Cover Story

ResNet Wireless Project A Huge Success

"To be happy in this world, first you need a cell phone and then you need an airplane. Then you're truly wireless." - Ted Turner

In early January before the students returned to campus from winter break, OIT stopped billing for the wired ports in the residential network on the Atlanta campus. By doing this halfway through the school year, we created a net institutional savings of several hundred thousand dollars annually. It's not as if those savings were "free," since Housing and OIT incurred a lot of one-time costs to realize them, but over time, Emory will be spending far less on its networking infrastructure for students than it did just a year or two ago.

This savings was passed directly to the schools with residential students. "Emory College deeply appreciates the many years of hard work that University Technology Services brought to the effort to implement a high quality wireless experience for the students, which in turn allowed for the reduction of expensive land lines," said Carole Meyers, Director of IT & Facilities for Emory College.

While everything in the preceding paragraph is true and worth mentioning, it does not really tell the whole story. Implicit in stopping the billing for the wired ports is taking away a service that was free to students in the previous semester. In the new model, if a student wants to use the wired network, he or she will have to pay for it. In other words, students would no longer have a free alternative to wireless connectivity.

Here are the steps that we used to do this: (1) we communicated the change to the students, (2) we changed the billing model to be based on one's NetID rather than port, (3) we customized NetReg to capture the wired users for billing, (4) we developed an automated (or should I say ottomated) process for pulling the wired student users out of NetReg, combining it with data from ESD, and then presenting it to OIT Finance for billing, (5) we redesigned the wireless access point layout in all of the residence halls, and (6) we moved and installed all of the access points according to the new design. We did all of this under a very tight time window in a potentially contentious environment.

Illustration of student using a wireless deviceOf course the steps outlined above did not just happen by themselves. It was the team that really made this work. I would also like to point out that this was largely an operational effort (i.e - all of the people who worked on this effort were not brought together because they were on a project team, instead they did it because they are part of a matrix organization).

Here is a list of the people that contributed to making this happen: Bruce Anderson (Infrastructure), Kim Braxton (Academic Technology Services), Norman Butler (Infrastructure), Alan Cattier (Academic Technology Services), Gonzalo Celedon (Enterprise Services), Haynes Chewning (Infrastructure), Lee Clontz (Academic Technology Services), John Connerat (IT F&A), Dawn Francis-Chewning (Academic Technology Services), John Fries (Enterprise Services), Susan Greene (PMO), Becky Hancock (IT F&A), Missie Martin (Integration), Stephanie McNease (Enterprise Services), Daniel Palmer (Academic Technology Services), Raul Pritchard (Enterprise Services), James Sawyer (Enterprise Services), Chad Street (Infrastructure), Steve Tatum (Enterprise Services), Zack Wade (Infrastructure), Alan White (Infrastructure), and Steve Zimmer (Infrastructure).

As it turned out, throughout the entire semester only 134 out of over 5600 residential students signed up to pay for the wired solution. Student Technology Services was not overrun with irate students. The Wheel was not filled with angry editorials. In fact, I think we gave the students exactly what they wanted - a highly reliable wireless network.

This project involved high risk and high reward and our team rose above what is normally expected of them to receive high marks in all aspects of the effort. I am continually amazed by how much work we accomplish when we work together.

- Paul Petersen, Director, Infrastructure