King Faisal Schools deploys ATM backbone

King Faisal Schools has completed the initial phase of its network infrastructure project in just seven months by implementing a fibre optic network and an ATM backbone to link its 14 buildings with each other and the outside world.

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By  Matthew Southwell Published  July 30, 2002

|~||~||~|King Faisal Schools has completed the initial phase of its network infrastructure project in just seven months. Designed to link the Saudi school’s 14 buildings with each other and the outside world, the educational institute has deployed a fibre optic network and an asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) backbone to support a host of multimedia and Internet applications.

As a key contributor to school curriculum and syllabus development within Saudi Arabia, King Faisal Schools will use the network to enter wider educational circles. For example, it intends to utilise video conferencing technology to communicate with international schools and universities as well as boosting its research capabilities.

“For the Saudi academic community this is an important technological development... [because it] provides the equipment to advance our research work,” says Professor Mohammad Al Khateeb, director general, King Faisal Schools.

The network will also benefit King Faisal Schools’ 800 students and staff as stage two of the project will include the deployment of educational software and an ERP type application to manage the school’s payroll and inventory.

To facilitate the former, the school’s syllabus will be kept on CDs and loaded onto a server at its main computer centre, allowing users to access it either over the network or remotely via the web.

“The capabilities of this network configuration enables a broad range of workgroup applications not available for other LAN technologies, including high resolution video conferencing, high performance groupware, video on demand and computer telephony integration,” explains Al Khateeb.

“The use of e-libraries also gives us the ability to conduct lectures from remote locations,” he adds.

The final phase of the project will see King Faisal Schools beef up its hardware as it increases the number of PCs from 200 to around 1000. Khalid El Shami, network applications & projects manager at Atallah Systems, which designed and implemented the solution, explains the deployment of additional hardware will be easy due to the network’s design.

“We made the infrastructure ready for this, so all they have to do is plug in the computers,” he says.

The network replaces King Faisal Schools’ standalone infrastructure in which each computer lab worked independently of its counterparts. The decision to implement both fibre optics and an ATM backbone from Marconi was taken to ensure King Faisal Schools had sufficient bandwidth and quality of service for its multimedia apps.

As a result, fibre optic cables run from the main computer centre and connect the 22-acre campus’s 14 buildings. Boasting a complete passive solution for fibre optics, the network consists of a fibre optics patch panel, connectors and fibre patch cords. Each building has a workgroup switch that connects it to the ATM backbone switches via the fibre optic cable using batch code.

“We chose Marconi equipment for this project because the solution corresponds exactly with the school’s requirements… [By using fibre optics and ATM] we will be able to communicate faster and enjoy the benefits of state-of-the-art technology,” explains Al Khateeb.

“ATM was chosen for its quality of service. Most of the applications the school plans to run are multimedia, which is bandwidth hungry because it is full of video and pictures. ATM is best to support this,” adds El Shami.

In addition to implementing and configuring the fibre optic network and ATM backbone, Atallah Systems is providing two onsite staff to manage the network and train King Faisal Schools’ IT team.

“We have people working onsite and we have trained the school’s officials to configure the network themselves. We have two engineers in the school to help them, one for the passive components and one for the active,” explains El Shami.

In order to ease the management of King Faisal schools’ network, Atallah’s onsite staff are using Marconi’s ServiceOn Management software, which allows them to create workgroups and monitor the entire network.

“It provides a detailed view of each switch, server and PC on the network. The good thing about it is that it is web based. This means that it is easy to use and anyone monitoring the network doesn’t have to type in commands. Instead, they just have to click on the icon to get the views that they want,” comments El Shami.||**||

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