Forest Hills Public Schools

Extreme Networks and Delta Network Services future-proof Michigan school district with enhanced wired infrastructure

Extreme Networks platform enables expanded wireless, VoIP, and video capabilities

With 18 schools, three specialty buildings, and five support facilities serving 10,000 students, Michigan’s Forest Hills School District could easily be a good-sized business.

The district is also similar to a business in that it relies on technology to do its job. Under Michigan educational standards, preparing students to “use technology and tools strategically in learning and communication” is a fundamental learning objective for all the district schools.

Reaching that objective requires high-performance computer networking capabilities for students, teachers, and administrators. Forest Hills’ network—designed by Bloomfield Hills-based network integrator Delta Network Services — supports the schools’ full range of educational, administrative, and operational needs. Based on Extreme Networks switches and software, the Forest Hills network provides industry-standard speeds, scalability, and bandwidth for applications ranging from learning software to voice calling to security cameras

“Schools have to be very budget sensitive, but at the same time they need solid products. Extreme has solid products that don’t break the bank.”

It was time to graduate to a more powerful, more scalable network

The Extreme network replaced Forest Hills’ previous fixed network, which was slowly being overwhelmed by increased demand and was eroding the performance of a recently installed wireless equipment.

“Our Cisco wired networking equipment had aged and its capabilities were becoming limited. Our newly installed Ruckus wireless network was also being restricted due to the older infrastructure components,’ said Susan Bordewyk, Director of Technology.

Forest Hills had older Cisco equipment throughout the buildings linked with a single Gigabit Ethernet connection and Gigabit connections within the buildings to the various wiring closets. The switches were 10/100MB rather than higher performance Gigabit Ethernet, and lacked PoE (Power over Ethernet) capabilities.

Forest Hills was looking for a 10 Gigabit wide-area network connecting all of the schools and support buildings, and 10 Gigabit speeds within each building.

It also needed:

  • PoE switches so the network could support security cameras, high-end IP phones, and virtual desktop infrastructure in the future
  • Enough bandwidth to run more multimedia cloud-based applications, which are growing more popular in education just as they are in business
  • Support for the wireless network; as school districts everywhere consider tablets for all K-12 students, Forest Hills wanted a wired network to support an extensive wireless network with access points in every classroom, and multiple access points in large instructional areas
  • Scalability to support the district’s needs for at least the next 10 years

Delta Network Services designed a network of about 200 Extreme Summit PoE switches linking all Forest Hills buildings which are spread across 68 square miles around Grand Rapids. The network:

  • Connects 26 buildings
  • Is a converged IP network
  • Can support data devices and demanding applications like Voice over IP
  • Is tuned so a phone can plug in and boot up correctly, with the proper quality of service
  • Supports constant data and video feeds from cameras and other security devices

“Delta Network Services presented a solution that leverages an industry leading technology that will provide flexibility to accommodate the changing needs of the district,” said Bordewyk. “In addition to being a cost-effective replacement solution, we were impressed by Delta’s vendor / equipment demonstration, and very optimistic after speaking with both the references provided and other colleagues who had made the switch from Cisco to Extreme.”

Solid networking products that don’t ‘break the bank’

The Extreme switches provide the capacity Forest Hills needed at a practical price point. Extreme backs the switches with lifetime warranties and automatic software upgrades – everything from bug fixes to complete upgrades.

“We’ve enjoyed a strong partnership with Extreme Networks for more than 16 years,” said John Zawacki, a partner at Delta Network. “They’ve always been an all-Ethernet company, and they offer solid value products with features, functionality and speeds that Cisco couldn’t provide at the same price. Schools have to be very budget sensitive, but at the same time they need solid products. Extreme has solid products that don’t break the bank.”

Delta also implemented Extreme’s Management Center software to enable Forest Hills’ IT staff to control the network from a single console, which streamlines and simplifies management. Management Center maps the entire network, displays all alarms and notifications, and backs up the configurations of all the switches. With the whole switching infrastructure supplied by one vendor, the IT staff only has to learn one set of commands for core and edge devices.

To ensure a smooth launch, Delta configured and staged the entire network in its own facility before implementing it in the Forest Hills buildings.

“Delta Network Services solution leverages an industry-leading technology that will provide flexibility to accommodate the changing needs of the district,” said Bordewyk. “We liked Delta’s approach of building the network in their own facility, and the Extreme network solution gave us the increased network throughput we were looking for at a cost-effective price point.”