University of Southampton

, Apr 1, 2015

The University of Southampton is one of the UK's leading teaching and research institutions with a global reputation for cutting-edge, world-class research and scholarship across a wide range of subjects in engineering, science, social sciences, health and humanities.

Ranked amongst the top 1% of universities worldwide, Southampton is part of the Russell Group representing the UK's 24 leading research-focused universities.

With over 23,000 students and 5,000 staff across six campuses in the UK and Malaysia, Southampton combines academic excellence with an innovative and entrepreneurial culture to engage and challenge students and staff in their pursuit of new knowledge.

The University is also home to a number of world-leading research centres including the Institute for Life Sciences, the Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute and the Zepler Institute, the largest photonics and electronics institute in the UK.

The Challenge

The data centre and core network at the University of Southampton was reaching end of life. Rather than a straightforward rip and replace, the institution took the opportunity to comprehensively assess its IT strategy and sought a partner to help design and build a resilient and scalable network foundation to underpin the delivery of innovative IT services to its students into the future, and help build on its global status as a research leader.

Dr. Pete Hancock, Director of iSolutions at the University of Southampton, commented, "From the outset we saw our network and infrastructure as key building blocks that enables us to continue to grow and operate as a major Russell Group university and further build our work in the international arena. As these building blocks were nearing end-of-life we had to review our position to ensure that we made the right investment for the future."

As a research-led university, a new infrastructure would not only be required to support everyday network activity for its staff and student base, but also major research initiatives involving High Performance Computing and movement of huge datasets and information.

Dr. Hancock continued, "Data is the lifeblood of the research institution and being able to move it effectively, at high speed, and confidently is critical to its success. The right infrastructure not only means we can easily satisfy capacity needs for existing programmes but also will build capacity and opportunities for more collaboration projects and programmes around the globe in the future."

Add to that the ever-evolving technology needs and expectations of today's upwardly mobile student base, and Southampton knew that getting the right design, integration and technology for its network infrastructure now, would pay dividends in the future. The first step to all of this was to build a sustainable and scalable core and edge network, with high capacity and future application in mind.

The Solution

In 2012, iSolutions ran a procurement process against the NEUPC framework for networking equipment and service needs at Southampton. The aim was to appoint a partner to design, integrate and deliver a new core and edge network, including a new wireless infrastructure across the university's campus and halls of residence.

The process was concluded successfully with the appointment of Logicalis. Critical to this decision, was Logicalis' integration skills and technology-agnostic status:

"We started off the project with an open mind as to what technology we use," said Dr. Hancock. "We didn't want a partner that was sold on only one solution. We wanted to be confident that whoever we chose had the broad set of skills we needed to advise us through this major change. We also needed a partner that we felt we could work with; individuals who would be partners as opposed to a traditional client/supplier relationship. Logicalis delivered on all counts."

The first phase of the project saw Logicalis work intensively with the University to deliver a decision to use Cisco network equipment, and crucial core network and new data center designs to underpin its IT services.

Dave Key, IIP Programme Manager and Project Manager, was heavily involved in the project from the outset. He commented: "The design-work was critical, and the build up to the core migration was very detailed, all to make sure it ran smoothly. All this work meant that in a two-week period over this summer, Logicalis implemented the Cisco Nexus switches, migrating the core network, as well as moving the DHCP and DNS services for the university onto an Infoblox platform, and crucially, tested the core failover.

'We conducted a failover test between the two core switches – not something we've been able to do before. It was successful and smooth, and we had immediate confidence in the resilience. There's a direct RoI on this, a reduced impact on failures."

With the new data centre now populated with its network, and tested, the next phase of the project was integrating the underpinning infrastructure into the data centre, with the first virtual machines related to user-facing services ready for the new term.

The planning work, designs and site-surveys - for the network equipment at the edge and the wireless installation - is also complete and Logicalis and the University will shortly begin a phased roll-out across the campus and six halls of residence.

Logicalis is providing ongoing consultancy support to the design and delivery of these projects. In its role as a strategic partner, the Logicalis team is also working closely with Southampton on other projects that integrate with the central design, such as a planned move to a 10G fibre network in 2014 and extending the network to new build student residences.

Key Benefits

While the project-work continues, Southampton already sees the reward of stronger reliance for failover in its core network and sees a clear, and cost-effective path for more innovation through the design and foundation work with Logicalis.

According to Dr. Hancock, "The Logicalis relationship is delivering a strategic partnership that has aligned design decisions against our long-term aims.

It's also providing a greatly simplified procurement path for the duration of the multi-year contract.

According to Dr. Hancock, "The Logicalis relationship is delivering a strategic partnership that has aligned design decisions against our long-term aims. It's also providing a greatly simplified procurement path for the duration of the multi-year contract.

We're confident that the combination of Logicalis' consultancy and integration skills and the industry leading networking solutions provided by Cisco, will enable the us to step forward to deliver on research and learning, and the teaching strategies we plan for the future."

The Logicalis design has also enabled additional solutions at the University, such as installing an Infoblox solution for increased visibility and management of network activity. According to Mr. Key, this has provided a comprehensive stable base to allow the University to start looking at how it can do things better, he says, "It's a solution that improves our understanding of the network and therefore allows us to actively improve it."

Dr. Hancock concluded: "We wanted a partner relationship where we could develop mutual trust. We felt Logicalis could work in that mode, and they have certainly delivered. We have been able to develop a level of trust and partnership that has been instrumental to the success of the roll-out so far.

"This is just the first step. Working with Logicalis we're now well on the way to providing the high capacity and bandwidth as well as resilience we need for all networking activities, and the wide roll out of Wi-Fi across the University. Access to the network and network delivered services is a business necessity for all our staff and students now and into the future. This investment is securing our future."

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