Since 2007, Mossberg & Company Inc. has relied on Metronet Zing to offer clients all across the country a wide array of printing and e-marketing services. Metronet Zing’s reliability and ultra-fast data transfer speeds allow Mossberg to remain competitive and grow its Internet-based services.
"Historically, a majority of our products were printed products," says James Hillman, president and CEO of the company that was founded in 1930. "But today, more and more communication is taking place electronically."
Eleventh-hour processing of time-sensitive documents, which used to take hours, can now be done in minutes, according to Matt Stuver, national account executive. "That allows our clients to take for granted what used to be unheard of just a few years ago." Sharing of large files between the company's two facilities is also a breeze. "We share files back and forth as if we’re on a local network," Hillman says. In addition, the company is able to deliver files to its disaster-recovery system at an off-site location quickly and easily.
"I think we’re very fortunate here to have Metronet. It allows us tremendous opportunity to grow our business on the electronic communications side."
Banks are big number crunchers, which means they have buckets of data to send and receive on a constant basis. The high speed and dependability of Metronet makes that transmission seamless in real time for one prominent South Bend area bank, but that’s just one of the reasons why leaders there decided to sign on with Metronet.
"The unlimited bandwidth also gives us the ability to run some voice and video over the fiber backbone," says an executive with the bank. "We also use Metronet as our primary means of communication between those three major facilities now, and it’s worked just great," he says.
His bank has been so pleased with Metronet that it plans to use it at more of its facilities in the St. Joe Valley area in the near future. The banker says it has provided "very high availability and it’s done a great job of serving those three offices to our main processing center. We’ve had more bandwidth and more throughput than what we were doing in the past with frame relay."
"It’s quite dependable and we look forward to expanding our use of Metronet to more of our facilities is further deployed in the region."
As a major university, Notre Dame has researchers, faculty and students working and studying in far−off corners of the globe. So it needs a top−notch data transmission system to communicate with them. Notre Dame found that − and more − with Metronet. "We are not contained to a finite footprint comprising our campus," says Dewitt Latimer, chief technology officer and deputy CIO at the university.
"Metronet’s optic fiber system has been a real boon to our teaching and research efforts, helping faculty, staff and students share huge amounts of data for research projects," he says. On a typical day, he says Metronet allows the university to transmit an average of roughly five terabytes − the equivalent of about 7,406 CDs.
Tapping into the powerful telecommunications capacity of Metronet makes it possible for colleagues in South Bend to communicate and hold real−time teleconferences with peers working in Antarctica or even run multi−site meetings with scientists working in the jungles of Africa. By using Metronet instead of a commercial carrier, Latimer says the savings to Notre Dame have been "substantial." In addition, he says the university has benefited from Metronet by "allowing us to do things that we wouldn’t have been able to do."
"By not being burdened with those expensive networking services, it allows us a lot of freedom to execute and do things we might not otherwise be able to do"
Since 1844, Saint Mary’s College has been empowering young women with excellent academics and spiritual support. With a current enrollment of 1,664 students from 45 states and eight countries, the college boasts some 18,000 living alumnae all over the world. In its 2010 annual survey, U.S. News & World Report ranked the college in the nation’s top 100 liberal−arts colleges.
And as the college’s IT department works diligently to equip the campus for the latest advances in educational technology, Metronet provides the bandwidth, performance, off−site backup and recovery capabilities to make it all possible.
"Metronet comes out very close to the Saint Mary’s campus − about 24 feet away − so it just happened very easily for us," says Doug McKeown, director of systems and networks. "We’ll be able to continue to do business even if we get hit by a tornado," he says.
"Metronet comes out very close to the Saint Mary’s campus − about 24 feet away − so it just happened very easily for us"
The South Bend Clinic was one of the first businesses to subscribe to the Metronet, and since joining this cutting−edge, fiber optic network, it has never looked back.n As a healthcare group that includes ten offices throughout the South Bend region, the need for a reliable and cost efficient network−wide communications system was paramount. "It was a big decision, but it was the right decision, as well as a good investment."
The result has been a much faster network transmission vehicle with greater capacity, yet at a significantly lower cost. Explains Meyer, as a healthcare organization, the South Bend Clinic offices send very large packets of information across the Metronet, including medical imaging files that require substantial bandwidth. Moreover, all communications between physicians, consultations, and important conversations related to patient care are transmitted via the Metronet.
"We rely on the Metronet for transmitting information about diagnoses and treatments as well as helping to connect different healthcare providers."
"Metronet comes out very close to the Saint Mary’s campus − about 24 feet away − so it just happened very easily for us"
For area health care providers and their patients, Michiana Health Information Network (MHIN) provides instantaneous community-wide clinical data and information exchange via Metronet Zing. Electronic medical records and high-definition files such as x-rays and MRIs can be transmitted and accessed immediately when needed by any health care organization on the network.
The high-speed transfer of medical data translates to shorter wait times between testing and treatment, swifter and more accurate diagnoses, easier access to prescriptions, and streamlined records processing - all at a lower cost.
In addition to improving the quality of health care, the technology also enhances the area’s potential to attract new business.
"The fact that MHIN has adopted this technology places our area at the forefront," says Corey Angst, assistant professor of management at the University of Notre Dame. He's also a senior research fellow for the Center for Health Information and Decision Systems at the University of Maryland. Metronet Zing helps raise awareness of our region as a good place for technology.
"Many of the innovative new business models are going to require high-speed connectivity. The affordable infrastructure here places this region in a good position to be a technology hub."
South Bend Regional Airport has been a significant economic generator in the community, with an estimated annual economic impact topping $433 million. It just made good business sense to take advantage of the many benefits offered by St. Joe Valley Metronet.
"As with so many other businesses, we rely heavily on the Internet and email, so reliability is very important to us," says John Schalliol, executive director of SBRA. "Our patrons rely on our web site for flight and other information, so we need to be in a position to quickly update our site. In addition, the feed for our flight data is Web−based." The airport also provides patrons in the terminal with access to Wi−Fi. In addition, the airport has experienced significant cost savings by using the Metronet, amounting to "thousands of dollars every year," he says.
