D&B's new worldwide headquarters: a case stud

The design and installation of new voice/data, premise, video, audio/visual, and information wiring systems required close coordination so that a tight construction schedule could be met.How do you approach the design of an information systems network for Dun & Bradstreet's (D&B's) new, state-of-the-art, world-wide headquarters? How do you prepare a tight yet comprehensive construction schedule? And

The design and installation of new voice/data, premise, video, audio/visual, and information wiring systems required close coordination so that a tight construction schedule could be met.

How do you approach the design of an information systems network for Dun & Bradstreet's (D&B's) new, state-of-the-art, world-wide headquarters? How do you prepare a tight yet comprehensive construction schedule? And how do you coordinate these activities? These were the tasks facing KPMG Peat Marwick. One of KPMG's key roles was to not only take responsibility for the design of D&B's communications systems, but to al so provide related interpretive support to the project's architectural and engineering (A&E) team. This would ensure that all network and information systems requirements related to the scope of the A&E team's activities could be identified and properly conveyed to the appropriate parties. This also would help to address the A&E team's limited understanding of technology, while at the same time allow for its proper treatment within the scope of their work. [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 1 OMITTED].

To successfully complete this task, KPMG decided to organize around several initiatives, some of which were exploratory in nature while others were more matter-of-fact. One of the exploratory initiatives was to determine the feasibility of using wireless network technology for day-to-day, intra-site data communications (i.e., a wireless local area network, or LAN).

A more matter-of-fact initiative was to undertake the development of an "Advanced Premises Wiring" system that would support the day-one and future needs of D&B's voice, data, and video distribution needs. Unlike the wireless initiative, the premises wiring initiative was an absolute must-do project; thus the separate approach taken on these two initiatives. In total, six separate initiatives were launched.

Let's look at these in more detail.

Communications and computing facilities design

This initiative dealt with the need to specify spaces within D&B's headquarters that would be dedicated to technology. For example, a series of centralized and distributed equipment rooms were defined for host-based and file server systems as well as for the voice and video systems to be installed in the new facility. Rather than have the A&E team struggle through the learning curve of what systems would be used and what the facility's implications for each would be, KPMG assumed this role on the project. In that capacity, detailed facilities specifications were developed for all equipment areas (including space, power, and HVAC needs); then all such information was furnished to the A&E team for their use in the completion of their work products.

This initiative also focused on the requirements definition for cabling distribution systems throughout the new headquarters. To assist in this area of work, consultants with appropriate skills were assigned to the project. In particular, two RCDDs (Registered Communications Distribution Designers) were assigned. (The RCDD designation is administered by the Building Industry Consulting Services International organization (BICSI) based in Tampa, Fla.)

In general, the scope of distribution systems design includes pathways, spaces, and other physical provisions set aside for the distribution and protection of communications wiring (e.g., conduits, backboxes, raceways, poke-thrus, underfloor ducts, chases, riser systems, wiring closets, racks, cable trays, etc.).

Advanced premises wiring design

This initiative dealt with the obvious need to design and implement a comprehensive, communications wiring system for the new buildings. KPMG's role was to author the design specifications and to recommend an approach that would carry D&B well into the next century. Once completed, these specifications were to be forwarded to the project's A&E team, which would then include them in the broader set of Construction Documents (CDs) to be issued for bidding purposes.

The performance of work on this initiative actually preceded, in part, that of the cabling distribution systems design in the first initiative. The thinking here, not surprisingly, was that before you can competently specify cabling distribution systems (cable trays, conduits, etc.), you first must know what the make-up of the cable plant itself will be. As such, a very systematic approach was taken to this project: first the cable plant was designed, and then the capacity needs of the distribution systems were specified, based on cable types, volumes, and cross-sectional area needs. Once the types, sizes, and routing requirements were defined by the KPMG team, the engineering of the distribution systems by the A&E team painlessly followed.

