Firm expands with free-space optics.
Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft was faced with a dilemma confronting many growing businesses. The 200-year-old New York-based law firm had outgrown its downtown offices at 100 Maiden Lane and needed to expand. Fortunately, extra space was found just across the street at 125 Maiden Lane, a break in the tough New York real estate market.
The challenge facing the IT department was to provide the New York attorneys and staff who moved to the new space with access to the same high-speed network that connects the firm's New York, Washington, Charlotte, NC, and London offices.
Cadwalader actually has six networks, three in separate buildings in New York and one each in the other cities where the firm has offices. The Washington and Charlotte backbones are gigabit-based, with 100 Mbps switched to the desktop, while the other systems use a 100 Mbps backbone. All of the networks are connected using T-1 lines provided by a local incumbent local exchange carrier and long-haul provider, converging in New York, where routers provide connectivity.
Working with Asterisk Enterprises, a West Chester, PA-based technology consultant specializing in service to large law firms, Cadwalader ruled out leased lines to connect the two Maiden Lane spaces. The recurring fees were expensive and the lines could not manage the firm's high bandwidth needs. For a premier law firm that prides itself on handling complex cases and transactions, even bonded T-1s could not deliver the bandwidth necessary to handle the volume of documents, visual presentations and other applications shared by more than 400 attorneys and 600 staff members every day.
With the network already in place, Cadwalader did not want to install servers at 125 Maiden Lane. Installing fiber to link the buildings was simply too expensive, especially with the time and permits necessary to dig up New York City streets. Using the Internet to share documents was not a practical option due to security concerns. Although encryption software provides a level of security, it is too cumbersome for a law firm that must quickly and efficiently share and retrieve large volumes of information.
The search naturally turned to wireless radio frequency (RF) systems. The firm, however, did not have roof rights at 125 Maiden Lane, and none of the RF systems could shoot through glass or come close to handling the firm's bandwidth needs.
Eventually, the firm settled on LightPointe's free-space optics (FSO) systems. FSO uses infrared laser optical transmissions to provide fiber-like connectivity. It offers the bandwidth needed at a fraction of the cost of fiber or monthly T-1 fees. Furthermore, the narrowly focused optical transmissions are impossible to detect, let alone intercept, alleviating security concerns.
A 155-Mbps linkhead was installed behind a window on the 14th floor of the office at 100 Maiden Lane and the other link was placed on the 12th floor at 125 Maiden Lane, less than 100 meters away, at a total cost of approximately $20,000.
"The installation took only a few hours," says Larry Angstadt, president of Asterisk Enterprises. "Boresight scopes in each linkhead are used to align the units. The biggest step consisted of looking for power bars on the graphic display to register when the units were in synch."
The firm's system must operate around the clock, and there was concern about weather disruptions. New York's rain and snow, which can knock down some RF systems, does not affect optical transmissions. Fog is the only real concern, but since the links are close together and fairly low in the skyline, it turned out to be a nonissue.
After months of operating without problems, Cadwalader decided to upgrade to a gigabit backbone. The firm was able to easily swap out LightPointe's FlightPath 155 linkheads for its more robust FlightSpectrum 1.25 Gbps units. The upgrade, including the alignment, only took a few minutes. As part of the system upgrade, a redundant set of 1.25 Gbps units were installed, assuring "five-9" reliability for the firm's lawyers.
"The second link set will ultimately serve a set of floors in parallel with the original link," Angstadt says. "By doing this, we will create a load-balancing environment, which, in the event of a failure, could provide connectivity for everyone at the site."
The dual gigabit system cost a total of $60,000, less than the cost for one year of a fiber connection from a local carrier. More importantly, the links have given the firm the 24x7 connectivity the lawyers demand. While the links once attracted curiosity among the staff, they are now simply fixtures, a part of doing business at optical speeds. Except for an alignment check once every six months, the units have been "set 'em and forget 'em."
Circle 256 for more information from LightPointe
Ostrovitz is IT director for Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft.
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|Title Annotation:||Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft|
|Comment:||Firm expands with free-space optics.(Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft)|
|Date:||Oct 1, 2001|
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