With the airport poised for tremendous growth in the coming years, Metronet provides SBRA with the flexibility it will need to serve the changing needs of the community
"Since becoming a Metronet subscriber, reliability has been very high."
In 1996 the St. Joseph Public Library became the very first public library in the United States to be part of the Internet and post a web page. Given the institution’s forward thinking and appreciation of high speed and connectivity, it should come as no surprise that it was also one of the first subscribers of the Metronet.
"The developers of the Metronet realized that they could establish an inexpensive and very high speed Internet connection via the fiber running through South Bend," says Napoli. "I was asked to be involved because of my work with the public library − a true ’information kind of place.’"
The cost to the St. Joseph County Public Library is now one−third of what it used to be, and since subscribing to the network the library has increased its data capacity from an initial five megabytes to 60 megabytes. "The Metronet benefits library patrons as well as library operations," says Napoli. "We have a total of 200 computers that are on all day at ten different locations, and all are going through the Metronet line."
In addition to the hundreds of public library computers supported by the Metronet, the main branch runs all of its support functions via the Metronet fiber, including books and audio visual inventory.
"We’re talking about a huge inventory of information, and the Metronet takes care of all it very well."
South Bend-based Corporate Services, a fulfillment marketing company, has been in business for 14 years. And since December of 2006, it has been using Metronet’s high-speed, dark fiber to ship data from its main site to a downtown data center 11 miles away. “Sometimes, I don’t know how we functioned without Metronet,” says Mike Sniadecki, the company’s network services director.
“The performance has been awesome. “Granted, we didn’t have Metronet for many years, but it’s amazing what Metronet did for us. Our co-location site is 11 miles away, but the speed and reliability of the Metronet makes it seem like all our systems are in the same room. Sniadecki said Metronet permits Corporate Services to operate and manage its systems “without being bandwidth-constrained by the limits a lesser circuit type would impose.
It also allows us to have much more flexibility in how we design our systems. We are no longer physically constrained to one location. “It assists both our users and clients by simultaneously allowing users a delay free management of company systems and a capable disaster recovery (DR) solution for clients to operate all on the same circuit. “The Metronet has given us the ability to expand our DR systems. It has also allowed us to utilize our co-locations 99 percent ‘uptime’ and pass that along to our clients for their databases and websites.”
Sniadecki says Corporate Services signed up with Metronet nearly three years ago to link up its four main buildings to two that were about 1.5 miles away and to reach the co-location site that it uses for backup and disaster recovery. In addition, the company bases some of its customers’ websites at the downtown co-location site so they can have “99 percent up time.” Most of Corporate Services’ clients, he says, are on the East and West Coasts.
“Before subscribing, we had a private T1 line and over time it was just too slow for us,” he says. “We wanted more speed, and Metronet is 10 times as fast, and we also wanted the dark fiber. So, we put new equipment on both ends, and the monthly costs have been very reasonable.” Sniadecki says he also likes the redundancy that is built into the looped, Metronet system.
“If we get cut in one direction, we can use the loop and go the other route,” he says. “It’s been great for us. And like I said, I don’t know how we got along without it.”
As a signage solutions company with a national clientele, North American Signs moves large files across the Internet as a crucial part of its business. Because the scope of work is so broad, and because employees generate vast amounts of online traffic, Metronet Zing was the right choice for North American Signs. “We work with architects and designers across the country,” says John Yarger, CEO.
“Very high bandwidth is necessary to move those files quickly and easily.” With Metronet Zing, connecting the company’s second office in Elkhart is now just as fast as if everything were located in the same building, eliminating the need for additional equipment at the second office. Every aspect of North American Signs’ data -- including in-house applications, email, share-point services, customer portals, several web sites, and projects in planning forms and parameter security – can be hosted and transferred with no delays between buildings.
“Metronet Zing allows for virtually unlimited growth,” says Robert McCaughey, IT manager. “As North American Signs adds clients and employees, and as the environment moves away from paper documents and becomes increasingly electronic, I’m confident that we will never have to worry about having enough bandwidth.”
Brian Myers says his company, Peoplelink Staffing Solutions, couldn’t wait to link up with Metronet in early 2008. "Once we were hooked up, we had access to all that unlimited bandwidth," says Myers, who notes that Peoplelink is sending and receiving 400 to 600 gigabits of data via Metronet daily in the process of backing up its primary servers at GramTel.
While the company hasn’t added any new products or changed the way it does business, he said it is now able to provide better service and security for its customers because of Metronet’s unlimited bandwidth. Peoplelink has its corporate headquarters in South Bend with 35 employees and another 50 offices around the country. It provides staffing services for industrial, clerical and professional clients.
Myers says his company was able to use Metronet − the dark fiber optic cable optic network that loops nearly 50 miles underneath South Bend and Mishawaka − so it could move its servers to a disaster recovery center. It chose the GramTel data services company, which has its corporate headquarters in South Bend, because of "all the various protections it offers." GramTel is a subsidiary of Cincinnati Bell. In other words, that makes Peoplelink’s data more secure. "Metronet protects vital information, because it allows us to place servers offsite at a hardened data center," he said.
"Because of the speed of the Metronet, maintaining performance and usability is not an issue. Metronet also allows for better business continuity and uptime, because of this connection to the hardened data center. Myers says his company has been "absolutely happy with Metronet."
"It’s been a big, big boon for us, mainly so we could have access to the services at the other end. I’d gladly recommend it."
For those in the daily newspaper and television business, information transmission is essential. In today’s age of Internet communication where round−the−clock updates, posts, blogs and video clips are standard, the need for print and TV media to continually update data is crucial to survival. That is why the South Bend Tribune and its partner TV station, WSBT, both owned by parent company Schurz Communications, are grateful for the technological advances offered by the Metronet.
As subscribers for the past several years, these businesses are enjoying many technical benefits, as well as cost savings. Charlene Smith, Director of Information Services for the South Bend Tribune leads the company’s IT team which also supports WSBT−TV. Explains Smith, the Metronet fiber is the tool that connects the corporate office building in Mishawaka, home to WSBT−TV, to the newspaper headquarters located in South Bend. "The reason why we first became interested in the Metronet is that we did not have enough bandwidth to support our work, and we were experiencing issues using the Internet," says Smith. "We researched the different options and their costs and services and realized that the Metronet was the way to go."
