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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

ITS to roll out Power over IP system*

Published: April 1, 2005
Section: News

Next fall ITS plans to unveil a new system called Power over IP (PoIP) that will replace traditional campus power distribution. The initiative comes on the heels of several other IP developments: the upgrading of the campus network, installation of Voice over IP (VoIP) phone service, and the newly announced IPTV initiative.

Thanks to the upgrades of two years ago, we have a first-rate computer network, said Chief Information Officer Perry Hanson. When we installed the new phone system, we had to completely revamp the entire network, including adding the capability to power the phones. This is just the next logical step.

The move to VoIP service allowed Brandeis to stop paying to maintain the campus phone lines, which were degrading. Now phone service is carried over the same data lines used for the computer network.

ITS has already announced plans to roll out a new TVIP system next year to replace existing campus cable TV, which is also a major drain on the facilities budget, according to Associate Vice President of Campus Operations Mark Collins.

It is silly, really, Collins told the Hoot. We are running all of these different cables — network, phone, TV — and realistically the technology exists now to do it all over one cable. Now with PoIP, you only need one jack!

The new system works by segmenting the computer network into separate virtual networks for each service. In theory an unlimited number of virtual networks, or VLANs, can be created.

We have phone, we have data, we have TV, and now well just add power on top of that, said Systems Services Manager John Turner. In the future we can keep adding additional VLANs for other services;

whatever you can think of will be here within the next three to five years.

Senior Data Network Engineer Mike Fitzgerald explained how the new system works.

Basically, when you plug in a device like, say, a microwave, it registers on the network with a central server. The server knows how much power it needs. Then when you put in your popcorn, it sends a ping to the server and the server sends back power packets, said Fitzgerald.

Because the system only sends the amount of power each device needs, the University will save thousands of dollars each day that used to be wasted when power went unused. Additionally, the backup power systems already built into the data network will make campus power outages less frequent.

One downside of the new system is that each device will require a special adapter to convert from a normal power plug to a network plug. Additionally, all devices will need to be plugged into the back of students phones.

These new phones are what makes it all happen, said Turner. They regulate the power usage and make sure power is distributed fairly.
Senior Systems Administrator Rich Graves told the Hoot that the new system will allow for better power monitoring.

Just like we monitor bandwidth usage and punish people who go over the quota, we can now monitor power as well. If one person is using disproportionally more than others, we can disconnect them from the power network.

Some students are wary of the systems ability to track usage. Now not only will they know when I view porn, when I call sex lines, and when I watch the Playboy channel, now Brandeis will even know when I plug in my inflatable friend, said Albert Cahn 07.

ITS plans to have the new system in place for the start of the 2005-2006 school year. Network Power Adapters (NPAs), which are needed for each device with a plug, will be available at the bookstore for $50 each.

We expect that price to drop over time, said Hanson.