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Students enjoy accessing the Internet through MCLA’s Blazernet, which provides them with quick and reliable connections from their rooms and everywhere else on campus.

‘Blazernet’ Upgrade Heightens Campus Connections

02/12/16

It’s the biggest change on campus that students, faculty and staff may never notice. A huge, behind-the-scenes undertaking – nicknamed “Blazernet” by MCLA’s technology professionals – has the campus community accessing the Internet and college resources four times faster.

“Students can do a Skype call or FaceTime from the library to the gym and the residence halls. We can do video conferencing from anywhere,” said Ian Bergeron, administrator of networked systems.

“The wireless network is quite literally a utility, and people expect it to work,” he explained. “But, to go from what we had to what we have today was quite an undertaking.”

This project – which included tripling the size and coverage of MCLA’s wireless network and quadrupling the Internet bandwidth – involved five years of planning and installation, 60 wiring closets, 149 switches, 508 new wireless access points and 6,552 network ports.

The road to “Blazernet” began in 2012.

“Suddenly, we had thousands of devices running around our network at any given time, but the same capacity. We needed a refresh, but we also needed to rethink what we had,” Bergeron said.

“Student demand is always going up. Every day, a new device comes out and is in our students’ hands, and needs to be connected to the network,” he explained. “Our students bring things all kinds of devices to campus – like an Xbox 360, a Nintendo DS – we have some who have something like 12 devices that they want to connect to the network.”

Now, “They can connect everything from the comfort of their bedroom. It’s not something that they need to go to the Help Desk to do,” he added.

After much thought and research, MCLA selected Enterasys, a networking company in Salem, N.H., to do the job. At about the same time, construction for the new Center for Science and Innovative was to begin. The timing was perfect.

“We equipped the Science Center with this equipment, in the same way that we wanted to demonstrate it for the rest of the campus. We installed twice the wireless network that we’d ever done before, and it all ran very well,” Bergeron said.

Next, with the renovation of Bowman Hall, the art studio needed to be relocated to MASS MoCA.

“We accomplished that using this equipment, and we were able to do something we’d never done before: We extended the phone system network off-campus and made it look like a little bit of MCLA, out in MoCA,” Bergeron explained.

Bowman, too, was built with the expanded network in mind. Along the way, student residences – Hoosac Hall and Berkshire Towers – as well as the Amsler Campus Center, were refreshed with new Enterasys equipment until, ultimately, every location on campus was covered, Bergeron said.

Although some final touches were made over the winter break, most of the changes to the network were completed by the time students returned to campus last September.