Smith reports that she and her colleagues could not be more pleased with their decision. They have yet to experience any service outage, and by purchasing bulk bandwidth they save a significant amount of money. The TV station in particular requires a great deal of bandwidth due to its on−air broadcasting, yet as Metronet subscribers data transmission is no longer a challenge.
"As far as our work at the South Bend Tribune, everything we relay over the Internet is considered "mission critical," and we do a large portion of our business on the Web," says Smith. "This includes transmitting all email, posting stories 24/7, viewing videos, hosting live chats, and blogging − everything requires bandwidth." The effect on daily operations of both the newspaper and TV station is measurable since they became Metronet subscribers. Prior to then, the South Bend Tribune had to buy devices and software to achieve the connectivity it needed, and it even had to black out certain websites to maintain a certain level of necessary telecommunication.
"For us at the South Bend Tribune, as well as the TV station, it really all boils down to having the available bandwidth that we need," adds Smith. "Working with the Metronet has been wonderful."
When your computer room overheats and your office is hit by frequent power outages, it’s time to make a change. That was the sentiment of Mark Gaddie, vice president of information technology at Stanz Foodservice. The firm has more than 170 employees and its distribution center is based in South Bend.
"We decided to sign on with Metronet because we didn’t really have a good data center to speak of," explained Gaddie, whose company became a subscriber during the summer of 2008. He said Stanz Foodservices’ building was constructed as a warehouse and food distribution center and that its problem−plagued computer room was essentially an afterthought.
"To deal with the cooling difficulties and power outages, we would have needed a bigger air conditioning unit and a nearly full−time back−up generator," he said. "We didn’t want to go that route. We wanted a more simple option." That’s when Stanz Foodservice decided to move its computer system to a disaster recovery facility in South Bend operated by GramTel, a Cincinnati Bell subsidiary.
"Before we could do that, though, we obviously needed some sort of a communication link between our office and the data center," he said. "We needed something that was fast and reliable and had a lot of bandwidth. We got that with Metronet. "When the Metronet came to our part of South Bend near the airport, we worked with them so they could run the fiber past our building so we could connect. As soon as that happened, we basically moved our computer system down to GramTel’s data center in a matter of a month or two. "
Now, Gaddie said, the company has − to use an insurance company cliché −− peace of mind. "Our move to GramTel’s data center was a strategic decision to protect one of the company’s greatest assets, the computer system," he said, noting that the company hasn’t changed any procedures since it signed on with Metronet. "GramTel’s data center provides temperature control, dual power and physical security, everything we were looking for in a data center. The move would not have been possible without the Metronet’s high speed, extremely reliable connection between the office and our computer.
"The analysis we did on Metronet was one of the most thorough and extensive processes I’ve ever been part of. I needed to be 100 percent confident in the connection, because no matter how much our computer system was protected, if we couldn’t access it, it would be worthless." By signing up with Metronet, Gaddie said his company saved some greenbacks, too. "It used to cost us money every time our system went down," he said. "We would have needed a big generator because we are a 24/7 company. It was a lot more cost− effective to simply move things down to GramTel."
Now, all Stanz Foodservice has at its headquarters are its computers and some switches that connect it to the Metronet.
"The firewall and the computer system servers are at the other end of the Metronet fiber and that’s working just great for us," he said.
As an economic leader in St. Joseph County, Indiana, Rick Rice was initially interested in the Metronet because of its potential for furthering the community’s economic development. Yet the more he learned about the Metronet’s high speed, data transmission capabilities, and cost efficiency, the more he realized the benefits it could bestow on the organization over which he presides − the Teachers Credit Union.
As a banking institution, the 26,000 member Teachers Credit Union processes online and real-time transactions and thus relies on moving tremendous amounts of information that is critical to its customers. "We complete about 1.5 million transactions each month," says Rice, president of Teachers Credit Union. "Money that is deposited in an account shows up immediately, even though some branches of the Teachers Credit Union are as far away as Indianapolis."
Rice points out that while instantaneous transactions were possible using the organization’s old data network, the increased bandwidth offered by the Metronet allows the Teachers Credit Union to move significantly more data, spread throughout its 36 different branches, all at the same time. "The Metronet is what connects all our information and keeps it moving smoothly and efficiently," says Rice. "While that is a significant benefit of the Metronet, another important advantage is the big savings in cost."
As subscribers of the Metronet, the Teachers Credit Union saves approximately $6,000 in cost each month, compared to the costs of its prior service, for an annual savings of $72,000. "We estimate that due to our switch to the Metronet, we will ultimately gain a total savings of $250,000 to $300,000 each year," says Rice. Rice is convinced that this optic fiber, high speed telecommunications network is beneficial not only to the Teachers Credit Union, but to all its subscribers, as well as the future of economic development in St. Joseph County.
"The Metronet will provide us with options for the future that wouldn’t exist if not for its service," he says.
SOUTH BEND -- Fresh from viewing a streaming video, students in Matthew Bartek’s ninth grade biology class at Trinity School at Greenlawn sit at counters that frame their classroom walls, plug in their laptops and begin working on a study unit about fungi. The students work in teams, groups of four collaborating to create presentations, using shared files stored in the cloud. As data zips back and forth, a sidebar on each laptop screen shows what the other team members have open. The discussion is eager but quiet as collaboration builds.
A year ago, this scene at Trinity would have been much different. Even with its record of excellence – Trinity at Greenlawn is a Department of Education Blue Ribbon School for 2013 – the school was impacted by connectivity constraints. Trinity’s Internet service didn’t have enough capacity to support high definition streaming video, and seamless linking of computers and classrooms to each other and the cloud just wasn’t possible. While long buffering times, frozen screens, slow responses and timed-out file loading are inconveniences for home Internet users, in a school limited bandwidth can mean interrupted lessons, distracting students who sit and wait. Educational opportunities are lost as teachers forgo online resources because of delays and frustration.
