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Broward County rolls out its own fiber ring, shifts to VoIP

Pat Simes, Assistant CIO of Broward County, Florida. | Jan. 27, 2015
Years in the making, network upgrade enables Florida county to improve services while saving a bundle.

"TOO SLOW!" "It takes me over 5 minutes just to log in!"

In 2009 Broward County customer complaints regarding the slowness of accessing and using Broward County's services triggered the Enterprise Technology Services' (ETS) Communications group to review the County's network architecture and determine ways to advance it.

The ultimate outcome? Broward County's ETS Communications Group implemented an underground fiber optic ring and associated equipment owned and maintained by Broward County which vastly improves performance, saves $780,000 per year and made it possible to embrace IP telephony, a move that saved an additional $28,000 per year.

While the initial need was recognized in 2009, the resulting multi-year upgrade plan didn't get going in earnest until 2010, and the finishing touches were just put in place in 2014. Here's the story.

Our timing at the beginning of the exercise was fortuitous because the ETS' Desktop and Server group had just begun a server virtualization migration and, recognizing how the network upgrade could benefit their effort, offered to join forces.

Working together the teams developed a 3-year strategic initiative to upgrade Broward County to a 10 GigE core network infrastructure.   Part of the plan called for reducing complexity and duplication of infrastructure, so the County also decided to converge the voice and data networks and, with voice and data traversing the same circuits, network redundancy would have to be increased because a single line outage could cause a location outage for both critical services.

Of course sound project management is critical when it comes to technology upgrades of this magnitude, so the ETS group created a project team to help identify tasks and resources required to successfully accomplish the goal. The team wrote a project charter and broke the work into manageable chunks to make it easier to proceed.

New fiber backbone

The focus of the project was to replace a costly carrier network with the County's own fiber network. The carrier net consisted of voice and data circuits that were expanding in terms of quantity of lines as well as bandwidth used. As a result, costs were increasing by 15% each year. So we had to provide funding for an ever-increasing service and experiencing constant demands for expansion.

The expense was further compounded by occasional build-out costs that were associated with providing network services to our locations that were not currently served by the carrier's fiber facilities. It could have cost the County tens of thousands of unplanned dollars to subsidize those build outs and resulted in long service delays.

It took us about six months to design our new private fiber optic ring and about four years to build it. The secure backbone runs 41 miles through underground, County-owned conduits and consists of 36 fiber strands. We also upgraded our existing 1Gig gear to new 10Gig optical switches and routers with 10gE interfaces.


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