Data network infrastructure design, equipment selection, and installation

This initiative focused on the need to design and select a data network infrastructure for the new site. As it turns out, D&B's data network standards were fairly well defined, and required that a Token Ring network be installed at the new site. In spite of this determination, a Token Ring vendor and equipment platform had not been selected, nor had a specific Token Ring configuration been defined. Our team was therefore tasked with the development of a site-specific configuration, and also assisted with the issuance of an RFP (Request For Proposal) to qualified vendors.

In addition to the specification and selection of Token Ring electronics, KPMG also provided the space, power, and HVAC support that the A&E team needed to properly prepare wiring closets and other areas for use by this equipment. Since much of this information was actually required before the final vendor had been selected, a hypothetical worst-case specification was developed that could be used by the A&E team based on preliminary information received from vendors that were known candidates.

Video network infrastructure design, equipment selection, and installation

This fourth initiative dealt with the subject of how video communications would be handled at D&B's headquarters. Of particular importance was the assumption that, unlike traditional LANs in today's technology, tomorrow's technology would feature the use of not just voice and data to the desktop, but full motion video as well. Moreover, these technologies would most certainly come into play in a combined form, thereby suggesting that we also examine the potential for day-one integration of voice, data, and video to the desktop. This would prove to be a challenging proposition.

In terms of pure video, we began by identifying a series of potential applications, some of which we envisioned as desktop applications, while others we agreed were more group oriented. In general, we approached this task by separating in our minds video feeds, or source-types, versus video delivery modes, or destinations. While destinations generally fell into either the desktop or shared room categories, source-types or feeds were much more varied and included CATV, satellite feeds, closed circuit TV (CCTV), subscription video-based news services, in-house VCR or videodisk players, text-based bulletin boards, FM radio, and other analog program types. Conceptually, our goal was to create the ability to deliver any of these program types to the desktop, anywhere within D&B's headquarters campus.

Wireless technology assessment

This fifth initiative focused on a desire to explore the possibility of using wireless networking technology at the new site, initially for data-related applications only. The vision, in this case, was to enable D&B's executives to connect to the LAN (i.e., the campus LAN) on an untethered basis such that an individual could carry a laptop computer from one room to another, or sit anywhere other than at the conventional desk, and still be connected to the network all the while.

In terms of voice and video, D&B's voice standards called for the use of conventional PBX technology, all of which was to be handled by D&B's internal staff. As far as video was concerned, we were all sufficiently familiar with wireless LANs to know in advance that video to the desktop over a private wireless network was too much to hope for at this stage of the game. Thus, this initiative confined itself to the study of just how far wireless technology had come in the support of conventional data-only campus-based networks.

Information/audio visual systems integration

In addition to engaging KPMG to assist with the voice/data/video aspects of its new headquarters design, D&B hired a separate firm to assist with the planning of audio/visual (A/V) systems (Sam George and Associates in New York, or SGA). This led to some very interesting and complex efforts to explore the means by which D&B's A/V systems could, or should, be integrated with its voice, data, and video systems. In addition, SGA itself was tasked with the design of several high-end A/V systems to support D&B's rather elaborate meeting and conference room facilities, which by any standard of measurement, were expected to be world class.

Creating a construction calendar

Our work officially began on this project in January 1994, and concluded in December of that same year. Move-in was scheduled to take place even sooner: November 1. This gave us, the A&E team, and the general contractor only ten months to gut the two buildings and to rebuild the interiors. Clearly, this was a fast-track project.

Now, if you know anything about computers and telecommunications, you know that one doesn't simply unplug equipment from one site and move it to the other over the course of two or three days before the move-in date. The process is much more involved. To make things worse, we knew that with only ten months to work with, chances were that the builder would be running down to the wire to complete the project in all of its aspects, including the spaces and utilities that we needed to effectively install D&B's systems. This raised the possibility that computer rooms, wiring closets, cabling, and other technology-based features of the new buildings would not be available for installation purposes until the eleventh hour, even though we needed significant lead time to do an effective job of installation, testing, and cutover from a systems point of view.