This year, the limits are off at Trinity. “That they all have screens open and connected to the Internet wouldn’t have happened last semester,” Bartek explains. A year ago, perhaps half of the laptops could have been online, but screens would lock up and response would be slow. Pointing across the room, Bartek says, “That this one screen is scrolling up and that one scrolling down, that wouldn’t have happened.” The Trinity transformation is because of a new Metronet Zing connection. Access to Metronet’s high-speed, high capacity dark fiber network has changed how Trinity’s teachers teach and how students learn.
Trinity is the first recipient of a grant through St. Joe Valley Metronet and nCloud’s new K-12 Fiber to Schools Grants Initiative. Each grant covers the cost of extending conduit and fiber from the Metronet backbone into the school and also provides three years of Metronet access. Trinity’s connection was installed over the summer. Tom Cuggino is chairman of the committee supervising the school fiber initiative for Metronet. He said the grants have two main objectives: to encourage schools to develop innovative approaches that will improve education outcomes; and to remove broadband capacity constraints that may hinder implementation of those approaches.
Before Metronet brought virtually unlimited connectivity, Bartek’s biology students exchanged information through e-mail after school or by trading flash drives, taking work home where getting online often was faster and easier. In another classroom, Danielle Svonavec’s seventh-grade students study music composition using online software. A year ago, just half the class could be connected at a time. Even with that limited number, slow connections meant wasted time as students waited for the software to store and process their work.
This year, all students are online. Response is seamless. Instead of being frustrated by computer issues, students work without distraction. The class is able to take full advantage of the software and learning is enhanced as students hear their compositions played back instantly as they work. Most schools in St. Joseph County could tell similar stories where the effectiveness of teaching and learning is diminished because of limited broadband capacity. Mary Jan Hedman, Chief Executive Officer of St. Joe Valley Metronet, said helping schools become better connected and at the same time encouraging innovation serves the purpose for which Metronet was founded almost a decade ago.
A public-private partnership, Metronet was created to supply dark fiber infrastructure that would support economic development in an area where opportunities were hampered by the high cost and limited availability of broadband service. Businesses, universities, medical providers and governmental offices all had experienced how limited connectivity impacted their ability to do business, let alone expand, innovate and grow. Schools face the same needs and have the same opportunities. Access to high capacity affordable broadband has helped transform schools in other areas. Mooresville, N.C., is one example of a school system that embraces the potential of broadband. Mooresville ranks in the bottom 5 percent of schools for per pupil funding, but is in the top 5 percent both in test scores and graduation rates.
Great schools draw new residents and help build a reputation that makes the community attractive to investment in new and expanding businesses. Employers need a well-educated workforce to fill better paying, technology based jobs in a rapidly changing economy. The K-12 Fiber to Schools Grants Initiative was created by Metronet and nCloud to challenge and support schools as they experiment and innovate to improve outcomes. John A. Lee, head of school at Trinity, is quick to say: “Technology isn’t going to answer all questions and solve all problems for education. Every time we introduce technology into the school, we have a goal in mind, either to teach more effectively or to help our students to learn more effectively.”
It’s that emphasis on outcomes that made Trinity the choice to receive the initiative’s first grant. While grants remove one difficult obstacle for schools by covering the cost of connecting to high speed and high capacity broadband, Cuggino said the initiative’s main goal is to challenge schools to excel. Schools that win grants must have specific plans to use the new connectivity to improve educational outcomes.
They must demonstrate how those plans will be implemented, show how successes will be measured and accountability enforced, show that necessary training will be provided, that the staff will be engaged and supportive, and that funding is available both to implement the program and to continue it over time. Trinity’s application met those challenges with plans as exotic as linking students to the CERN Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland to do real-time analysis of particle acceleration experiments, and as basic as allowing instructors to stream high definition video to classrooms.
Winning schools must have or be able to provide the internal infrastructure to make use of the expanded broadband capacity. For Trinity, that meant extensive work over the summer to install network cables and additional wireless routers. Receipt of the grant allowed Trinity to apply for other grants to help offset these costs. Internal improvements were not complete as the school year started, but enough was done over the summer that Metronet service was ready to make an impact as soon as students returned in the fall.“We expect that schools will incur additional expense to implement their objectives,” Hedman said. “At least we remove the burden of getting infrastructure to the school building and also provide service for three years. That will help free funds to support necessary improvements.”
Connected schools also are able to reduce costs by sharing staff experience and expertise as well as other resources. The new connectivity will be paying off in exactly that way for Trinity, which is headquartered in South Bend but also has a school campus in Minnesota and another in Virginia. Since they share a common curriculum, plans are being made for master teachers at one campus, through videoconferencing or by shared access to recorded video, to teach classes at a sister school and to provide training and support to new instructors.
Since South Bend now has the fastest connectivity, plans are to house materials that can be shared, such as slides for an art history class, there to be accessed by other campuses. John Lee said the school was approached to open a fourth campus in New Jersey. Instead, Trinity is leasing its curriculum to The Wilberforce School and will use its Metronet connection to train and support staff there.
Back in the classroom in South Bend, Bartek relates how the increased connectivity is helping his students make progress. Less than two days into their two-week unit on fungi, the students already are a day and a half ahead of where they would have been a year ago. Metronet access already is bringing new opportunities to Trinity’s 200 students. This year, for the first time, Trinity students are able to compete in the FIRST LEGO League. Improved connectivity is being used to conduct research for the team’s projects.
Trinity’s pre-algebra seventh grade students are joining tens of millions of students in more than 180 countries for the Hour of Code, billed as the largest educational event in history. Trinity’s new connectivity will enable its students to join this concentrated, worldwide focus on computer science education. There’s another indirect benefit at Trinity. More than one staff member said internal network upgrades mean shared printing resources actually work when needed. What had been a hit-or-miss proposition now works every time.
