University of Cambridge - Case Study

University of Cambridge

“Lanode provided valuable assistance in obtaining best of breed technology and solutions.” - University of Cambridge

University of Cambridge deployed Lanode's FMUX solution creating an 'Industrial Scale' network that could cope with demand now and in the future, generating full ROI in 4 months....

The University of Cambridge is in the unique position of owning Europe's largest, single private communications network with approximately 34,000 points. The network compares in size to that of a large government's regional network, but instead of being dispersed over a large geographic area it is compressed into a tight knit academic community. Each site is connected via the complex, 26Km fibre optic network that carries data at speeds of up to 10Gbps and includes 20 main nodes in their voice network.

Due to the complexity of the communications network and IT environment and their coexistence within such rigid geographic parameters, the university called on Lanode for help in designing and deploying the network upgrade in a way that maximised both operational effectiveness and cost efficiencies.

University of Cambridge has been working with Lanode for several years to meet various network solution needs, so “it made sense to seek Lanode's advice about how to transform the network to put it on an industrial scale.”

The Challenge - An industrial scale system that maximises operational effectiveness and cost efficiencies.

The University operates a rolling upgrade approach; “Upgrading our network is an ongoing process like painting the Forth Bridge,” explained Chris Barron, Telecoms Project Manager at the University of Cambridge. Chris described the upgrade process for large institutions as “managed churn” and what they were aiming to avoid was “churn and churn again, where change is imposed on users on a random basis.” The University was acutely aware of the issues surrounding large-scale upgrades and felt the programme of technology change had to avoid jumping on the current industry bandwagon and instead focus on working to achieve long-term solutions.

They needed a transmission system that was compatible with their old technology, was efficiently packaged and easy to support as their IT and communications environment was upgraded across the University. They also aimed to be on an industrial scale level in order to maximise operational effectiveness and cost efficiencies. These requirements meant that the technology implemented had to be:

  • Cost-effective
  • Robust, rugged and dependable
  • Able to fit into the existing rack space
  • Proven, not necessarily bleeding edge

The Solution

Lanode has a strong history of working with public and private sector institutions that have high levels of complexity and fiscal constraints. The solution Lanode developed for the University of Cambridge took into consideration its needs now and in the future.

The University was keen on using VoIP as a way to reduce communications costs. Therefore, Lanode  developed a solution that created a SiP VoIP network connecting 200 buildings within the University's system of 31 colleges, capitalising on its ability to bring voice and data together without compromising Quality of Service. Lanode recommended their FMUX-01A, which allowed the University to achieve cost savings within the existing network architecture and as an enabling technology.

The FMUX-01A was chosen because it is a highly flexible, reliable, compact fibre optic multiplexer. It is 1U high, fully modular and has the ability to multiplex up to 16, 2Mbps circuits over fibre. The University also opted for WDM optics with 1+1 protection to prevent breaks in service.

The solution met University of Cambridge's specification as it could be used to connect legacy networks. In addition it is fully compatible with their old technology, is a reliable, proven product in an efficiently packaged unit.

Implementation

Higher education institutions feel the fiscal strains as they cyclically face infrastructure upgrades to buildings, electricals, plumbing, IT and communications. These upgrades increasingly bite into budgets year on year, pushing Universities to explore alternatives that capitalise on resources and extend the life of existing infrastructure assets. Essentially, the University was to add telephony on top of its data lines for the first time. Fiscal constraints combined with potential disruption to users were also factors that led them to adopt a rolling upgrade strategy.

“The team wanted to avoid a rip and replace approach and Lanode was able to help us do that.”

Dealing with Europe's largest single private communications network operating within a single boundary was potentially complex and disruptive as it was expensive to upgrade. Therefore, the University of Cambridge's upgrade had to be timed perfectly with a list of other interdependent activities to enable the smooth running of the institution and reduce financial outlay at one time. It was decided a phased approach would be the only way forward to reduce cost and disruption to end users, while satisfying the staff's requirement to avoid a rip and replace approach.

Lanode's deployment used 52 FMUX-01A and involved the replacement of 120 primary rate circuits, comprising nearly 1,000 separate connections – “all without a single loss of service to users in the POTS.”

Operational Performance and Reliability

The University's upgrade allows it to perform at an optimum level. It is now on par with the University's other professional and scholastic standards and will be able to more easily meet the academic community's growing needs in the coming years. The solution provided outperformed the old infrastructure many times over, whilst remaining compatible within the existing POTS PBX. To provide some relevance as to the significantly improved level of efficiency, the University was powering its communications fully under its own steam at the two month mark into the deployment.

“Lanode's FMUX solution allows the University to use the new platform to move bandwidth at will.” The university will also realise further ROI in the form of telephony cost savings by using the network's VoIP capabilities.

One of the biggest advantages for the University of using the FMUX-01A is that it is an extremely easy unit to install and requires very little configuration. This meant that the system could be quickly deployed and generating a return on investment promptly.

Chris Barron maintains that any other solution would have involved multiple boxes, using hundreds of interconnections with cumbersome spares and expensive suppport arrangements, requiring a considerable amount of human intervention. Lanode's FMUX solution allowed the University to make the best use of their resources.

Benefits of the Project

The University has met the project objective of maximising cost efficiencies by adopting a solution from Lanode that installed transmission equipment while capitalising on the existing fibre infrastructure investment.  The University realised a full return on investment within four months of the upgrade and anticipates a “saving of more than £300,000 per annum on leased line and operational costs.” Furthermore, the Cambridge team plans to grow the networks capacity with the FMUX deployment, capitalising on the vestigial capacity of its old voice network whilst simultaniously installing the open standards SiP-VoIP system. The University is already carrying some of the pilot VoIP traffic via the FMUX Ethernet module, resulting in further telecommunications savings.

Since the FMUX-01A units were used to create 125 separate circuit paths the University is now able to deliver additional extension capacity at any of its sites on demand, rather than having to worry about circuit lead times, power levels, functionality and access. 

Because the new system is far less susceptible to disruption and far quicker to restore, “users have seen a significant improvement in service to their handsets.”

 


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