Louisiana transforms court network

Louisiana's 19th Judicial District Court struggled for years with a network made up of legacy systems and a jumble of configurations.

The infrastructure performed poorly, and sharing information was slow and subject to degradation. "At times whole sections and whole segments would freeze up and be inoperable," said Freddie Manint, the court's criminal justice information services director who also serves as the FBI threat assessment coordinator.

Brought in to fix the problem three years ago, Manint and the Baton Rouge-based state court embarked on a $10 million project to transform the system, which handles roughly 60,000 filings a year.

"Our project that we've started is basically to allow us to more expediently and clean and basically allow better adjudication and dissemination of information," he said.

The new system's backbone consists of a 3Com Corp. Gigabit Ethernet network and the company's new local-area network core technology called XRN (Expandable Resilient Networking). That transformed the court from using "1927 technology to 2006 technology in a matter of three years," he said.

"We're very happy the throughput and the redundancy and the scalability that the core backbone has allowed our mission-critical applications to traverse," Manint said. "We never experienced any hiccups or degradation or any core loss to the data that was being disseminated through these infrastructures and 3Com topology."

The court is one of a few users testing the XRN technology. For the Louisiana court's system, the company combined two XRN kits and two copper modules to create two linked pairs of Gigabit Ethernet switches into a "distributed fabric."

"Essentially the fabric can be kind of called the switching engine, if you will," said Nicki Volkman, a product marketing manager for 3Com. "It's actually kind of the brains behind it."

She said the switches are interconnected so that if one switch failed, the other can pick up automatically. She said the switches are redundant, but the "differentiator for 3Com is you've got something called dual homing." Both switches, she said, are actively passing traffic and are on "100 percent of the time."

XRN advantages mean there's no single point of failure in the core of a network, she said. Performance and speed also increase and the flexible and scalable technology allow the network to grow in a cost-efficient manner. "And if you need more, you just go buy another one and you add it to the network," she said.

The XRN technology has been in place for a year, and the return on investment has been significant, Manint said, adding that its reliability and scalability has been an even greater benefit. "Everything here is mission-critical and time-sensitive," he said.

He said the court plans to expand the system, which has close to 1,000 users, by testing a voice-over-IP system as well as a videoconferencing solution. That would help the court try prisoner lawsuits from all over the state.

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