Trinity, only a few months into its grant, still has more to do. Additional funding is needed to upgrade and extend wireless connectivity throughout the campus. Second semester will see more classes making use of video and other opportunities made possible by improved connectivity. Cuggino said that’s exactly what the grants committee anticipates. “Not everything will be in place immediately, but we expect that each school applying for a grant has both a plan and a commitment for making use of the Metronet connection.” Around 35 St. Joseph County schools are near enough to the Metronet fiber network to make a connection economically feasible. The grants program was initiated with $100,000 in funding, enough to connect several schools in the first year. Metronet is committed to providing similar funding in subsequent years and unallocated funds will be rolled over to support future grant awards.
Grant applications are available through St. Joe Valley Metronet. Call 574 968-5353 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
Ivy Tech Community College, the nation’s largest state−wide community college with single accreditation, is also the state of Indiana’s largest public post−secondary institution. With 23 campuses throughout the state serving more than 120,000 students, virtual connection between the campuses is vital to maintaining a cohesive environment.
The three Ivy Tech campuses comprising the north central Indiana region − South Bend, Elkhart and Warsaw − are now I−Light subscribers. The iLight network is a high−speed fiber optic network specifically for higher education and research in Indiana. The Ivy Tech South Bend campus utilizes the Metronet to access the iLight system. This allows administrators of the South Bend campus to connect more quickly with the office of the Ivy Tech president in Indianapolis. The increased bandwidth provided by the Metronet also enables educators to teleconference and communicate with one another with greater ease.
Since joining the Metronet network several years ago, the college’s South Bend campus has been pleased with the speed and reliability it offers. "It has been more reliable than anything else we’ve ever used before at Ivy Tech," says Mckechney Valeris, Executive Director of Computer and Technology Services at Ivy Tech’s north central campuses. "As a fiber−based network we’ve yet to have any technical or service issues − which are a testimony unto itself." The opportunity for students and instructors to interact online is valuable to Ivy Tech students. "We offer classes where students conduct experiments online, such as blowing up the chemistry lab, but the advantage is that the lab is not in our actual building!" remarks Dr. Virginia Calvin, Chancellor of Ivy Tech Community College North Central Campus.
The high bandwidth and data transmission capabilities of the Metronet benefit students in various scientific areas. "Our astronomy classes can tap into a lot of powerful resources, and it truly makes a big difference to have that capability," adds Calvin. "We’re still finding our way in utilizing the potential of the Metronet with respect to what we can offer our students." Ivy Tech is presently exploring the delivery of additional educational services through the Metronet. Examples include two−way videoconferencing to provide courses to students in counties in Indiana where qualified instructors are not available.
"As a multi−campus with sites throughout the state, cost is critical, so we’re trying to connect with other resources throughout Indiana to deliver education," says Valeris. "The Internet is clearly a way of doing that, and now that we have the physical component [the Metronet] implemented, we plan to develop this further to serve more students."
Nearly everyone on the Indiana University South Bend campus was eager to get on board with I-Light, the high-speed fiber optic network designed for higher education and research in Indiana. But it took the last-mile connectivity provided by Metronet Zing to make it possible. In addition, the unlimited bandwidth means the campus will be able to meet an ever-expanding array of technological needs, says Pat C. Ames, Ph.D., vice chancellor for information technologies at IU South Bend.
The I-Light network is a unique collaboration among colleges and universities, state government and private sector broadband providers. In addition to providing more bandwidth than most Indiana colleges and universities could otherwise afford, the network provides a variety of other capabilities, makes possible multicampus collaborative research projects and enables the use of high-definition learning tools.
“Without access to the fiber network via the Metronet connection,” Ames says, “we wouldn’t be able to use our high-end video conferencing system (Cisco TelePresence ), wouldn’t be able to offer our faculty access to the supercomputing capabilities and massive data storage in Bloomington and wouldn’t have been able to provide high-speed Internet access to every lab computer, every classroom and every faculty/staff office on campus.” Before becoming a Metronet subscriber in 2006, the campus used DS3. Metronet has allowed IU South Bend to do things better and more quickly.
“The DS3 is to the Metronet what a dull knife is to a scalpel,” says Ames. “Most of our administrative and student service processes are conducted online via the Internet or through the IU network, and we’d be functioning at a significantly reduced rate without the Metronet connection to I-Light.” The increased bandwidth also will allow IU South Bend to continue to expand its functions and offer an ever-widening array of learning options. Looking ahead, many of the campus computers, especially those in the labs, will be virtualized. That would not have been possible without the high-speed connection.
In addition, as IU South Bend’s online offerings continue to increase, the campus will move from traditional telephone service to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), and more faculty members likely will make use of the collaboration tools and services offered at the large data center located on the main campus in Bloomington. Finally, Ames says, IU South Bend is moving forward with its 1:1 initiative, which is the concept of one laptop for every student in the school. In addition, some instructors may request laptops. All of these technologies will require reliable high-speed access.
“The timing was right for us to do this,” Ames says. “Our students, both on-campus and in the student housing, certainly appreciate the additional bandwidth—as do our faculty and staff.”
When Troy Stokes joined Allied Physicians of Michiana as director of IT, he already was aware of the benefits of Metronet. "I knew from previous experience that it would decrease our costs," he says.
Since 1998, Allied Physicians of Michiana has combined business management services of the area’s leading physician practices in the region, thus allowing specialists to concentrate on patient service. Affiliated offices represent a broad range of medical specialties, including: Allergy and asthma; Colon and rectal surgery; Cosmetic and reconstructive surgery; General and vascular surgery; Hearing services; Obstetrics and gynecology; Orthopedics and nerve surgery; Otorhinolaryngology; Pediatrics; and Urology.
With affiliated offices located in South Bend, Elkhart, Mishawaka, Plymouth and Rochester, the organization had been keeping its various remote locations connected using traditional technologies such as T−1 lines. That meant that personnel at each individual location were responsible for handling servers for housing files and preparing backup tapes − tasks that were time−consuming and costly.
In July 2009, Allied became a Metronet subscriber, consolidating some of the servers at remote locations into the server infrastructure located in downtown South Bend. "That was the biggest lure of the Metronet," Stokes says. "We’ve eliminated multiple connections − T−1s as well as Internet − and combined it all into one infrastructure. Since we have those files at main servers downtown, we’ve been able to free up valuable staff time, reduce tape cost, reduce backup times, and reduce our electrical costs."
