Big move for UNH InterOperability Lab

DURHAM – The move to the campus at the University of New Hampshire gave the InterOperability Lab an opportunity: Create space specifically suited to its needs.

That move from space off campus, off Route 155A at Goss International to brand new space at the new Madbury Commons in downtown Durham was big – requiring about 50 truckloads of servers and almost 28 football fields worth of Ethernet cabling (about 20,000 feet). The move was accomplished over the holidays.

“The layout is much more open and collaborative,” said Mara Bernazzani, communications coordinator for the IOL.

The other big opportunity of the move was what IOL senior engineer Lincoln Lavoie called “purpose-built space,” which gave the IOL to design the space for specific purposes. “The ability to design the space to our needs was huge,” he said.

The University of New Hampshire InterOperability Lab, or UNH-IOL, tests networking and data communications products for all the big names in the tech industry – Cisco, Motorola, Netgear, and Samsung, just to name a few.

Back in what might be considered the dark ages of technology – 1988 – the lab was founded as a branch of the university’s Research Computing Center.

The center had received some technical equipment from two vendors and discovered the equipment, when networked, was compatible, thus giving rise to the notion of the need for interoperability, according to Lavoie.

In 2002, the growing lab moved from one room on campus in Morse Hall to 32,000 square feet at the Goss facility, known for its manufacture of printing presses.

Over the years the lab has developed testing criteria, tools and methodologies that companies rely on to test their operability with each other. You can’t be a solo player in technology; you’re product has to be able to play well with others.

“We’re a neutral testing facility,” Bernazzani said. The big names get treated the same as the small names in the testing of equipment. No one technology or process is favored over another.

“Everything is on an even-level playing field,” Lavoie added.

Companies that make up the membership of IOL essentially fund the lab, along with private donations. It receives no financial support from state funds through the university, but IOL and UNH have a strong working relationship.