Our first step, therefore, was to create a technology-based calendar that declared on a very formal basis precisely which facilities and other aspects of the space were required by the technology team, and by which dates. We created this calendar by starting from the planned move-in date of November 1, and then worked backwards. Given all of the phases required to properly move, set-up, and test hardware, we concluded that all of the technology spaces and facilities were needed ninety days in advance of the scheduled move-in date. That worked out to be August 1. That meant that the builders only had seven months to prepare those areas. The areas and facilities identified were as follows.

* The main equipment room (computers, servers, and telephone PBX).

* All wiring closets.

* All power and HVAC in the main equipment room and wiring closets.

* All riser cabling and distribution systems (cable trays and conduits).

* No disruption to above facilities during remainder of construction.

This was a tall order, but was absolutely essential if we were to meet our commitment of November 1.

The results

As it turned out, all of the targets listed above were miraculously met by August 1st; the technology was installed as planned; and the technology-ready date of November 1 was met. When all was said and done, the following results were achieved on each of the six initiatives discussed above.

Communications and computing facilities design. In terms of spaces dedicated to D&B's equipment needs, two centralized equipment rooms were designed by the KPMG team, one for voice and data, the other for video. The voice and data room was designed to accommodate D&B's numerous servers and centralized communications equipment as well as its centralized PBX. The voice and data room is a conventional computer room in that it contains a raised floor, is highly secured, is supported by dedicated power and HVAC systems, and is fully backed up by an on-site diesel generator.

The video room is dedicated to housing D&B's on-site broadband head-end, and also houses the control equipment for two rooftop satellite receivers. The video room is also positioned between two of the main conference and meeting rooms, and therefore contains a full complement of A/V equipment as specified by SGA.

All of the design specifications for both rooms were generated by KPMG (and SGA, in the case of the video room), including dimensioned drawings for equipment placement, power, and HVAC requirements as well as the supporting equipment infrastructure for cabling distribution systems.

Advanced premises wiring design. Like most contemporary premises wiring designs these days, KPMG recommended a combination of industry-standard unshielded twisted pair (UTP) and fiber cabling for the facility. The UTP cable plant was further designed in accordance with structured cabling concepts, and was therefore designed with a presence in all of D&B's offices, conference rooms, and other miscellaneous areas. All UTP on a given floor was star-wired from individual faceplates to designated wiring closets on the same floor. In general, all faceplates contained a total of four Category 5 UTP jacks, which were each supported by a dedicated 4-pair wire.

At the wiring closet end of each face-plate, the four 4-pair wires were grouped into four separate termination "fields." Each field was designated alphabetically as A, B, C, and D respectively. The A and B fields represented two of the jacks from each faceplate throughout the floor area served by the wiring closet, and therefore corresponded to two jacks on each face-plate. These two fields consisted of AT&T 110-type hardware, and were loosely defined as voice-related. The C and D fields represented the other two jacks and were loosely defined as data-related. As such, these fields consisted of RJ-type jack panels that were used to patch between data jacks and network equipment also located in wiring closets.

The riser components of D&B's cable plant consists of three media: voice-grade UTP for voice riser requirements, multi-mode fiber for high-speed data backbones, and 25-pair UTP for auxiliary low-speed data applications. The voice riser terminates onto 110-type blocks; the fiber terminates onto ST-type fiber patch panels; and the 25-pair data UTP terminates onto RJ-type patch panels.

All riser Cables between the wiring closets and the main voice/data equipment rooms were further distributed across diverse routes within D&B's buildings for disaster planning purposes. As such, there is no single point of failure on the backbone (physical failure, that is).