Metronet has helped the organization realize cost savings in other ways, as well. For example, Allied Physicians saves over $800 a month in Internet costs alone. "We also have a high−speed, 100Mbps connection via the Metronet to Michiana Health Information Network," Stokes says. "What that allows us to do is exchange information for any Allied patient to and from the community repository at a higher speed which is essential to prove ’Meaningful Use’ of our EMR (Electronic Medical Records)."
"Meaningful use" refers to a series of criteria set forth by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Health care providers must be able to demonstrate that they meet those criteria in order to receive incentive payments, which help to offset some of the cost associated with the purchase and implementation of an electronic medical record system. Those criteria cover such issues as the generation, tracking, storing and transmitting of patient records. "Any physician trying to get reimbursed by the government will need the connectivity to make that happen," Stokes explains. "Metronet offers that connectivity with the capability to handle the high volume of (data) traffic that flows."
Stokes says, the increased bandwidth and exceptional reliability of Metronet "allows you to think outside the box. It opens up so many other doors to different applications that would not be possible without it. It’s almost without limitation," he says.
Steve Huffman says he knew from the start that Memorial Health System wanted to be part of Metronet, the dark, fiber optic cable optic network that loops nearly 50 miles underneath South Bend and Mishawaka and offers virtually unlimited bandwidth to subscribers. Huffman, the system’s vice president and chief information officer, says Metronet has significantly sped up access to patient records and allowed Memorial to update disaster recovery data in real time.
"In the old days, when you showed up at a clinic, your doctor would fill out a paper chart," he says. "Then when you were shuttled on to another doctor or another clinic, you had to rely on drivers to move that information along," he said. Now, thanks to Metronet, that information − which can include sophisticated scans and radiological studies − can be transferred around the Memorial network in the blink of an eye, he says.
"With improved connectivity, those records can be accessed immediately. The more information we collect on you via electronic medical records gives a more complete picture across our continuum of care. Metronet certainly helps with that." Huffman says Memorial, a founding member of Metronet, is now joined with four outlying sites and looks forward to linking up to its offices in neighboring Mishawaka. "One of the reasons we joined was to get high−speed access to some of our remote facilities," he says.
Memorial houses about 10 terabytes of data at its disaster recovery facility that is updated in real time across the Metronet. That includes what he calls "duplicate writes" of all of the health system’s electronic medical records data, which is even more substantial than its radiological images. "The longer the distance, the more data you shove down that pipe, the more expensive it gets. So anything we could do to increase bandwidth and hold costs steady − or reduce them − was a huge incentive for us."
Huffman says Memorial runs its own disaster recovery center at a South Bend facility managed by GramTel data services company, a subsidiary of Cincinnati Bell. "They supply us the floor space and we manage the servers," he says. Huffman says he figures the health system − which has 2,500 employees and runs the 525−bed Memorial Hospital − is saving more than $100,000 a year by using Metronet to send and receive data from its disaster recovery center. Huffman says Metronet has more than lived up to his expectations.
"It’s been great," he says, "we can’t wait for it to expand."
The MRI Centers of St. Joseph County, an outpatient healthcare facility and dedicated center for MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), relies on the transmission of huge medical images between six different facilities. In the past, the various facilities comprising the MRI Centers used T1 Internet connections to distribute digital images, but these connections were simply not fast enough. Improved technology became a necessity if the facility was to effectively meet its demand and provide patients with state−of−the−art healthcare.
That is where the Metronet has proven to be a tremendous asset for the MRI Centers. Jack Seifert, chief technologist for the facility, first investigated the advantages of switching to the Metronet. As Seifert describes, while other commercial services were available to help the MRI Centers achieve what it needed, he realized that the St. Joe Valley Metronet was formed to serve as a backbone for the South Bend community, and it was important to support the new endeavor.
Although the original fiber network within the South Bend city limits did not extend quite far enough to include the MRI Centers’ central facility, successful negotiations with the Metronet developers resulted in expansion of the network. Three of the six MRI Centers facilities are now connected, and the projection is for the remaining facilities to join by the end of this year. Since joining the network, the MRI Centers has reaped significant benefits. Connection to the Metronet fiber provides fast, reliable transmission, and for a very affordable fee. "Now we can efficiently transmit images back and forth in seconds, rather than minutes," says Seifert.
Another advantage is the potential for direct connection to medical facilities throughout the community for the sharing of electronic medical records (EMR). As Seifert points out, most healthcare facilities are moving in the direction of digital sharing of medical information, and the Metronet significantly increases the ability to upgrade medical images for improved sharing capabilities.
"This is what we’ve been waiting for, and we’ve had nothing but positive experiences since becoming affiliated with the Metronet," says Seifert. In just over six months it has realized the needs of the MRI Centers. "It’s a win−win situation for us as we continue to grow our ability to share our medical images throughout the community. The road is now paved for this expansion thanks to the Metronet."
Thanks to the Metronet, the South Bend Public Works Department is now in the 21st Century, bringing remote signals to a central monitoring and control computer to manage more than 50 sewage lift stations. "In the old days, you’d have two guys driving around in a pickup truck to see if you had a little red light on and that meant you had a problem," says Gary Gilot, the city’s public works director. "Or you got a phone call from the neighbors when ’it’ backed up in their basement."
Now, using Metronet, the city has "24/7" monitoring on its lift stations "so we can see if the lead lift pump has a problem, automatically switch it off, turn the lag pump on and dispatch a maintenance crew to find out what’s wrong with the main pump and stay in business. "It helps us with reliability and controlling remote water and waste water facilities," he says. Gilot says the city began using Metronet’s dark fiber to synchronize its many traffic signals. "Originally, a lot of the conduit and fiber system that became Metronet was basically connecting the dots between all of our signalized intersections," he says.
