Mike Watts, a vice president with Noovis and nationally recognized expert on Passive Optical LAN (PON) technology, was asked to teach a three-day course last month at TE Connectivity’s headquarters in Shakopee, Minnesota. Watts was tapped to provide an overview of his experience designing and installing networks.
Before joining Noovis, Watts worked for Verizon FNS and was responsible for the first deployments of POLs by the Department of Defense. Before that, he led a Verizon team that built the company’s residential fiber optic network, FiOS, in Maryland.
The students were a mix of integrators, field application engineers and corporate training professionals.
“TE is full of smart people; of course they know a lot about their fiber optic products. What they needed from me was insight based on my experience building networks. It was a deep dive into everything PON,” explained Watts from his Hanover, Maryland office.
The first day of training focused on the technology and how it compared to a conventional Ethernet solution.
“Although PON technology isn’t exactly new, it’s still a nascent industry,” said Watts. “I can’t really explain why it took so long for optical LANs to catch on, but they finally have – they’re on everyone’s radar now.”
The second day of training included an in-depth look at TE’s Optical LAN Solutions (OLS) features and design considerations followed by a network design group exercise.
“We gave them a hands-on opportunity to see that there were many ways to design a network with different Infrastructure components,” said Watts. “For instance, we discussed how, depending on the customer’s requirements and the layout of a building or campus, home run cabling may be better than zone cabling.”
The training included an explanation of how Noovis designs networks followed by a hands-on session. Watts is a strong proponent of practical exercises.
“I showed them how the products go together and we reviewed value considerations, while also highlighting that PON cannot be designed on a spreadsheet,” Watts said. “I reiterated that the most important piece in designing a network is working with an experienced Integrator with years of knowledge and experience.”
Day three began with more tactile learning. The class was divided into small groups and gave each an identical set of building drawings. The group members were tasked with creating take-offs and a full design with electronics and cabling. An emphasis was placed on cabling with a full BOM. During this exercise it quickly became apparent that without a detailed set of requirements and constant communication with the customer it was nearly impossible to design a network. Later in the day each group recounted its thought process and presented its design as Watts provided constructive criticism on how to prevent mistakes and lower costs by saving materials and time.
A survey taken at the end of the meeting revealed that the students were “disappointed” with the class, according to Watts. “It wasn’t because they didn’t learn about Passive Optical LAN configuration and the technology and materials needed to complete a project. They were upset that they still were not able to design a network. They learned that it takes years of designing, installing and turning up networks to become a competent PON integrator.”