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Libraries check out optical MAN: optical network will be one of the county's largest. (Optical Technologies).

Pittsburgh and suburban Allegheny County--home to one of the most sophisticated library networks in the U.S.--gives patrons at more than 70 libraries free Internet access from any of 1,000 desktop PCs; instant access to an electronic catalog of more than three million books, journals, videos and other regional library holdings; and the ability to retrieve valuable information from a variety of full-text databases.

Services are provided by eiNetwork, a partnership of the Allegheny County Library Association and the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, which also provides Web-hosting services to several nonprofit organizations and e-mail services to more than 800 public library employees.

Until recently, the library network used only fractional T-1 connections from each library to the eiNetwork headquarters, with access speeds as low as 384 kbps. Last year, the consortium contracted with San Francisco-based Yipes Communications (www.yipes.com), a national provider of optical Ethernet services, to build and manage an optical network encompassing a majority of its suburban libraries. Yipes' challenge was to improve the old network's speed limit without disrupting service, and offer state-of-the-art scalability, while keeping the project affordable.

By last fall, the service was running to 25 libraries (and two schools that piggybacked onto the network), each of which now enjoys 5 Mbps of bandwidth to each other and to the Internet. The main eiNetwork office is provided with a 50-Mbps pipe to all the libraries and a 10-Mbps connection to the Internet, which serves its Web-hosting clients, as well as the libraries. When the optical network is completed this summer, it will connect 45 of the suburban libraries and three public schools over 250 route miles of fiber, making it one of the largest optical MANs in the country.

Each library on the optical MAN now enjoys roughly 10 times as much bandwidth as before, at the same cost as the phone company's fractional T-1 circuits. One key to the advanced network's affordability is its reliance on pure Ethernet. Ethernet equipment typically costs as little as one-tenth as much as asynchronous transfer mode and synchronous optical network gear found in legacy telephone networks. Yipes' optical Ethernet architecture allows data to transit from one Ethernet LAN to another without protocol conversions, simplifying the design and minimizing points of failure.

The flexibility of modern Ethernet switches offers instant bandwidth scalability. Customers can change their bandwidth in seconds over a secure website, from 1 Mbps up to 1,000 Mbps, in 1-Mbps increments, eiNetwork can dial up its bandwidth temporarily to permit a system-wide videoconference, then turn the dial back down to economize on network capacity.

The optical solution's ring architecture ensures a high degree of network reliability. Library equipment failures are confined to the troubled site, and do not affect the rest of the network. In case of a disruption as major as a fiber cut, data traffic can be rerouted in a matter of seconds.

Yipes also manages the service for eiNetwork, keeping close tabs on every node in the network from its network operations centers, which operate 24x7. Key operating statistics, including bandwidth utilization, network availability and average latency, are posted on a secure website available to customers.

Costs and engineering challenges have been reduced by building the network around dark fiber leased from DQE Communications, an affiliate of Duquesne Light. The deployment schedule is based largely on each library's proximity to existing fiber.

The fiber entry into each of the buildings--many of which are historical landmarks--had to be custom designed in order not to jeopardize their architectural integrity.

Equipment for the project includes an Extreme Networks Summit 1i Gigabit Ethernet switch, RPC, fiber termination panel and UPS power supply, all in each building's communications or electrical closet, connected by Category 5 cable to an eiNetwork router.

When the new network is complete, the libraries will gain the ability to deploy new applications to enhance their educational mission, such as multipoint, broadcast-quality video distribution from central servers and high-bandwidth videoconferencing.

Circle 253 for more information from Yipes Communications
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Title Annotation:Pittsburgh and suburban Allegheny County
Comment:Libraries check out optical MAN: optical network will be one of the county's largest. (Optical Technologies).(Pittsburgh and suburban Allegheny County)
Publication:Communications News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2002
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