"It started out with a lot of dead−end lines, but we transformed it into a looped system that can do so much more," he says. "Now, if we have a cut on one of the fiber lines, it will be self−healing and the data can just flow the other direction around the loop. "It’s a much more forgiving system and it’s a big benefit for us to have redundancy," he says. He says the city also uses Metronet "to get our information technology services to the many government buildings spread around the 40 square miles that makes up South Bend."
In addition, South Bend is pushing the IT envelope with Metronet by putting in the field a system that coordinates an embedded sensor system in manholes − dubbed SCO Net − that will better manage storm water runoff to eliminate overflows into streams and diluted sewage backing up in basements. "We are the only city in the world to do this," he says. "Having a Metronet backbone allows you to implement some of these creative new ideas." Gilot says South Bend has a combined sewer system, which means storm and sewer water go through the same pipe.
"In dry weather, it all makes it very nicely to the waste water plant. And during most storms, the system is not full," he says. "We have more than 500 miles of very large pipe. If you have real time monitoring and control that’s connected by radios and the fiber, we can rebalance and prevent overflows during the big storms.
"Instead of setting the orifice once in the 1950s and assuming that’s right from there on out, we are applying modern synchronization and control technology via Metronet to hydraulics and sewers," he says.
When it came time for Donnell Systems, a South Bend-based software and service provider, to co-locate its data center in late 2007, company executives chose Metronet’s high-speed dark fiber as its transmission system. "Metronet provides the connectivity required to support fast, reliable and secure mission-critical applications from our remote data center," says Tom White, Donnell’s chief technology officer and vice president for development. "We did it for back-up in case something should go down, and also to run different services at each of the locations," he adds.
Donnell, a developer and service provider for document archival and distribution has 25 employees and two locations in South Bend. Its co-location center is at Global Access Point in the historic Union Station. "This facility offers dual power feeds, power generators, cooling systems with redundancy, and soon, a SAS-70 level certification for DataCenter management," he says. "Without Metronet, locating these critical servers at this facility would not have been cost justifiable. "It’s worked out very well and I’ve recommended it to others," says White, who has been with the company since its inception in 1989.
He says one of the "great advantages from our perspective is that Metronet is open, meaning it is dark fiber. So for our monthly fee we can light it and administer it ourselves. The ability to control it from our end is very important to us." Moreover, the Metronet fibers are private, "dedicated to our use." Prior to hooking up with Metronet, he says Donnell used a non-fiber T1 system through SBC, AT&T and other vendors. White says Donnell manages its "web services, email and things like that through the co-location. Our Internet access point is through there and the Metronet traffic has never bottlenecked. We’ve never experienced any downtime related to the Metronet."
White says connecting to Union Station via Metronet means Donnell is now able to "access any services provider at our co-location facility securely and cheaply." And that, he says, has increased the company’s opportunities "to expand our outsourced services, such as document management, data backups, Email management and other infrastructure-type services. "In essence, we can now implement a "Private Cloud" infrastructure with any provider located at the facility," he says. "Thus, not only are the servers and applications virtualized (kept private), but the required data connections are private as well."
He says Donnell’s Document Management Service (OCIE) can now be marketed as an application service provider (ASP) style service over the Internet or inside a private cloud, thanks to Metronet’s high-bandwidth access. For an Adobe Flash presentation on this type of Service implementation, please visit the following URL: www.Donnell.com/html/Metronet.html
"Traditionally, we marketed our OCIE Service as more of a managed appliance, which is installed locally on the customer’s network," he says."Metronet is the final link that affords us the necessary network connection into the customer’s infrastructure," he says.
"So all in all, it’s been a very good experience for us and even saved us a little money, too," he says. "But the primary reason we did it was for additional functionality and capabilities that we were looking for. We’ve certainly gotten that."
If it weren’t for Metronet, the GramTel data services company would probably never have opened a second data center in South Bend’s Blackthorne Corporate Park last fall. And it certainly wouldn’t be considering opening a third data center in the city this year. "Metronet has definitely helped our growth," says Rich Carlton, a GramTel vice president. At the grand opening of the Blackthorne facility, South Bend Mayor Steve Luecke lauded GramTel’s expansion and said it "helps us to tell our story about the infrastructure we have in place to support high-tech companies."
Carlton says GramTel is used by scores of client companies − from Chicago to Hollywood and beyond − for off-site data storage, as well as disaster recovery. In addition to recovery due to storms or even potential terrorist attacks, he says many companies use firms like Gram Tel to comply with government regulations dealing with safe storage of medical, financial and legal records. Carlton says his company chose South Bend to start and expand because of its proximity to Chicago. GramTel’s corporate headquarters is also located in South Bend.
Carlton says the Metronet permits his company and others to purchase bandwidth at a lower price "so we can keep our costs down, offer increased connectivity speed, boost reliability and go to voice-over IP technology much more cost effectively. "Metronet has definitely benefited the organizations that are located in South Bend," he says. Though GramTel has clients around the country, he says the bulk are located in the Windy City. "With Metronet, we have invested in long-haul connectivity between downtown Chicago and Metronet," he says.
"So companies can send data on a shared connection into our centers and connect to their systems in Indiana from Chicago for very inexpensive rates compared to what they would have to spend if they went to other parts of the country." Carlton says the second data center was built in South Bend mainly because so many Chicago firms "were seeing the benefit of having disaster recovery in South Bend."
"At roughly 90 miles, it’s far enough away to be safe, yet close enough to still be drivable," says Carlton, whose company was started in 2000 and has used Metronet since it was founded in 2006.
When Kevin Smith bought South Bend’s Art Deco−style Union Station train depot in 1981, he had no plans to turn it into a cutting−edge, digital telecommunications "carrier hotel." Carrier Hotel: A type of data center where multiple customers locate network, server and storage equipment and interconnect to a variety of telecommunications and other network service providers with a minimum of cost and complexity. Wikipedia
"I just liked the way the building looked," says Smith, president of Global Access Point, a telecom firm he started in 2003. "Frankly, I fell in love with the architecture," adds Smith, a 1978 University of Notre Dame graduate. "It’s a grand structure." So Smith followed the building through the bankruptcy process, put in a bid and got it for $28,000 − which he says was still a lot of money for him nearly three decades ago. Technology Mall: Location of a variety of vendors where consumers can pick and choose the services they need ’a la cart.’ Vendors can manage the complexity of the modern telecommunications world, allowing end−users to concentrate on their own business and services.
