sscc May 20, 2004

Upcoming Recabling of Social Science Building

This document provides an overview of the Social Science Building recabling project which was recently announced.


The State has been slowly replacing old network cabling on campus since the late 1990's. In 2000, we found out that the Social Science Building was near the bottom of the priority list for getting new cable. Staff weren't happy about this because the building's cable (Category 3) is slow, only allowing for up to 10Mbps transfer. Newer Category 5 cable allows for 100Mbps transfer. We then began a little lobbying of our own by writing a letter (with help from Hal Winsborough) to the UW Division of Facilities Planning and Management telling them about all the distinguished faculty, departments, and research centers in the building that carry out data-intensive research. Because of this letter and the availability of some uncommitted funds from another project, we got bumped to the top of the list. Since that time, we have seen delay after delay. It wasn't until early 2002 that the State Building Commission officially approved the $250,000 needed for the project. Then the state budget shortfall hit. Tom Irwin, from the Department of Administration, and John Smith, from DoIT, have been working to get the project rolling ever since. Somehow they pulled it off and we were notified of a "pre-construction" meeting that took place Wednesday. Imagine our surprise to learn that, after waiting for so long, the contractors were going to begin work the following Monday!

Benefits of the Cabling Upgrade

The Category 3 wiring currently in place is the limiting factor in the speed of SSCC’s network. Until this wiring is replaced, we will not be able to realize the full benefits of faster networking equipment now installed. The new cable has the capacity to move data in the building at speeds 10 times faster than the current cable (100Mbps vs 10Mbps).

In addition to the new cable, they will also be relocating the networking equipment currently housed in 12 janitor closets located throughout the building. To say that the janitor closets is a less than ideal space for networking equipment, is a huge understatement. We've had water and other solutions leak into equipment, power cords unintentionally unplugged, and even a fire in one closet when the equipment overheated because of poor ventilation. After new construction, the networking equipment will be housed in four new locations. Each location will provide environmental conditions that should result in more secure and reliable network equipment.

We will eventually receive some security improvements to the computer room. These improvements were cut from the budget for this current project, but DoIT has agreed to pay for them after the recabling is complete. These improvements include replacing the glass on the south and west walls with more secure glass, replacing the glass on the north wall with a wall, and replacing the door locks on all the doors. It's interesting to note that campus security is the one requesting these security enhancements, not SSCC. They are requesting similar changes all over campus.

What to Expect During the Project

SSCC staff will be learning most of the details about the project at the same planning meeting everyone was invited to attend on Thursday, May 27th, at 10:00 in 8417. I can tell you though that at the pre-construction meeting I attended Wednesday, it was emphasized to the contractors that they were to minimize the disruption to building occupants as much as possible. They will also schedule around any events or deadlines you may have. For example, they were told that the SSML lab on the third floor had to be recabled before Fall semester.

As to how long it will take to actually recable an area and how big an area they will do at a time, I don't know. We'll want to be sure and ask about that Wednesday.

Another Ongoing Complimentary Network Project

Sometime this summer DoIT plans to connect our building to the new 1Gb campus backbone. I mention this here only because DoIT has invited various unit representatives in the building to a planning meeting and it's easy to confuse one project with the other. There should only be a very brief one-time building outage when they move us from one network to the other. The purpose of this planning meeting is mostly to discuss various options units will have in managing the building network equipment. Currently, SSCC is responsible for all the network equipment in the building. After the switch over, units can opt to have DoIT manage the equipment or they can opt to manage it themselves. SSCC staff plans to continue management for its network equipment. For more information on the new campus backbone, known as the 21st Century Network, visit DoIT's web site.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact me.

Nancy McDermott, Director
Social Science Computing Cooperative
University of Wisconsin - Madison
1180 Observatory Drive
Madison, WI 53706
(608) 262-3206

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