six years, say officials.
Assuming that a single T-1 connection costs approximately $5,000 per year for a fraction of the throughput performance that LightPointe provides, Murphy projects the installation will pay for itself within months.
The LightPointe deployment also added redundancy to JALCs network. If one buildings T-1 connection to the Internet fails, Murphy can temporarily redirect traffic to the other buildings Internet connection via the optical link.
With more than a gigabit of throughput capacity on the optical link, Murphy expects the FlightLite will more than adequately service JALCs bandwidth needs.
This headroom may, in fact, allow JALC to add services—the center is investigating expanding its voice-over-wireless network deployment to accommodate more users on the move in Rose Hall. At this time, however, the centers IT staff is not monitoring the usage levels on the optical link and cannot gauge the capacity levels currently in use.
IT Associate Matt Celichowski is examining ways of measuring this usage because LightPointe does not provide this capability natively.
Murphy now considers the optical link to be the most reliable part of his network and said he has seen no negative impact to network performance from New Yorks early-winter weather conditions.
Technical Analyst Andrew Garcia can be reached at email@example.com.
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