What does it take to relocate a lab that serves the world’s data communications industry?

Thursday, December 17, 2015
Lincoln Lavoie and Mara Bernazzani

The UNH InterOperability Laboratory (IOL) is on the move and, come Jan. 4, is scheduled to be up and running in its new location adjacent to campus at Madbury Commons.

The IOL is the leading test facility for data and networking communications products. Its work includes determining that products work, meet specified standards and can be used together. For example, in lay terms, the IOL tests technologies that enable you to connect your phone, laptop and car to the Internet. The lab works with companies ranging from local firms to Fortune 500-businesses such as Cisco, Dell, HP and AT&T.

The IOl is relocating to be closer to campus, and the move was fully funded through commercial partnerships. Making this 2.4 mile-move from Technology Drive to Madbury Road in downtown Durham will be no small task. For starters, the IOL has installed nearly 20,000 feet of Ethernet cable in the new building, and an additional 10,000 feet will move with equipment including 50-plus server racks and hundreds of computers, explains Mara Bernazzani, communications coordinator for the IOL.

IOL move

Touring the IOL’s new home as contractors were busy assembling cubicle space and painting, IOL senior engineer Lincoln Lavoie described the process of working with the developer from the very start, two years ago, to have the new facility purpose-built to meet the IOL’s needs. It provides more energy-efficient climate control and includes dedicated areas for the IOL’s sensitive test and measurement equipment, including such state-of-the-art accouterments as anti-static carpeting.

Lavoie and Bernazzani describe the new facility as a win-win for employees, Durham and UNH: The IOL hosts hundreds of industry professionals and students from across the globe every year, so Durham businesses will also see more visitors; IOL employees will work in surroundings designed specifically for the work they do; and UNH students will cut their commute from a drive or shuttle ride to — at most — a short walk.

UNH students hired by the IOL amass “real-world, hands-on experience,” Bernazzani notes, with the IOL reporting 99-percent job placement for its student employees.

“I’ve never had a student not get a job,” Lavoie adds.

The IOL’s new home will feature or make possible: 

* Expanded training space for students and visitors

* Dedicated space for equipment that provides ample power, cooling and noise isolation

* Increased energy efficiency, as the IOL is working with a solar supplier to equip the building with a 200kW roof array that will meet about one-third of lab’s demand

* Proximity for the IOL’s involvement with UNH tech camps for middle- and high-school students

* More K-12 STEM engagement and tours

* Easier access to the IOL for the 125 undergraduate and graduate student employees who are able to work with such companies as Apple, Cisco and Microsoft

IOL work stations
View of a portion of one of the IOL’s main work areas, including student work stations

The IOL hosts a multimillion-dollar collection of test equipment and devices from its member companies, and “most of the equipment used for our physical layer testing is very sensitive to static electricity and shock — being dropped or even bumped,” Lavoie says. “Our lab personnel will be handling that equipment during our move.” Given its value — which reaches into the millions of dollars — the IOL is not specifying exactly when that part of the move will occur.

IOL exterior
The IOL’s new exterior

The most intricate part of the relocation is the timing.

“UNH-IOL serves a key role in the world’s telecommunications industry, and as such, our services are constantly in high demand,”Bernazzani explains. “We’ve worked extremely hard to keep the timing of the move well-planned, to keep our down time to less than three weeks, which coincide with the holiday season.” Critical infrastructure such as phones, website and file servers will be down for less than one day.

Want to find out more? Check out the UNH-IOL website here and watch for news on the new facility’s open house in the spring.


UNH-IOL Python Workshop Starts Jan. 13

The UNH-IOL Python Workshop, a noncredit four-week programming workshop for students in eighth through 12th grade, begins on Jan. 13 and will be led by IOL employees and current UNH students Aaron Morneau ’17 and Pirro Shtino ’18.

Classes will be held on Wednesdays and Fridays from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m.

The Python workshop is geared toward students who would like to develop their programming knowledge. No prior experience is required.

“We will be offering more workshops on different subjects throughout the year,” notes Suzanne Snow, the IOL’s STEM outreach and development manager.

The cost of the Python workshop is $150, and space is limited to 15 students. For information or to register, visit the IOL website here.

















Jennifer Saunders | Communications and Public Affairs | jennifer.saunders@unh.edu | 603-862-3585
Loren Marple ’13 | Communications and Public Affairs | Loren.Marple@unh.edu | 603-862-0600