Building your own network?

Don't overlook staffing and training needs

Making the decision to build your own network rather than leasing one becomes a lot easier if someone hands you 400 miles of fiber-optic cable.

That was the situation Florida Turnpike officials found themselves in when they were wondering how to replace the turnpike's outdated toll operations network.

But even with a built-in infrastructure, the decision was not a no-brainer, said Kevin Palmer, the turnpike's program director. You still have to maintain the network.

'Our biggest lesson learned is that you should consider your maintenance plans early in the process rather than late,' Palmer said. 'We have transitioned from a leased network that was maintained by others to a privately owned network that we are responsible for operating and maintaining.'

The staffing costs should be included in the cost/benefit analysis. Fortunately for the Florida Turnpike, it already had much of the expertise it needed to assume those responsibilities.

'It's a good fit for us because we already maintained the toll collection system,' he said.

'Other agencies might not have the staffing for it.'

Training also is an issue to consider, especially if new technologies are being adopted.

The Florida Turnpike chose to build a Multiprotocol Label Switching network to ensure it would have the security, quality of service and management capabilities it would need in the future.

But MPLS traditionally has been a technology used by large service providers.

'The challenge for Florida was in the training of the staff for running the network,' said Ahmed Abdelhalim, director of product management at Foundry Networks' high-end business unit, which provided Florida with its routers and switches. 'It's new to the enterprise,' he added, although not so new that it was a difficult hurdle for administrators.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.


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