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The challenge of distance networking.

With more than 500 internal customers in 19 separate buildings, the information services (IS) team at Susquehanna Pfaltzgraff Co. struggled to maintain several different LANs and many disconnected PCs.

Team members realized the almost-200year-old stoneware company would need a different type of networking architecture. Their choice was Centralized Network Administration (CNA), an AMP-defined network architecture that consolidates LAN electronics in one room.

The changes were set in motion several years earlier, when consultants Arthur Andersen analyzed the Susquehanna Pfaltzgraff information services, identified crucial areas for improvement, and provided a strategic plan. The first projects involved developing a much-needed IS infrastructure.

"We required a company-wide LAN so we could build upon that architecture for client/server-type applications," says Clair J. Bange Jr., vice president of information services for Susquchanna Pfaltzgraff. "We wanted to use the best technology and were willing to try something new."

There were a number of challenges:

* The Pfaltzgraff team had to develop a system for a variety of buildings, some more than 100 years old.

* The new LAN had to tolerate the temperature and humidity extremes common in an office/factory setting with kilns and no air conditioning.

* The new system had to handle electronic transfer of the company's typical CAD/CAM files. It also had to accommodate office automation, E-mail, mainframe emulation, and transport and access to other hosts. The standard was 100 Mb/s data transmission certification.

The team selected a collapsed backbone system linking all 19 office buildings with singlemode and multimode fiber to a central headquarters, spliced to the IS building and linked to a Bay Synoptics 5000 Ethernet hub.

After several individual office buildings were wired with unshielded twisted-pair cables, the team discovered the limitations of copper--one office building could not be certified to 100 Mb/s performance.

"This limitation put up a red flag," Bange says. "Wiring is a disruptive process, and we wanted a wiring system that would serve us into the future."

York (Pa.)-based K-St. James, a Netconnect design and installation contractor, outlined benefits of CNA and estimated the cost of installing fiber.

Fiber offered a number of advantages--support of long-distance data transmission, faster speed, immunity to electromagnetic interference, protection from lightning, tolerance for extreme temperatures and humidity, security benefits, and the bandwidth for future growth--all at a cost similar to that of copper.

"With a distance of more than 300 feet, we would have had to install two extra wiring closets, which meant extra time and expense," Bange says. "Copper wiring did not always support our 100 Mb/s standard. Fiber was our best chance for success with the least amount of installation interference."

Susquehanna Pfaltzgraff elected to go with a CNA installation using fiber at the Pfaltzgraff (a subsidiary of Susquehanna Pfaltzgraff) distribution center and Pfaltzgraff Thomasville manufacturing facility, located nine miles from the IS building.

The installation at Thomasville cost $300 per desk. It featured epoxyless standard-style connectors for connector installation and hubs developed by Connectware, an AMP subsidiary. Experience gained at Thomasville paved the way for quicker installation at the Pfaltzgraff distribution center.

The resulting network--consisting of 82 nodes at the Thomasville manufacturing facility and 45 at the distribution center--is as fast at a desk in the satellite facilities as it is at the downtown York campus, according to Mark Bollinger, senior microsystems specialist at Susquehanna Pfaltzgraff.

The new system permits quick changes in the electronics. The IS department can add workstations easily, knowing the required infrastructure is in place and users will receive identical configurations.

"In less than one year, we've gone from old PCs with floppy drives to a 100 Mb/s-certified LAN," Bollinger says. "The performance gain and reliability are incredible. Our internal customers love it, and our work has become significantly easier."

Maintenance of the system has been minimal. While the IS department schedules a Friday-night window for LAN maintenance, the system requires attention only about once every two months, with most of this work related to the server rather than the infrastructure.
COPYRIGHT 1997 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1997 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Company Operations; new network at Susquehanna Pflaltzgraff
Publication:Communications News
Date:Feb 1, 1997
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