Schwarzman Center data room update

October 4, 2018

To create space for future student use and activities in the Schwarzman Center (formally the Commons), work continues to move forward in relocating Yale’s telephone infrastructure that supported over 15,000 phone numbers on central campus since 1987. Considerable work has been completed over the past year to eliminate the outdated telephone system and establish a new, smaller network room in another section of the building.

The majority of University telephones were moved to a voice over IP (VOIP) system, supported by Yale’s network and hosted in the cloud. Work is still in progress relocating fiber, copper, and electronics into the new network room.  “We hope to have that portion of the project finished by the end of the year,” said Bud Dannheim.  Some hardwired telephone lines around campus remain, including health, life, and safety phones–blue light phones, elevator phones, panic buttons, and burglar and fire alarms. The medical campus, also hardwired on a separate telephone network, for the most part, was not affected by this project.

The process to finish the move to the new data room is happening in a series of carefully orchestrated steps. First, the fiber is relocated and tested. Next, electronic equipment is moved into the room piece by piece and connected to the fiber. After the electronic equipment is moved, reconnected and tested, the copper wires that support regular telephone lines are moved and reinstalled into the new data room. A copper infrastructure supports traditional phone systems that still exist. Copper is still needed to support the blue phones, the mass notification system, some alarm systems, parking systems, and some private phone lines.  The team working on this project is examining each building to see what copper it contains, what can be cut, and what needs to remain.

While the goal of this project was to vacate the old telephone switch room of its equipment, replace the phone system with VOIP networked phones, and move equipment, fibers and copper to a smaller room, the team’s biggest concern was disruptions. “Our main goal is to do all of this to avoid major disruptions to end users. We continue to communicate with the community throughout this process,” said Tim Lee. To avoid unnecessary down time, work is done between 4:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. Monday through Friday.  More critical hookups or changes are done on the weekends, and ITS Telecom notifies users in advance when necessary.

An added bonus of this project is ITS now has improved documentation with exact information of what wires and switches go where. If something goes down, this data can assist technicians in finding the issue and quickly fixing it. 

This has been a team effort. Including people physically moving equipment and programmers working on the back-end documentation. “Someone described this process is like changing the engine on the Space Shuttle while keeping it traveling at 17,500 miles an hour. There can’t be any downtime everything has to keep running, it must be done methodically, or there can be mayhem,” said Tim Lee.