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Library of Congress brings fiber to the desktop.

As users evaluate performance benefits of fiber to the desktop, they must consider not only current applications which use the increased bandwidth but also the potential costs of recabling for expanding needs.

For the Library of Congress' Madison Building, fiber became a strategic imperative. Advances in imaging and storage technology have allowed efficient electronic archiving, mandating broader and easier access to historic information. Documents can be scanned, stored and distributed electronically, increasing the demand on the building's network cabling system.

Howard Kierzewski, senior communications engineer for the Library of Congress, notes, "This institution is almost 200 years old, so planning for the long-term is standard for us. When we realized we needed for upgrade our infrastructure, we were determined to do it right and reduce our long-term local communications costs while providing better service to our end users."

The Library of Congress' Madison Building was completed in the early 1980s, but the capacity of the original communications cabling had quickly been exceeded. The cabling and components could not handle existing premises traffic and was inadequate to support the long-term growth needs of an organization relying on information retrieval and processing.

The decision was made not only to replace the 26-wire gauge, twisted pair, riser plant with better-grade cable, but to also include a parallel fiber backbone to support future networking needs. This backbone would be complemented by two new data-grade twisted pair runs to each workstation as well as a multimode fiber pair.

In the summer of 1991, the MIS department put together a solicitation package to do the work--including some unique requirements.

Because of the Library's critical congressional and public support mission, user service could not be interrupted at all during the recabling. All work would be done on nights and weekends over an extended period so that no user would have voice or data service interrupted during the Library's working hours.

The Library is a multivendor environment, so the cabling infrastructure had another major requirement--it had to be vendor-independent and work with all host environments, servers, PBXs and local area networks.

Kierzewski says, "The cabling system is designed to meet our needs for the next 20 years, so flexibility and modularity are very important issues."

M.C. Dean Inc., a contracting firm experienced in the industrial and federal sectors, won the bid that September and currently recables 10 to 30 workstations a night. Dan E. Youmans, M.C. Dean project manager, says, "Users leave in the evening and come back to find a brand new 'monument' with voice, data and fiber-optic jacks at their station."

The monument incorporates Mod-Tap components in a Walker housing that locks into the building's underfloor duct system, providing end users with voice, data, and fiber interfaces from a single monument faceplate.

Youmans says, "The Library requires a flexible, modular solution that would allow open systems interoperability for the physical network. Each monument has a faceplate with an open designed to house three Mod-Tap units. One provides voice and data RJ-45 interfaces, while the other two are dedicated to ST fiber couplers.

"These modules terminate two, four-pair UTP cables and two fiber strands that are bound in a single sheath for ease of installation. They are also suitable for wall box installations, for end-users located near floor obstructions. As users move within the premises, the interfaces remain the same and require no recabling or retraining."

Youmans says, "It's a painful process to replace a structure's communications services, and it's natural to put it off as long as possible. But once you make the decision to make the change, you need to put in the best infrastructure available so you get the long-term return on infrastructure investment--and don't have to go through it again in the next 10 years."

Modularity was a major concern for logistics and maintenance. Modular interfaces allow network transparency to the end user, eliminating costly moves and changes.

Modularity is evidenced by the fact that future upgrades, such as from ST to FDDI interfaces, can be made by simply replacing the coupler unit.

Kierzewski concludes, "The unique part of this implementation is that we are making a facility-wide communications cabling upgrade completely around working stations. "We are providing our users enhanced connectivity while literally rewiring out from under them--and so far, without putting a single user out of service."
COPYRIGHT 1992 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Communications News
Date:Dec 1, 1992
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