The SMCM Office of Information Technology is currently working on the most significant network upgrade in the past ten years. The goal is to replace obsolete equipment and provide secure, more complete coverage to the entire campus. The project includes replacement of a significant number of wired network switches along with a massive overhaul of the College’s wireless network. The new wireless will bring all academic and office buildings up to the latest wireless standards, increasing coverage and capacity.
The goal is to complete the project before the Fall 2016 semester. At this time, all of the new fiber has been installed. Chris Burch, assistant vice president of information technology (CIO), reports that they expect the wired network infrastructure to follow suit by the end of July. The wireless will then follow building-by-building with a priority on large academic buildings for the new semester. Some office buildings will be delayed until early September.
What will this mean for students, faculty, and staff? The current Wi-Fi, mobilenet, is an open network. The updated Wi-Fi will be more secure. “In addition to the large expansion of coverage and capacity of our wireless network, our new wireless infrastructure will support the latest 802.11ac Wave 2 standard, and we will finally be able to deploy secure wireless across campus and provide a platform for the future,” Burch explained.
Charles Jackson, vice president for business & finance, reported that IT is doing an “incredible job” even under the stressors of a tight schedule. Summer is already a busy time for the department as it’s an opportunity to go in and do work that would be otherwise inopportune with students and faculty on campus. The project is made in an effort to better support the campus community.
Updating the WiFi had been a key issue of high priority for a number of years, Jackson reported. The timing was largely dependent on funding as the cost of such a project would be significant. When state funds became available last fall, the college was already in position to take full advantage of the opportunity. Their understanding of what the project would require enabled them to quickly coordinate with the state and secured funding.
Thank you to Governor Hogan for the generous $1.6M FY16 grant that has enabled us to complete this much-needed upgrade.
“We are very grateful to our friends in Annapolis for their support for this initiative. We wouldn’t have been able otherwise,” Jackson said.
As for the installation of the project, there is an incredible amount of coordination between companies and other work that needs to be done.
Bob Brown, director of network security at SMCM and manager of the wireless project, joked “you need wires to have a wireless network.” This is no small task. They’ve installed over 30 miles of copper cable, 140 new network switches and replaced 90 nearly obsolete switches. There are 432 new access points and 24 new single-mode fiber optic links to increase throughput between campus buildings and the data center. With all of the new equipment installations, it was also necessary to add 30 new enterprise grade UPS (uninterruptible power supplies) systems to the data closets which will provide protection from input power interruptions.
Three companies were contracted for the completion of the project. The fiber optic cable was handled by FiberPlus, copper cable by TWD, and network devices by Data Networks.