Two years ago, the US Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) in Monterey, California, ran a data network that sometimes crashed three times a day for hours at a time.
But in recent weeks the school has fully converted its 2500 students, teachers and other users to a new $US5 million network based on an Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) backbone with switched Fast Ethernet to each desktop, school officials said. ATM often is more expensive than Gigabit Ethernet backbones for campus settings, analysts said.
But at NPS, either solution would have cost about the same, and ATM will provide guaranteed bandwidth to meet the Navy's demands, said the integrator and consultant on the project, Doug Picard, president of International Automation Associates.
"We needed to have multiple links from big buildings so that 800 to 900 simultaneous users could have live links, and [we] didn't feel Gigabit Ethernet could do that" as reliably as ATM, Picard said.
The school hopes eventually also to run its voice network over the ATM network and expand videoconferencing for classroom and distance learning, said Tom Halwachs, CIO at NPS.
The bandwidth to desktops has increased by a factor of 20, up to 100Mbit/sec (Mbps), allowing instructors to take full advantage of animation graphics, which students throughout the campus view.
Before, the school lacked a real backbone, and ran a hodgepodge of shared Ethernet with two routers that delivered only 2Mbps to 5Mbps at the desktops, Halwachs said.
When the conversion was made, one oceanography instructor running an animation about ocean mining techniques asked to have the system slowed down because he was used to running the animation on the older, slower network, Halwachs said.
"He couldn't believe it was running that fast," he said.
The new network uses nearly $2 million in 3Com equipment, including 14 ATM switches and 14 edge routers that allow 622Mbps bandwidth on the backbone among 20 campus buildings.
The school uses Microsoft's NetShow Theater Server to pump streaming video to desktops, and will soon employ Intel's ProShare for videoconferencing, Halwachs said.