Cisco Partner Avnet Helps Felipe del Rio School District Build the Faith with AVVID System
June 24, 2003
A few hours outside Austin, Texas you'll find the San Felipe Del Rio Consolidated Independent School District (SFDR CISD). With more than 10,000 students and 2,000 employees, the school district could no longer suffer through the chaos of its old network. Its 25 different school campuses and administrative facilities are spread out over 15 square miles and most of the buildings were not cabled, while the ones that were cabled were not reliable according to the district's IT director Donnie Weaver.
"We had an unstable network that was unreliable at best," said Weaver. "A large portion of our students didn't have access to the Internet or if they did it was very unreliable. They had little faith in the system, and understandably so."
School District Teams With Cisco Partner
Before Weaver joined the school district, his predecessor had laid the groundwork to revamp the network. A Request for Proposal had been prepared and responses from multiple firms were reviewed, including one by Cisco Partner Avnet Network Solutions. In response to the district's RFP, Avnet submitted an open design so manufacturers could respond with what they thought the district needed. In the end, Weaver's predecessor chose Avnet and standardized on Cisco equipment. While the initial plan was to re-cable a couple of the schools, the district was awarded a universal service fund through the government that would allow the entire network to be updated. When Weaver joined the district as IT director, the groundwork was in place for a two-phase implementation of a district-wide integrated network.
"It made the most sense to combine the convergent networks into one system," said Weaver. "The phase-one work which was just beginning when I joined the district would provide the bandwidth and infrastructure to support a converged network."
Initiates Two-Phase Plan for Integrated Network
Early in the project, Avnet worked closely with Cisco engineers to go over routing and other design elements to ensure the school district was getting the best possible solution. The first task at hand was to install cabling and bring up the new network while maintain-ing connectivity to the district's existing network.
"The first seven months of the project, the district maintained two networks," said Christine Ricker, account manager at Avnet. "It was essential to maintain what connectivity the district did have, therefore we could have no interruption in service." With the dedica-tion of SFDR CISD's support staff, JD Jones Avnet's systems engineer and Doc Taylor Avnet's cabling project manager this was accomplished.
Phase two would take about six weeks and was designed to complete the AVVID solution. This entailed installing 125 Cisco 3524 power switches and Nearly twelve hundred telephones, which needed to be scanned for input into Call Manager so the phones could be deployed. An additional two weeks was needed to sort out voicemail issues arising from the high port count and a few bugs that prevented some ports from initializing.
"I can say that with the exception of minor issues with the phone company, we were able to get Call Manager up and running and all phones deployed with very little down time," said Weaver. "All of the old phones were disconnected on Friday, the old numbers were rolled into our DID group and everything was up and running on Monday. From start to finish, we were able to completely replace the previous phone system in less than four weeks."
The video portion of the solution consisted of providing on-demand as well as live streaming video to the desktop by integrating Cisco Broadcast Servers, Archive Server, Content Distribution Manager and Content Engines.
"There were a few glitches with the installation of the AVVID system," recalls Ricker. "When we started deploying the powered switches we had a few issues with them not being recognized by the cluster. Cisco TAC resolved that prompt-ly and we also worked with TAC and a local Cisco engineer on a cache engine problem. Our upfront work with Cisco engineers in the design phase really helped avoid problems in the installation and deployment phase."
Avnet Help Desk Provides Savings
As with any new system, Weaver anticipated that the 12,000 users at the SFDR CISD would have questions and problems. SFDR CISD contracted with Avnet for the firm's Help Desk service.
"In the first two days, they took 375 calls!" reports Weaver. "Only about 15 were forwarded to us to dispatch a technician so they assisted more than 350 users and solved their problems over the phone." SFDR technicians were avail-able to be dispatched to a site to resolve any issues that could not be handled by the AVNET helpdesk. Weaver admits that most of the staff is used to calling his IT department with their questions and they weren't always comfortable calling an outside party with their question.
"People can be afraid that they don't know enough to explain their problem or won't be able to perform whatever tasks are necessary to resolve it," he said. "It's really just educating people and making sure they follow procedures and provide all the necessary information. The savings to me and my staff has been immense." If the problem does need attention by Weaver's staff, Avnet creates a work order in their system and the school district can point that project to a specific technician. When the problem is resolved and closed out, Avnet receives an email alerting them that the issue is closed and who closed it. "It's a great process that saves us two support people," Weaver notes.
Students and Administrators Take Advantage of Powerful New Connectivity
With the AVVID system fully deployed, SFDR CISD students and administrators are enjoying unprecedented connectivity.
"With our new system, every classroom has a phone, Internet connectivity and growth potential to add up to seven computers in every classroom," said Weaver. Additionally, the district's entire staff has access to email and is enjoying the much-improved communication.
Avnet scheduled classes for different levels of users within the district and its engineers conducted the training. While the administrators have had to adjust to the new IP phones, Weaver notes that the IP telephones' increased accessibility and features have everyone feeling very positive.
"Just the addition of voicemail makes it so much easier for parents and teachers to get in touch with each other," notes Weaver. "And the Internet is such an excellent research tool for both teachers and students, and now it is readily avail-able to everyone. That is just a huge step for us."
With the integrated voice and video capabilities of the AVVID network, Ricker says the possibilities for the school district are practically endless. The school district is considering using the video capability for online training for staff and students. With the video-on-demand capability, the district will save a substantial amount of money on videotapes. Because many different types of videotape are part of the curriculum, the school district has been purchasing multiple copies of many tapes so each campus would have its own copy. With the new AVVID network, however, the district can now provide a wider selection of video content to every location within the district to be utilized for training as well as to sup-plement existing curriculum.
"On the voice side, the school district was paying for 700 to 800 phone lines at a couple of hundred thousand dollars a year," said Weaver. "The system installed by Avnet reduces that to almost nothing, so that is money coming directly back into the district. Not to mention, the new phone system has increased features and capabilities which makes everyone more productive."
Both Weaver and Ricker attribute much of the success of the new network to the team effort of among the school district, Avnet and Cisco, as well as the providers of additional hardware and the fiber optics. Thanks to good teamwork and strong partnerships, students and employees at SFDR CISD have renewed faith in the technology available to them.