In light of D&B's strong interest in video capabilities, we also expanded our cable plant design to include video cabling (i.e., coaxial cabling) to the desktop. While we firmly believed (and still do) that video services will be commonplace on what today serve as data-only networks over UTP, the technology hasn't quite evolved yet to the point where it's feasible. As a result, we decided to bite the bullet and install a separate coaxial cable plant for video applications, which provides connectivity to a centralized video head-end (i.e., an analog broadband network). Accordingly, many of D&B's faceplates not only contain RJ-type jacks, but also contain F-type video connectors.

Data network infrastructure design, equipment selection, and installation. Before the move to the new site, D&B's LAN infrastructure consisted of passive Token Ring MAUs, which were clearly obsolete and needed to be replaced. As a result, we developed an RFP (Request For Proposal) and issued it to a number of Token Ring equipment vendors. The goal was to select a Token Ring equipment platform that featured "intelligent" hardware that could be centrally managed, and which could also be reconfigured on-the-fly without having to necessarily dispatch support staff to wiring closets to move wires and patch cords.

The result of this effort was the selection of a family of products. Using these Token Ring hubs, D&B has established fully ubiquitous access to its campus network, such that any user on site can connect to the network from any location in either of the two buildings.

Video network infrastructure design, equipment selection, and installation. As noted earlier, one of D&B's goals was to enable the delivery of video-based applications and services to the desktop. The solution ultimately chosen consisted of a combination of coaxial cabling and a centralized video head-end through which multiple feed-types could be distributed to desktops and other areas within the campus. (See Fig. 2 on page 62.) This system is fully capable of delivering all of the pro-gram and service types listed above and can be easily expanded in scope at any time to support new services in the future.

Wireless technology assessment. In the final analysis, the decision was made to defer on the implementation of wireless technology at the new facility due to the immaturity of the commercial products available at the time. Without getting too technical on the reasons behind our decision, let it suffice to say that the Token Ring standards in place at D&B for wired LANs proved difficult to match in the form of wireless technology. As it turned out, most wireless LAN products were either based on proprietary, non-standard technology or on Ethernet LAN standards, both of which were incompatible with D&B's Token Ring platform. Basically, the decision was made to revisit the subject in a year after the dust, so to speak, has settled.

Information/audio visual systems integration. For the most part, the integration of D&B's information technology with its A/V systems occurred in three forms, all of which took place in conference and meeting rooms. The first form consisted of the development of custom interfaces between D&B's desktop and network technologies, and the various projection systems that were designed for meeting rooms. This enabled the projection of images from personal computers (PCs) onto large screens via switching devices connected to ceiling mounted projectors. In addition, wireless keyboards were selected to enable the control of these PC-based images from any seat at a conference table without having to situate the PC itself, along with its wiring, on the table top as well.

The second form of integration took place at the level of physical wiring and related distribution systems. One of the most complicated and time-consuming aspects of the project turned out to involve the design of recessed floor boxes beneath each of the conference room tables, since these boxes had to accommodate all A/V wiring as well as the standard cable plant specified for the entire building. In addition, a number of special connectors were designed for these boxes that would support hard-wired keyboard connections and a variety of other A/V devices.

The third form of integration between D&B's information systems and the A/V systems involved the sharing of peripherals such as monitors in conference rooms. These monitors were configured in such a way that they could selectively be switched to support A/V output from, say, video-disk players or, alternatively, could be switched to support computer screen output from PCs, or full-motion video output from D&B's numerous video teleconferencing systems. What was truly impressive was the ability to selectively switch . between all of these modes using a master wireless control device that was also used to control most of the other A/V technologies in the same rooms.

By now, the dust has finally settled at D&B's new corporate headquarters in Wilton, and the result can only be described as a truly world class facility. Feel free to contact me for further information on any of the topics discussed in this case study by writing to: KMPG Peat Marwick, 100 Matsonford Road, Suite 500, Radnor, PA 19087.


EC&M Articles:

"The Do's and Don'ts of UTP Cabling," June 1994 issue.