Since then, Smith has invested nearly $16 million into Union Station, which is located adjacent to the city’s Ignition Park, a budding, 140−acre technology research and manufacturing center being built on the old Studebaker grounds. Union Station is one of Indiana’s two carrier hotels − the other is in Indianapolis. Smith has turned this aging train depot into a state−of−the−art data storage center, optic−fiber transmission hub and virtual technology mall. Along with the Metronet − whose dark fiber boasts unlimited bandwidth, redundancy and high−speed − Union Station has become an engine for economic growth in the South Bend region.
In its heyday, the 80−year−old Union Station was a major transportation link, with three separate railroads − hence the name "Union" − bringing passengers into the city where they could disembark or board trains and continue to other destinations. Passenger service ended in the mid−1970s, however, and the structure fell into disrepair. Eventually, it became a hangout for several gangs with ominous names, like the Death Squad and the Renegades. Smith and his father bought the Railroad Express Agency building − once used to handle freight − beside Union Station in 1979, and converted into a Deluxe Sheet Metal shop and offices.
When Smith took over Union Station, the front door had been knocked down. "There were no keys for the building," he recalls. "It was unsecured, just a shell of a building. I had to walk in the same door the gangs used. That was my introduction to the Grand Hall of the Union Station and it can be seen in the picture I have in the front foyer now." Luck was with Smith: Once he started to restore the building, the gangs left.
"I was a little worried about how to deal with them," he says. "But I just pretty much worked around the clock. They left me alone, perhaps because they thought I was crazier than they were. "But I’d been in the neighborhood for a couple of years and never had any problems with them. I don’t know if they had any appreciation for the Art−Deco style of the depot," he jokes. "More likely, they respected me because I was trying to improve the area." By 1983, Union Station’s Grand Hall was being used for formal events.
It had also become the home of Smith’s Soft Chip Technology Co., which did software development on a national basis for the construction industry, integrating CAD (computer−aided design) and CAM (computer−aided manufacturing) along with accounting. Several years later, Smith was approached by Rochester Communication, which wanted to put a regeneration station to "hop," or send, boosted radio signals forward, on the second floor of the depot. Back then, he said, Rochester Communication was running microwave hops using railroad easements. (Today, digital telecom firms run fiber long those easements and use Union Station as a regeneration point, among other things.)
"They put their microwave dishes along the railroad tracks," he said. "They wanted someplace to put their ’regen’ equipment and thought my building might be a good one." Smith began working with Rochester, which was later bought out by another firm, and tried to learn all he could about the telecom industry. "I did all the general construction for them and a lot of design−build," he said. "They needed to keep expanding and I ended up learning a great deal in order to better help them."
Fortunately, the South Bend train depot left a legacy Smith could exploit. "Union Stations were set up to bring convergent railroads into one common place," he said. "Each of those national railroads had easements and they were also self−contained linear cities. "When they built the railroads, they built their communications infrastructure for telephone, switching, telegraph and all those sorts of things. So it became a logical solution for national carriers of the digital variety to go to them to negotiate an easement for their fiber, potentially coast to coast.
"And that’s what happened. Union Station was where three of these national railroads focused. To make a long story short, that’s why all the fiber ended up coming in behind this depot." Because Smith understood what was happening early on, he resolved to make it easy for potential clients to do business. "I wanted to knock all the barriers down," he said. "So I put in a six−inch duct bank to connect all of these assets that belonged to the railroads and then I put in redundant six−inch and redundant four−inch ducts, too.
"I made it extremely easy for anyone who was on their easements to get into the building, which normally could be challenging," he said. "I also made sure I had generator bays ready and anticipated their other needs." Now, along with other major U.S. cities like Chicago, New York, Atlanta, San Francisco and Los Angeles, South Bend has a carrier hotel. It is home to nearly 22 telecom companies, with which area firms can choose to do business. Instead of a train depot, Smith says, Union Station is now a digital telecom station where companies can hop on and off the information highway.
"Not only do carrier hotels have regeneration capabilities, but they are also designed to have add/drop capabilities," he says. "They are an on−ramp or portal to fiber−optic networks that can pretty much take you anywhere in the world instantly. "At our ’hotel,’ one regional or national carrier can take traffic and exchange it with another or a local carrier, like Metronet. It’s a place with a convergence of digital pathways where long−, medium− and short−haulers come together and their signals can be intermixed and connected to one another."
Smith said Metronet is a boon to South Bend’s telecom structure and has helped his carrier hotel thrive. "A regional carrier can buy Metronet’s dark fiber and light it directly or a local carrier or business can choose to light and operate their own," he said. "By them coming back to Union Station, they can connect to whomever they wanted to. That’s the beauty of the Metronet. It gives people choices. They can have equipment at Union Station and then pick which carrier or how many of the carriers they want to use. It’s simply changing a cross connection − a little fiber jumper between one to another − so it gives them a lot of flexibility."
Smith said it’s his goal to make things easier for companies, schools, hospitals and other entities to negotiate the technology side of their business. "The objective is to have a big, red easy button, because people have enough to do to run their enterprises," he said. "I’m a vendor neutral place, so I encourage connectivity at whatever level makes sense. I support different initiatives." He said companies can shop at the Union Station’s virtual technology mall and pick and choose the services they need.
"The term mall means you can select from a variety of virtual vendors who can manage the complexity of the modern telecom world. The consumer just buys the service. And that’s the whole objective behind Union Station, to facilitate technology. I’ve tried to create a place where businesses can connect to carriers, or host their own servers and data centers or contract with a company that does that for them. My objective is to stay ahead of the technology curve, whether they are physical − the space itself − or bandwidth demands. Here at Union Station, you can go anywhere in the world with any capacity you want."
"And we’ve just scratched the surface," he said. "Right now, a little over 30 percent of Union Station’s capacity is being used, so we have a lot of room to grow."