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RWSL Node Requirements - 2012-06

Page history last edited by ron.evans@nic.bc.ca 7 years, 10 months ago

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RWSL Node Requirements - Setting up an RWSL Node



Note - For definitions of terms, please refer to RWSL and RDN Definitions.


RWSL Tech Manager
Once the decision has been made to set up an RWSL Node, the first step is to put an RWSL Tech Manager in place.  (Salary will be dictated by the local collective agreement.)  This is someone who can install, configure, setup, operate and maintain the hardware and software for an RWSL lab. This person implements designer/architect experiment designs and initially will be responsible for ordering the necessary equipment and assembling it.  This person does not need to have the skills to design remote labs, but does need to be able to do network and hardware trouble shooting with the aid of the NANSLO RWSL Support Network (described elsewhere).  Initially this could be a half time position.  A more complete set of skills is defined at Tech Staff-Support.


Which RWSL Labs will need to be available at the new Node?

This will be dictated by the institution's science faculty and the budget the institution has established for RWSL implementation.  Compromises will probably need to be made.  To see which RWSL labs are available 'off-the-shelf' go to:

RWSL Labs and Lab Exercises - NIC

RWSL Labs and Lab Exercises - CCCS

Estimated costs can be found at RWSL Components .  (More on using this page below)


Determine the Number of RWSL Units Initially Required

While an institution could set up a single RWSL Unit for exploration and piloting purposes, it is recommended that a minimum of 2 RWSL Units be planned initially.  One could be set up initially, but when RWSL mediated lab services are being depended upon by students to complete lab work within a specified course semester it will be important to have some redundancy in place should there be equipment failures or other delays.  To help you determine this you will need to know:

(max#st): This is the maximum # of students who will need to access remote lab services/week in your busiest week

(units: students/week)

(LGsize): The is the number of students in an average lab group

(units: students/lab session)

(#hr-sess): The is the number of hours required for each lab session

(units: hr/lab session)

(#hr-dy): The is the number of hours of operation/day/RWSL Unit (This does not include down-time and lab change-over time)

(units: hr/day)

(#dy): The is the number of days of operation/week

(units: day/week)



the number of hours required/week (hr-req) = (max#st/LGsize) x #hr-session


the number of hours available/week (hr-avail) = (#hr-dy) x (#dy)


the number of RWSL Units Required = (hr-req)/(hr-avail)


Example 1 -

So if you want to serve 80 students in your busiest week in lab groups of 4 students each and each lab session will be 2 hours long then:

hr-req = ((80 students/wk)/(4 students/lab session))x(2 hr/session) = 40 hr/wk

And if you are operating 8 hr/day for 5 day/wk then:

hr-avail = (8 hr/day/RWSL Unit) x (5 day/wk) = 40 hr/wk/RWSL Unit


number of RWSL Units Required = (40 hr/wk/)/(40 hr/wk/RWSL Unit) = 1 RWSL Unit

If you build to this specification then you will have no redundancy, so in this case it is recommended that 2 RWSL Units should be built.


Example 2 -

So if you want to serve 300 students in your busiest week in lab groups of 3 students each and each lab session will be 2 hours long then:

hr-req = ((300 students/wk)/(3 students/lab session))x(2 hr/session) = 200 hr/wk

And if you are operating 12 hr/day for 6 day/wk then:

hr-avail = (12 hr/day/RWSL Unit) x (6 day/wk) = 72 hr/wk/RWSL Unit


number of RWSL Units Required = (200 hr/wk)/(72 hr/wk/RWSL Unit) = 2.7 RWSL Units

This should be rounded up to 3 RWSL units are required.


Note - This calculation only estimates the number of RWSL units that will be needed during the busiest week of the semester.  The maximum number of student labs that can be served per semester will then be the number of students you can serve during your busiest week times the number of weeks in the semester.  So assuming a 15 week semester in Example 1 you would be able to serve 1200 student labs/semester and in Example 2 you would be able to serve more than 4500 student labs/semester.



Once the number of RWSL Units that will be built is known, then a location for the RWSL Node needs to be supplied.  This should be a reasonably secure room that has Internet, power, and adequate lighting.  It should also be a room that contains the infrastructure found in science labs (including running water, fume hood, safety equipment, etc) as well.

