History of the UNH-IOL

-March 07, 2012

After working at the University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory (UNH-IOL) for less than a year and learning about the lab as a whole, I can say that I am happy to be a part of this growing organization. In passing, when mentioning my position at the UNH-IOL, I am never surprised by responses such as, “You are so lucky to be working there” because I know just how true the statement is.

The UNH-IOL began more than two decades ago in a small room at UNH and was founded by: Bill Lenharth, Former Director of Research Computing Center (RCC), and Barry Reinhold, President of Lamprey Networks. In 1988, the UNH-IOL started off as a branch of the University’s Research Computing Center (RCC). The RCC was testing Fiber Distributed Data Interface (FDDI) equipment with the intention of deploying it in its network. Once finding that equipment from two vendors was not interoperable, the RCC contacted the vendors in an attempt to find an answer. After some debate, the two vendors came together to solve the problem, which stemmed from differences between the draft and final versions of the FDDI specification. During the same time period, the RCC was testing 10BASE-T Ethernet interfaces for another, unrelated project. Over the next decade, the lab continued to expand its testing efforts into many new technology areas. In the 1990s technologies tested at the lab ranged from FDDI, token ring, ATM and 10 Base-T and 10-Gig.

A major milestone for the UNH-IOL occurred in August of 2002. The UNH-IOL moved to a 32,000 square-foot facility on the edge of campus where it continues to pursue its dual-mission of fostering interoperability and providing its students with a uniquely valuable educational experience. With more than 20 active consortia, and new ones in development, the UNH-IOL has grown alongside its industry partners, and will continue to do so. By the 15th anniversary of the laboratory in 2003, the UNH-IOL had grown from a handful of students and staff sharing part of an office in Morse Hall to over 100 graduate and undergraduate students, and over 20 full-time staff members. Hundreds of companies have been, and continue to be, involved in testing at the lab. As new technologies emerge, the UNH-IOL will continue to be a neutral, unbiased resource for the data communications industry and a hands-on lab to give students real-world experience.

In 2011, the UNH-IOL opened a satellite office in San Jose, CA. The initial purpose of this new office was to provide enhanced access to our members who are based in Silicon Valley and to create a stronger connection with current and future customers. Our presence in the Silicon Valley area allows the UNH-IOL to showcase its capabilities and gives local members an opportunity to come to the office and work directly with the UNH-IOL staff.

With 25 years of bringing new technologies and equipment to the lab, we provide more value for our members and more opportunities for our students. From the beginning, the reputation of the UNH-IOL has grown. Today, the value that we bring to our members is immeasurable; they benefit in cost savings from thousands to millions of dollars in payroll, overhead and problem solving. The lab offers neutral access to hundreds of industry members for the right to test their equipment. Each consortium maintains a test bed of partner devices for interoperability testing that is impossible to recreate for certain legacy devices. The average savings is over $3,000 per year, even in the simplest analysis.

The student advantages are countless, starting with employment, to experience, education and job placement. Our members benefit by hiring our highly-qualified, trained students after graduation. The UNH–IOL students are entering the workforce with far more experience than other graduates, having worked at the UNH-IOL for several years producing quality testing and reporting results. The students gain expertise in all areas of the lab including communication, resourcefulness, problem solving and documentation. Working directly with industry leaders during their time at the lab, our students are being trained to be the industry’s pioneers of tomorrow.

The UNH-IOL is continually evolving with the computer networking industry and has worked with many technologies since its 10BASE-T and FDDI beginnings. Included in this list are IPv6, many varieties of Ethernet, Wireless communication, DSL and several network storage technologies.

I am looking forward to meeting others who know about the UNH-IOL and hearing what they have to say about our unique organization. I am also interested in introducing the UNH-IOL to those who would like to learn more about what the lab has to offer from both industry and educational standpoints. In the meantime, we will continue on our mission: To provide a neutral environment to foster multivendor interoperability, conformance to standards, and improvement of data networking while attracting students to, and educating them for, future employment in cutting-edge technologies.

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Samantha Gosnell, Marketing and Communications

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