Cooperative IT efforts under way

February 14, 2010
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The cities of Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids have joined Kent County in an effort to try to create a common and usable information technology platform.

And another public entity, the Convention and Arena Authority, may join them in that quest.

County IT Director Craig Paull said the effort is comprised of two studies being conducted at the same time. First, the governments are mapping out an IT infrastructure to create a foundation document that should reveal some opportunities to share or consolidate virtual services and thus reduce the costs of those services.

“We’re looking forward with our IT infrastructure,” said County Commissioner Dean Agee.

Second, the effort includes conducting a software study because Paull said the county isn’t as invested in Microsoft products as the cities. One potential goal from this study is to create a single e-mail system for the four.

“So when the studies are done we can actually start doing some planning,” said Paull.

Paull said he hopes that both studies will be completed by the end of the month. Grand Rapids is paying for the studies.

The CAA may be interested in taking part because the bandwidth DeVos Place offers exhibitors sometimes falls short of their needs.

“We’re limited in what we can offer our customers,” said Eddie Tadlock, assistant general manager of the convention center. “Currently, we are below market.”

Tadlock said the building’s four copper T1 lines haven’t been stable, and the broadband capacity isn’t broad enough at times to properly support the 20 wireless access points in the convention center. DeVos Place has a 6 megabyte circuit running on those lines with a 3 MB wireless backup.

Tadlock said the average convention center in North America has a bandwidth of 45 MB — seven times what DeVos Place has — while one building offers 613 MB. He also said Cisco doesn’t service the convention center’s equipment any longer because it’s more than six years old.

“We need a short-term solution to serve our customers,” Tadlock said.

That short-term solution is expected to cost about $5,000 with the installation of a DS3 fiber Ethernet circuit that would increase the building’s bandwidth capacity to 50 MB.

Tadlock said he was also working on a long-term remedy that would conservatively cost at least “six figures” but would give the building a capacity of a gigabyte. He said a gigabyte would support the exhibit hall, plus DeVos Performance Hall and other areas in the convention center.

At that estimated cost, a long-term bandwidth upgrade will likely have to be included in the building’s capital improvement budget, which is due in April.

“Long term, this is going to happen in the next four months,” said Lew Chamberlin, a CAA board member. “This is going to become more critical in terms of meetings and servicing customers.”

SMG Assistant General Manager Jim Watt said he was looking at upgrading the system at Van Andel Arena, which runs independently from the one at DeVos Place.

“We’re looking at that goal, as well. But it will take longer than a year, though,” he said.

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