Novell takes access control smoothly to the next century
Novell takes access control smoothly to the next century

Feb 1, 2000 12:00 PM
Michael Fickes

Nearly 79 million computer users tie into their company networks using networking solutions developed and supplied by Novell Inc., the world's largest network software company.

Novell itself is no exception. The $1.2 billion company relies on its own networking capabilities to connect the computers used by 5,400 Novell employees working in 42 countries around the world.

An effective network - connecting people within a single facility, across a campus, throughout a region of the country, and around the world - not only enhances productivity, but serves as a valuable tool for ancillary services as well. A slice of Novell network bandwidth also supports the access control systems that help to protect employees, intellectual property, and hard assets in Novell offices around the world.

The quality of the Novell network has enabled the company to take on the often difficult task of upgrading a worldwide security technology system with relative ease. The upgrade began in San Jose, Calif., when Novell moved to a new location last year. At the same time, other corporate moves were under way. New buildings were rising on the campus premises of the company's headquarters in Provo, Utah.

The new construction offered Novell's security executives an opportunity to conduct a major review of the company's security technologies. "The company was at a crossroads," says Vasken Arzoumanian, a principal with Marquis Systems Inc., the San Jose, Calif.-based firm that designed the new Novell security system. "Should they further invest in older technology or upgrade to new? Should they upgrade their existing system or replace it with a new one?"

Master-host a real plus At the time, Novell was using a Honeywell/WSE 6000 access control system with analog field panels, proximity readers, and cards. The system offered significant benefits. Chief among these was a master-host and tenant capability that allowed the security staff in remote facilities to use the full range of software features available from the master host to manage local access control issues. Novell could use its master host system for the Utah facility, where the main security offices are located, and make the system management capabilities of the master available to "tenant" users at other facilities across the country and around the world.

Over the years, Novell's security managers had grown accustomed to the atypical Honeywell/WSE master-host and tenant system. According to Joe Bridgman, market development manager for the Fremont, Calif., based Honeywell Security Products (dba WSE), only a handful of systems on the market offer tenant capabilities combined with worldwide reach.

Novell's level of comfort with the existing system's tenant capability and existing networking reliability sealed the decision to stay with Honeywell/WSE. One benefit of the decision involved the ability of the Honeywell/WSE system to be in sync with time zones around the world.

Upgrading software Next, Novell upgraded from the 6000 system to new NexSentry Command Center software. The software replaces text-based interface with a colorful graphical user interface. NexSentry Command Center is compatible with the increasingly popular Linux operating system. Novell is evaluating the Honeywell/WSE version called StarGaze, a Linux-based operating system for security management applications. The software performs basic security functions including access control, alarm monitoring, audit trail, reporting, system diagnostics, and point-and-click system monitoring using graphical maps. It also supports multiple control technologies, including proximity, keypad, magnetic stripe, smart card, and biometrics.

Having decided to stay with Honeywell/WSE, Novell assigned Jim Serrano, the regional security manager in San Jose, to work with Marquis Systems to design and install system for the new San Jose offices. The effort would serve as a beta-test for Provo and other Novell facilities.

Part of the upgrade included moving to digital proximity access control with WSE NexSentry 4100 series controllers, WSE DigiReader digital proximity readers, and digital proximity cards also supplied by WSE.

The Marquis design for San Jose specified 25 controllers operating at 75 percent capacity. As a result, the system controls access to about 120 doors and allows room for growth and reconfiguration.

To insure against system-wide failure should a panel go down, Marquis's wiring concept employed separate home runs. "We used a Honeywell/WSE NexStar RS 485 multiplexer and gave every panel on every floor a separate home run into the S-Net box," Arzoumanian says. "We also handled the readers with separate home runs."

The new system also incorporates Honeywell/WSE Quadrakey digital cards, which support proximity applications as well as magnetic stripes, photo IDs with color imaging on both sides, bar codes and smart chips. "Novell uses the proximity and front-and-back printing features of the cards," Bridgman says. "And they may use the smart chip capability in the future to control employee access to the computer network. Adding smart chips would meld physical security with network authentication, which is a leading edge capability today."

In bringing the new system online, the host was located temporarily in San Jose. "Because of the complex configuration, it was easier to use a master host to get the company up and running," Serrano says. "When the new security center in Provo was finished, we shifted the host back to Utah and returned to our local control system. Now the people in Provo maintain the database which updates our database and stores all the permanent records."

Following up on success Following the success of the work in San Jose, Troy Hales, operations manager for security services at Novell's Provo office, set out to manage the design and installation of another Honeywell/WSE system in a new headquarters building and in six existing buildings. Drawing on Serrano's experience, Hales encountered few difficulties in fitting out the new 400,000 square foot headquarters' building, which employees about 100 readers.

Retrofitting about 30 digital readers in each of six existing 80,000 square foot buildings proved more challenging, but only from the point of view of logistics.

"Because those buildings are hard structures with people working in them, we had to remove ceiling tiles and pull wire through offices that were in use. We had to avoid interfering with the 2,200 people working in those offices. It was an intricate process," says Hales.

But well worth it, according to Hales. The digital readers and field panels run a much cleaner signal across the Fiber Options fiber optic lines that connect the system. "The digital signal reduces misreads and doesn't pick up interference from nearby electrical wires," he says. "We've had good feedback from employees who have seen a reduction in access time from several seconds to tenths of a second."

In addition, the new readers comply with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations by providing audible tones and visible LCD displays to indicate whether or not access has been granted.

The Honeywell/WSE system architecture also provides system-wide redundancy, according to Bridgman. "If the master-host should go down for some reason, the system architecture allows the local and regional systems to continue to function on their own," he says.

Novell's new facilities have come with new closed circuit television (CCTV) systems.

CCTV covering the new building at Novell's Provo offices brought the camera count there to about 140. The CCTV equipment includes Silent Witness and Sony cameras with Pelco Spectra Dome enclosures. Fiber Options cable systems carry the video signals from the cameras to the security center where 13 Intellex digital multiplexer/re-corder systems from Robot manage the video.

Each Intellex box handles up to 16 cameras. "But we don't max them out," says Troy Hales, operations manager for security services at Novell's Provo campus. "It's important to me to get reasonably full motion video. We want at least 15 frames per second. The more cameras on a unit, the fewer frames per second. Right now, we probably use fewer than eight cameras on each box. That will allow a little growth without going below 15 frames."

Equally important, the CCTV system integrates with the alarm functions in the Honeywell/WSE access control system. When an alarm trips on the access control system, video from the alarm site appears on a 20-inch Sony alarm monitor in the control center.

In addition, the Intellex units record video on a disk drive and allow access to video without the hassle of running through hours of tape. A system operator simply enters the date, time, and camera and that video appears on the screen. When the disk drives fill up, the video is downloaded to a tape system for archiving.

While the Novell CCTV system has been designed primarily to review events after the fact, operators can call up individual cameras throughout the system using graphical maps of the facility showing various camera locations.

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