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Stanford Research Network: Building Networks for Research

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Since the days of the original Stanford Research Network, the Stanford University Network (SUNet) has been upgraded to use multiple 100-Gigabit links.  However, buildings—and floors within buildings—might still be limited to 1- or 10-Gigabit links, and are designed for regular network use, with occasional bursts of traffic for things like file transfers.

There are many different groups—from University IT and from your own School or Institute—all involved in networking and communication.  The following sections detail many of the networking options available to you.  If one of the options below looks like a good fit, the final section of this page explains how to contact the people who can set up that service for you.

But what may be missing for you is to consider this question: What would really help your group improve your data flow and processing needs?  We at SRCC can provide consulting to identify and suggest offerings that would help with the lab or group’s needs.  If you are interested, contact us at

Converged Communications: 1 Gigabit Copper

Almost all Stanford buildings receive Converged Communications service from University IT.  This provides a connection to the Stanford Network (SUNet), at 1-Gigabit speeds, to network jacks in labs, academic and administrative buildings, and residences.  If you only need 1-Gigabit speeds, this should meet your needs.

The network jacks on room & cubicle walls are TSOs (Telecommunications Service Outlets).  TSOs provide telephone and network connectivity for buildings.  The oldest cabling used for telephone and network (SUNet) service is Category 5e ("Cat5"), with newer buildings having Category 6 ("Cat6") or 6a ("Cat6A") cabling.  Older cabling might be installed in a building, but will not be used.

All of the cables from a TSO go to the floor's network closet.  On most TSOs, only the first SUNet port is connected (or "patched") to a network switch (the "floor switch").  Your LNA can help you get the other ports patched to a floor switch.

These ports are connected to the same ports as the other computers, printers, and IP phones in the building.  University IT monitors the amount of traffic flowing through building switches, and provisions additional bandwidth as uplinks become saturated.

History and Funding

Originally, Ethernet was separate from telephone service, with telephone service being provided over older analog cable.  In FY09, as the campus moved to Voice-over-Internet (VoIP) telephones, the Converged Communications service was created, encompassing telephone and Internet (SUNet) service under a single fee.  The School of Medicine, for example, moved to Converged Communications at the start of FY13.  In FY18, Converged Communications became centrally-funded for most of Stanford.  Students in residences pay for Converged Communications via the Technology Fee; Schools and Institutes not centrally-funded pay for Converged Communciations via separate arrangement with University IT, or run their own service.  New buildings that will use Converged Communications pay a one-time fee through the project's budget.

Research Connectivity: 1- to 10-Gigabit over Copper

Although most devices operate fine with a Gigabit connection, some devices come with a 10 Gigabit-capable connection.  If you want 10-Gigabit Ethernet for free or reduced cost, it will depend on the building's wiring, and available switch capacity.  It might also be possible to provide a connection at lower speeds, but still higher than 1-Gigabit.

Building Wiring

As already mentioned, Stanford buildings have either Cat5, Cat6, or Cat6A wiring.  The older the building, the more likely the wiring is Cat5.  Newer buildings use Cat6, and there are a few instances of Cat6A.  Both Cat6 and Cat6A cables support 10-Gigabit connectivity, but with different length limits: The maximum length for Cat6 is 180 feet; for Cat6A, the maximum length is approximately 330 feet.

A diagram showing an Ethernet cable running from a telecommunications room to a TSO.  With a maximum length of 295 feet, 15 feet are assumed from the TSO to the ceiling space; and 30 feet are assumed from the ceiling space, through the telecommunications room, to the patch panel; leaving a maximum of 250 feet of cable to run through ceiling space.

Stanford Building standards allow a maximum of 295 feet of Ethernet cable from TSO to Telecommunications Room. This can be a problem for 10-Gigabit Ethernet over Cat6 cable, which has a maximum length of 180 feet.  From Stanford Facilitiy Design Guidelines, Section 27 10 00, Issue #8, Page 16.

Your LNA can help determine the type of wiring, and the length from the TSO to the telecommunications room, by checking TSO Signal Drawings for the building.  If that is not enough, UIT Installation & Maintenance can do testing to confirm that the cabling supports 10-Gigabit Ethernet; this service would likely be charged at Time & Materials Rates.