  • Bandwidth required: A 1 Gigabit per second (Gb/s) service is recommended.  However this service can handle up to 10 RWSL Units with up to 40 students connected simultaneously, so only one 1Gb/s service is required for the first 10 RWSL Units installed.
  • Power Required: A 30A service to the RWSL room is recommended for the RWSL room.  However if more than 2 RWSL Units are installed in that room and expected to run simultaneously a larger service might be required.  Since the power usage of various RWSL labs varies widely, it is recommended that a power budget inventory be undertaken for each RWSL unit added after 2 RWSL Units to determine if additional power service is required.
  • Lighting Required: Standard fluorescent classroom lighting will be adequate.
  • Physical Space:  The space required for each RWSL Unit varies widely depending on the RWSL labs that are intended to be run.  The air track lab requires 10' x 4' of floor space with a 5' buffer zone all around so it requires 20'x14' of floor space making this the largest RWSL lab available to date.  (If multiple air track labs are set up the buffer zones can overlap.)  However the microscope lab can be set up on a 4'x4' tabletop (not including servers).  There needs to be room for servers as well as storage space for equipment that is not currently being used.  So a standard laboratory room is recommended.  This should allow at least 4 RWSL Units running air track labs and if smaller footprint labs are intended, more can be set up within this room.


Local IT Department

The local IT department needs to be engaged to make sure the bandwidth is available and that the necessary ports are unblocked.  They also need to supply the RWSL Node with blocks of IP addresses.  (Albert and Dan; How many IP addresses are required for 1 RWSL Unit?  8 on average?)  Because of the ports that need to be unblocked for RWSL to work it might be better if the RWSL room was virtually outside the local IT department's firewall and secure network.  (Albert and Dan, please correct this as needed.)


Equipment Purchase

Once the above items are taken care of, equipment should be ordered.  Use the information at RWSL Components to compile your order.  There is also a link there to a page that contains recommended equipment models and vendors.  While the specific vendor isn't as important, it is important that all equipment within the NANSLO RDN be standardized so that the VIs that have been created will run at various locations without re-programming.  Also when seeking support from the NANSLO RWSL Technical Support network it will be important that all techs are working with the same equipment or support will be much more difficult.

Network Switch:  Purchase a minimum 16 port network switch.  Using the 8 ports/RWSL Unit rule of thumb, the switch size should be adjusted upward to accommodate the number of RWSL Units that are planned to run simultaneously.

Required Base Module (RBM): order one RBM for each RWSL Unit.  It would be prudent to order one more than required to provide some equipment redundancy.

RWSL Lab Equipment:  Using the RWSL Components page, order the support equipment and lab equipment required for the labs you intend to run.  There are some components that are shared between various labs, so using scheduling you may not need to duplicate this equipment.  However there should be at least one extra set of equipment to provide some redundancy and minimize downtime.


NOTE - A minimal RWSL presence could be established as follows:

Note - For proper redundancy, all equipment below should be doubled.

1 RBM (with switch): $24,500.00

1 RWSL Microscope Lab (for biology lab exercises): $16,000.00

1 RWSL Spectrometer Lab (emission spectra) (for physics and chemistry lab exercises): $9,700.00

1 half-time RWSL Tech Manager: ~$40,000.00/year?

Total: ~$90,000.00 to ~$100,000.00 for first year. (excluding room costs)

Subsequent Years (without expansion) will include only equipment maintenance and wages: ~$50,000 to ~$60,000/year


Set-up Time and Training

It is important to budget blocks of time for setting up equipment and for training the personnel who will be running the RWSL Node.  To see some time estimates go to RWSL Set-up and Training Time.


Additional Staffing

If the proposed RWSL Node is intended to run more than 2 (Albert and Dan, is this appropriate?) RWSL Units you may wish to bring in additional staff at the RWSL Lab Technician level.  Salary would again be determined by the local collective agreement.  These could be part-time positions depending on the number of RWSL Units that will operate simultaneously.  An RWSL Lab Tech is someone who will supports operational use by monitoring RWSL Units when students and faculty are using them and who can fix rudimentary problems that might occur during use.  They should be able to provide a basic level of tech support and would ideally have background in the science and science laboratory techniques.  For this reason RWSL Lab Techs should be Science Lab Techs who have been given some training for monitoring RWSL operations.


Economies of Scale

There will be economies of scale realized as additional RWSL Units are added to the Node.  Due to redundancy considerations the second RWSL unit will will cost almost as much as the first except the wages required will be less.  Beyond that, with redundancy is implied and with proper planning additional switches will not be necessary.  RWSL Lab Techs can monitor more than one RWSL Unit at a time.  The number that would be appropriate has not been determined yet, but adding additional RWSL Units will not mean adding RWSL Lab techs at the same rate.  Only one RWSL Tech Manager will be required for a large number of RWSL Units.  As the NANSLO RDN moves into its first year of operation these numbers will become more apparent.



NANSLO is establishing a network of technical support people who have already constructed RWSL Nodes and operated them.  As each institution joins the network it is expected that their RWSL Tech Managers will join this network.



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