"EC&M's Voice/Data Engineering/Installation Guide," May 1994 issue.

For copies, call 913-967-1801.


The Corporate Cabling Guide.

To order, call 617-769-9750 or 800-225-9977.


Backbone. A term used to describe a central distribution cable from an interface. This can be a common cable providing connection from the main distribution frame to an individual floor, with copper wires or fiberoptic cables.

Cable administration. A method of maintaining a permanent record of the cables installed in a building. Labeling of the cables at their termination points is generally part of the administration system.

Device outlet. The modular communications outlet, or jack, mounted on a wall plate.

Ethernet. A type of baseband LAN characterized by 10-Mbps transmission speeds.

Horizontal wiring. The cabling run extending from a telecommunications closet on an office floor to workstation outlets located on the same floor.

MAU: An acronym that stands for multistation access unit, which is a concentrator or hub device used to interconnect workstations, or nodes, in a Token Ring network.

Numbered wiring configurations. A number, such as RJ11, RJ25, and RJ45, represent a specific wiring configuration for a telecommunications jack. An RJ11 is a four-conductor jack, an RJ25 is a six-conductor jack, and an RJ45 is an eight-conductor jack. A telecommunications jack, which accepts a male plug, is a hardware item that is mounted on a wall plate.

PBX. An acronym that stands for private branch exchange. A PBX is an in-house telephone system.

Punch down blocks. The hardware item used to terminate individual copper wire conductors in a telecommunications cable. A punch down tool is used to insert and secure a conductor to a dip terminal.

Ring topology. A design for a LAN formed by placing stations at nodes along a closed loop connected by sections of a medium, such as optical fiber or copper wire. Data circulates around the ring.

Shielded twisted pair (STP). A cable construction in which a pair, or two or more pairs, of copper wires are enclosed in a metallic shield to prevent interference.

ST or compatible type connectors. A general reference to a type of connector used with FO cables.

Star topology. A data network with a radial topology in which the central control node is the point to which all other nodes are joined.

Token Ring: A type of baseband LAN usually characterized by 4- or 16-Mbps transmission speeds.


In late 1993, D&B issued a press release announcing its intent to relocate its worldwide headquarters from New York City to a nearby suburb in Wilton, Conn. The planned move would involve some 200-plus people, all of which would be relocated to a site in Wilton already owned by D&B. The target site for the move consisted of two standalone buildings that were connected to one another by an elevated, two-story foot-bridge. These two buildings were already owned by D&B but were scheduled to be completely gutted and then rebuilt to serve as the new world headquarters for the company as it enters the next century. It was senior management's stated intent, therefore, that the new corporate headquarters be designed as a state-of-the-art facility. This included the desire to see to it that the technical infrastructure at the new site be as robust and as flexible as possible, and that the technologies used to achieve these goals be selected with long-term use in mind.

In general, D&B's technology-related goals focused on the need for a well-planned network infrastructure at the new site, such that all day-one and future information systems could be supported without having to either rewire the buildings or otherwise modify the base-building systems.

KPMG Peat Marwick (KPMG) was subsequently engaged to help turn these goals into reality and to provide the systems design and implementation assistance that D&B was looking for. As the Project Manager on this engagement, I was personally involved in all aspects of our work, and can therefore speak on a first-hand basis for the recommendations that followed.

As a backdrop to the work that we performed on this project, consideration was given to the concept of "Intelligent Buildings" as defined by the Intelligent Building Institute (IBI) in Washington, D.C. That definition, depicted in Fig. 3 (on page 64), focuses on four systems and/or disciplines that combine to serve the functional, technical, and operational needs of building owners and occupants. Voice, data, and video communications (the scope of our project, in rough terms) fall within the "Building Services" category of the IBI's definition.

Mark W. McElroy is the Partner-In-Charge of KPMG Peat Marwick's Enterprise Networks Practice and is based in Radnor, Pa.

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