2.5- or 5-Gigabit Ethernet

In some situations, your needs might be satisfied with 2.5- or 5-Gigabit Ethernet, instead of 10-Gigabit Ethernet.  2.5- and 5-Gigabit Ethernet are known collectively as "Multi-Gig", "Multi-Gigabit", "mGig", "nBASE-T", or "MGBASE-T".  The specific standard is IEEE 802.3bz.

mGig Ethernet allows 2.5-Gigabit Ethernet over Cat5 cable, and 5-Gigabit Ethernet over Cat6 cable, both at the full ~300 feet of length.  However, both the switch and the network adapter (on the client side) must explicitly support mGig.  10-Gigabit support does not mean mGig support.

Floor Switches

With the Converged Communications service, UIT Networking deploys floor switches that each have a few 10-Gigabit ports.  Those ports are primarily used for uplinks (connecting the switch to the rest of campus) or testing, but some might be available for your use.

To see if a building switch on your floor has available 10-Gigabit ports, talk to your LNA.  They will be able to check if ports are available, and if so, reserve one for your use and assist with moving a TSO connection to that port.

Remember, 10-Gigabit service depends heavily on cable type and length.  Even if a 10-Gigabit port is available, the type of cable (Cat5 vs. Cat6) and length might mean that 10-Gigabit service will not be possible.  Also, building switches do not support mGig, so it is either 1- or 10-Gigabit only.

Rental Switches

You might be in a situation where there are no available 10-Gigabit ports on your floor.  Or, your wiring might be too old (or long) for 10-Gigabit, but you would be fine with 2.5- or 5-Gigabit.  In these situations, groups can lease a 10-Gigabit switch from University IT.  The switch will be installed in the network closet serving your area, and the TSOs you select will be patched to your dedicated switch.

Current rates are available on the Net-to-Switch Rates page.  Any switch from the "Building Switches" or "Data Center Switches: Standalone" categories may be selected.  There may be a one-time charge for switch installation.  24x7 monitoring is provided, including replacement if there is a hardware problem.  Configuration changes are made during normal business hours.

These two sections—focusing on copper connections—are the easiest and lowest-cost options available to you.  The following sections provide options for those with even higher-bandwidth and more sophisticated needs.  These often come with significant one-time costs, and can involve some disruption to your space (for example, cutting into walls to run fiber or conduits).  This work can be done at any time, but it is often best to consider these options when building out or renovating a lab.

Optical Connectivity: 10+ Gigabit Fiber

Although fiber connectivity within an office or lab space is uncommon, it is not rare.  Some devices—because of how they are built—require a fiber 10-Gigabit connection.  You might be setting up a server rack.  Or, you might want something faster than 10 Gigabits per second.  All of these problems have the same solution: Run fiber to a special TSO fiber jack.

Some buildings (such as Clark Center) had fiber run to TSOs at the time the building was constructed.  In that case, one-time costs are often low or even zero.  If fiber is not already present in the space, then fiber will have to be run.  See Running New Fiber Or Copper for more information.

The monthly cost for connectivity will depend first on the speed, and next on the availaility of ports on a floor switch.  If the fiber connection is 10-Gigabit, then it might be possible to connect to an available 10-Gigabit port on a floor switch.  See Floor Switches in the 10-Gigabit Copper section for details.  If floor switches are unavailable, then you can rent a network switch from University IT.  Current rates for 10-Gigabit rental switches are available on the Net-to-Switch Rates page.  The switches in the Data Center Switches: Infrastructure category are a good guide for monthly pricing for 10-Gigabit fiber connections.

If you want speeds faster than 10-Gigabit, talk to your LNA.  It might be possible to rent a higher-bandwidth switch, to be hosted in the local telephone room; or it might be more cost-effective to send your connection over the Dark Fiber service, connecting to a centrally-located high-bandwidth switch.  Your LNA will help you determine the best option.

