Yale's 10,000-mile Fiber Backbone

March 4, 2021

While many of us don’t think about how data travels across the Yale network, one team focuses on making sure it does. The Wired Infrastructure team manages over 10,000 miles of cable connecting over 350 buildings and 1300 closets through Yale’s Fiber Backbone.

The Fiber Backbone consists of a series of fiber optic cables that spiderweb across the campus. These cables serve hundreds of buildings via main distribution centers, underground tunnels, conduits, and closets in our buildings, ultimately reaching our desks or connecting us to WiFi.

Establishing a Fiber Backbone was critical to ensuring the Next Generation Network (NGN) project’s success. IT is focused on ensuring that the existing fiber optic cable pathways and connection points were not at risk due to environmental conditions while also introducing redundancy and enhancing service resiliency. These issues posed potential challenges when the team was developing the NGN project.

Locations first had to be identified to enable the team to survey the underground connection points’ conditions for risks. There was no single source for this information; instead, the records containing this necessary information were available across dozens of historical blueprints created over many years. To introduce redundancy, the team recognized the importance of avoiding these current pathways in favor of finding new routes.

While identifying and surveying the underground connection points, the team loaded locations and inventory into a GPS-mapping database (think Google Earth). IT partnered with the Office of Facilities to remediate the highest priority conditions of risk. The team also worked with an external provider to create a redundant loop around the campus to reduce the risk of a large network outage.

Ultimately, establishing the Fiber Backbone operationalized inspections and routine maintenance of underground connection points, including ongoing photographic documentation of conditions by date.

Working together with the Network Services team, IT built a redundant and resilient NGN Core infrastructure that ensures data takes the quickest path to its destination.

Moving forward, IT plans to expand the use of the GIS mapping application to include all other types of connection locations (e.g., network closets) and inventory.

As NGN rolls out to additional campuses and buildings, it will enable IT to increase location resiliency and bandwidth by 10 to 40 times.

One IT at YaleService Quality