The University of Ulster has installed a £1m IP-enabled network to support its CampusOne virtual learning infrastructure with voice, video and data.
Since the creation of CampusOne online in October last year, more than 3,500 students from all over the world have enrolled in the virtual education service. The network now supports a total of 27,000 users.
The new infrastructure had to be capable of supporting data, voice and video to cut costs while ensuring a smooth experience for users.
"We needed to upgrade our 10Mbps shared network because we were getting congestion which was hampering the roll out of new services," said Harry Young, network manager at the University, and winner of the Networking Professional of the Year award sponsored by vnunet.com's sister publication Network News.
Young explained that the performance improvement was necessary to support network upgrades and meet the growing demand for CampusOne online.
"We were looking to build a scalable, resilient and reliable network that was future proofed as far as possible," he said.
Barry Dillon, business development manager at Nortel Ireland, emphasised that speeds and reliability from core to edge were priorities.
"The network, which uses Nortel's Passporte layer-three switches at the core with Business Policy 2000 switches at the edge, has a Gigabit Ethernet fibre backbone providing Gigabit Ethernet to the edge switches," he said. "It also provides switched 100Mbps Ethernet to the desktop users."
The tender was eventually awarded to Nortel Networks and its reseller FastActive. Dillon said that it was one of the best specification briefings that he had received.
"Nortel knew what it wanted the network to do and [issued] a tender around this as opposed to issuing a tender just saying what kind of technology it wanted," he explained.
Speaking about the briefing document Young said: "We reviewed the market and we knew what we wanted the network to be capable of and put forward a tight tender. This looked at the technology being proposed and the confidence of the suppliers."
The network will run video and data immediately, and is VoIP ready when the university desires.
"We [previously] used dedicated circuits between campuses for video conferencing, and we now have the ability to run conferencing across the network," said Young.
The university indicated that it will save between £50,000 and £60,000 per year with the video over data system.
When the time is right the network will be upgraded to offer a full VoIP service. "In the future [our] strategy is to merge voice and data, but we will do this at a later date," said Young.
Dillon confirmed that all the university will have to do to move to VoIP is find an IP solution to use on the network because it is already enabled with quality of service and class of service features.
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