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Jazz @Lincoln Center (USA)

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The Challenge:

JALC's inaugural season in its new home arrived after years of planning. Initially, the organization wanted to incorporate administrative offices into the new center, but it soon became clear that the performance side of the business, including box office and production staff, required the full volume of available space. The most logical solution then became to locate administrative personnel across the street in an existing leased office that already housed JALC's data center. This decision, however, presented a new challenge: how to extend the reach of the 100 Mbps corporate network from the administrative office space to Rose Hall, located 60 meters away? In Spring 2004, JALC's IT executives began searching for a solution that would give employees at the new facility access to the company's business-critical ticketing software, custom databases and email-at Gigabit Ethernet speed.

According to Fred Murphy, associate director of IT, JALC's first thought was to lay fiber optic cable, but it quickly became apparent that trenching across a busy New York City street was not an option due to easement and licensing concerns. "We didn't fully understand the problem of digging up the streets, or the time delays that fiber entailed," he says. "With the center's opening less than six months away, we knew we had to act fast." The IT team also considered microwave technology, but didn't want to deal with complex spectrum licensing concerns or the liability issues surrounding public perceptions about harmful emissions. T1 lines offered a simpler answer, but at 1.5 Mbps, they simply wouldn't offer the enterprise-class bandwidth that JALC's staff demanded.

Jazz at Lincoln Center's service provider, a tier-one firm in Manhattan, then recommended LightPointe, a provider of optical wireless bridging solutions based on free space optics (FSO) technology. LightPointe's high-capacity, license-free products use beams of light to transmit voice, data and video through the air, without any of the installation challenges of fiber or microwave. Combining the speed of fiber with the flexibility of wireless, optical wireless bridges deliver physical-layer transport that works seamlessly with any network protocol.

Already convinced of LightPointe's technology advantages, Murphy evaluated the cost and deployment requirements of the FlightLiteT G, which offers Gigabit Ethernet bandwidth. Since the system can be installed in hours, not the weeks or months required for T1 lines, it addressed JALC's sense of urgency. From a cost standpoint, Murphy concluded that LightPointe provided a very economical solution, with pricing similar to an initial T1 investment, but without the recurring monthly fees.

"I hadn't heard of optical wireless before, but I'm very glad that it was brought to my attention," says Murphy. "Evaluating the technology in comparison to the other bridging alternatives made it easy for us to decide in favor of LightPointe."

LightPointe Solution:

JALC's selection of the FlightLite G was made without hesitation and the organization's service provider then teamed up with LightPointe to install the system. Even though the two JALC buildings are not located directly across the street from one another, but at a diagonal angle, a clear line of sight still exists. This simplified the installation process and assured optimum communication across the LightPointe bridge. To avoid the hassle of getting permission from the landlords to mount the FlightLite units on the exterior of the buildings, JALC opted to have them installed on the interior, behind windows on both sides of the street. This approach not only facilitates management for Murphy and his team, but also means that the system is not visible from the street. In addition, mounting behind glass saved installation time and costs while allowing JALC to avoid paying potential monthly roof lease fees.

According to Murphy, the FlightLite had plenty of power to transmit through Rose Hall's tinted glass. "In fact," he said, "The signal was so strong that the installers advised us to attenuate the power somewhat." (LightPointe's manual power control adjustment capability was used for the fine tuning.) Overall, deployment went without a hitch and the network was up and running between the two buildings within 24 hours.

Sound Byte:

"Without LightPointe, I don't know how we'd be able to provide Ethernet-class connectivity to our staff at the new facility. We now have the bandwidth we need, which is an important part of fulfilling our goals at JALC."
— Fred Murphy, Associate Director of IT, Jazz at Lincoln Center