A note on fiber and jacks: Fiber run to a TSO is terminated to a duplex LC jack, though older installations terminate to an MT-RJ jack.  Some buildings have multimode (OM2, OM3, or OM4) fiber run to the TSO, and some have singlemode (OS2) fiber run to the TSO.  The fiber type will determine the maximum length of the run (multimode fiber connections are not able to go outside of a building).  It will be your responsibility to purchase the appropriate patch cord (LC-to-LC, or MTRJ-to-LC), and the appropriate optical transceiver: Multimode typically uses 10GBASE-SR, and singlemode either uses 10GBASE-LR or 25GBASE-LR, or (or faster speeds) 40GBASE-LR4 or 100GBASE-LR4.  Remember to keep your LNA in the loop, to ensure your don't purchase the wrong thing.

Finally, if you are planning on setting up a server rack in your space, talk to both your LNA and your building manager.  Some Schools or Departments require that you lease switches from University IT; they will need 24x7 access to replace broken network equipment, which means door locks must be managed through the card access system.  And some buildings do not allow server racks at all.  Your LNA and building manager will know what policies apply to you.

Custom Connectivity: Dark Fiber

In some cases, normal building SUNet connectivity is not enough.  You may need more bandwidth than what is available to a building.  Or you may want to use a protocol that is not IP over Ethernet (for example, Fibre Channel or SDI).  Or you may want a completely-private IP network.  For all of these situations, the Dark Fiber service is available.

Each building has a main telephone room which acts as the termination point for fiber entering the building.  Some of these fibers are used for SUNet, with the remaining fibers ("dark fiber") available to lease.  The Dark Fiber service provides connectivity from the main telephone room, to the network closet of any other building on the Main and Redwood City campuses, as well as to certain buildings on the SLAC campus.  It is also possible to get service to Stanford University buildings in the Stanford Research Park.

There are three sets of one-time costs, and one monthly cost, for this service.  First, there are the one-time costs to run fiber from your space to the nearest telephone room (or, if intra-building fiber is not available, to the building's main telephone room).  See the section Running New Fiber or Copper for more information.  Then, there are the one-time and recurring costs for the Dark Fiber service, detailed on the Circuits Rates page.

In all cases, singlemode fiber is used.  Each fiber circuit includes two fiber strands, and are terminated as described in the previous section.  Clients also receive a report on the total length of the circuit, and the path it takes.  You are responsible for purchasing patch cables and transceivers for both ends of the connection.

Running New Fiber or Copper

If there is a need for cable plant that is not already present in a space—either because something is needed but not installed (like fiber), or the existing cable is too old (like Cat5 Ethernet)—a building renovation may be required to install the necessary cables.

Installing new fiber or copper cable is a one-time cost, and is often the highest cost of any connectivity project.  Costs can easily range from the high hundreds to multiple thousands of dollars.  The exact cost depends on what needs to be run (copper or fiber cable), the length (either to the floor's telephone room or the building's main telephone room), the age of the building, the material of the walls & floors, and whether there are any existing conduits or ducts that may be used.  To help limit the costs, you will only need to pay for work done within your building.

Running new fiber or copper requires a conversation with both your LNA and your building manager.  They will reach out to the appropriate groups within your School or Institute, and within University IT, to come up with a cost estimate.

If you are involved in the construction of a new building, or the renovation of an existing building, consider installing additional conduits for the provision of future SUNet service for your occupants.  It it much cheapar to pull new cable through an empty (or partially-filled) conduit, compared to the cost of running a new conduit through an already-built space.  For more information on conduits, see LBRE Facility Design Guidelines Section 27 10 00, the sub-section "Horizontal Pathways: Conduit (TSO Distribution)".

Questions and Orders: Your LNA, STAR, and OrderIT

If you have any questions about the services described on this page, or you need to have a TSO connection patched, contact your LNA (Local Network Administrator).  If you are in the School of Medicine or at Stanford's presence in the VA, TDS acts as your LNA.  For everyone else, if you do not know who your LNA is, talk to the group who provides endpoint (desktop, laptop) support; they are either your LNA, or they will know who your LNA is.  If you still do not know, submit a HelpSU.

To place an order for any service described on this page, you will need to use OrderIT.  Your group or Department will have someone who places orders using OrderIT.  In the School of Medicine, this is your STAR (Stanford Telecommunications Account Representative).  Otherwise, this may be your group's admin.  If you are still not sure, look for the person who orders telephones (IP phones, mobile phones, conference phones).

Finally, if you are ordering service that involves running new cables (fiber or copper), talk to your building manager before placing orders.