PennREN project now operating in 50 Pennsylvania counties

With the help of the GlobalNOC’s expertise in network coordination and engineering, the Pennsylvania Research and Education Network (PennREN) backbone is now operational. This statewide, fiber-optic cable network extends over 1,600 miles and reaches 50 Pennsylvania counties—showing the GlobalNOC’s commitment to the national broadband initiative. 

The Keystone Initiative for Network-Based Education and Research (KINBER) launched the PennREN project in 2010 when it received nearly $100 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. As a first-time project leader for fiber-optic networking, KINBER sought out the GlobalNOC for its experience with state, regional, and national high-speed networks. 

“The GlobalNOC team offers a vast amount of experience,” said Camille Davis-Alfs, GlobalNOC’s lead engineer for PennREN. “We can explain what we have seen in the past, anticipate upcoming needs, and recommend proactive courses of action. This reduces experimental time and helps us avoid unexpected problems.”

On top of engineering, network operations, and 24/7-service desk support, the GlobalNOC created a persistent chat room to ease the complications of a cross-state partnership. This lets GlobalNOC staff, third-party contractors, and KINBER engineers and administrators stay in constant communication. The GlobalNOC also provided:

  • A database to document and track all equipment
  • A wiki-like environment to organize all project information
  • A strategically designed documentation system to monitor all fiber, allowing for quick and effective communication with fiber providers

Good communication was vital in order to overcome the fiber installation challenges brought on by Pennsylvania’s complex terrain.

“Being a part of the build-out and turn-up of such a large and challenging network has been a really valuable experience,” GlobalNOC service desk technician Robert Coombs said. “I’ve had to respond quickly to emerging problems, learn new skills, and adapt procedures to fit KINBER’s needs.”

Similar to Indiana’s I-Light network, PennREN will provide Pennsylvania with a statewide, high-speed network infrastructure for its research and education community. With 100M-10G of Ethernet connectivity for higher education institutions, pre-K-12 programs, health care entities, libraries, not-for-profits, and other partners, the Keystone State will experience the benefits of a high-quality fiber network for the first time.