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03/31/2005 - Zero dB Establishes Interoperability Lab

The most ambitious network won’t work if the component parts are incompatible – and it happens all too often. When it does, network engineers have to go into high gear, testing and retesting, sometimes traveling long distances, in the case of a wide area network. All this gets very expensive, very quickly. Zero dB’s clients don’t have to worry about time delays or extra expense because Zero dB has built an interoperability testing laboratory so that the networks they design are guaranteed to work.

According to Dana Bisaro, CEO, they preinstall the designed network in the Interoperability lab – all of the equipment and software –and prove that it will work before they deploy it in the field. “This keeps our clients out of the cross fire when something doesn’t work,” says Bisaro. “Networks are now all using Ethernet technology which is proven and has global standards. New equipment and services are all Ethernet, but they don’t necessarily use the same protocols which means the equipment and software won’t necessarily talk to each other.” The cost of building the laboratory was substantial. Bisaro continues, “We did a business case based on the cost of engineers in the field debugging someone else’s problem. The lab turns out to save a ton of money.”

Zero dB – smooth signal, no noise – is a communications engineering consulting company whose world headquarters is in the Hutton Building at 9 S. Washington. Their slogan, “Engineering the Speed of Light,” describes what they do. Zero dB is a member of the Fiber-to-the-Home Council (FTTH) and has designed FTTH networks for several U. S. Cities. One of Zero dB’s current FTTH network design jobs is with Houston, Texas which will connect fiber to 1.2 million homes over the next six years.

For testing purposes, network equipment vendors contribute equipment, install the equipment and software, and keep the software up-to-date. However, Zero dB’s mission is to serve the client, not the vendor. They have complete and written test procedures which will test and isolate any problem in specific equipment. They test quietly and privately for the sole purpose of serving their clients. The vendors are not given the testing procedures.

Recent testing has been for IP video headend equipment. Zero dB is working with the City of Cheney to test IP video on demand through an optical fiber connection. Both MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 will be used because MPEG-4 has not yet matured and become the standard. Multicasting will be a big part of the test and the best solution will only hit each particular node that makes a request. Tests will include voice, time division multiplexing, VoIP, and data.

Also being tested in the Interoperability lab is video conferencing equipment. New technology calls for eight-way transmission where everyone can see everyone else including the person who is talking.

Zero dB has found the lab, in operation since last July, to be an information gold mine. Although the data is private, it is freely given to anyone who participates in the Lab. Thanks to the money saving capability and the guarantee that the network will work, Zero dB is getting projects that they may not have gotten before they built the lab.

To learn more about Zero dB, visit http://www.zerodb.net. To learn more about the Fiber-to-the-Home council, visit http://www.ftthcouncil.org/.

Billie Moreland
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