University Of Essex

Company: SMC NetworksCustomer: University Of EssexSubmitted by: Harvard PRPerhaps more than any other, the higher education market provides the starkest example of how the networking industry has expanded over the past decade. Anyone who worked for or graduated from a University over five years ago will testify that Internet usage amongst students was anything but widespread at the time, and that handwritten essays were often submitted due to a chronic lack of shared computer resources.Today the situation could hardly be more different. The Web in particular has driven the use of the Internet and local area networks as genuine education resources, so that the number of users logging in at University campuses has exploded over the last few years.No-one could be more aware of the phenomenon than Brian Wilby, the deputy director of computer services at the University of Essex.

Having worked at the department for over twenty years, and presided over the network for sixteen of those years, Wilby is acutely aware that the rate of change over the past three years in particular has placed unprecedented demands on the hardware underpinning the University’s computer resources.Wilby picks up the story: “One of the principal challenges facing network managers in today’s Universities is the escalation in bandwidth requirements over the campus site. To meet that challenge, it has been necessary in our case to gradually install a new network that meets this demand, but also has the manageability and scalability to ensure that our upgrade path is smooth and our future needs are catered for.”Prior to the upgrade program, the University was running an FDDI Fibre Backbone that connected to six local FDDI rings covering the various administrative and academic departments at the University. The problem faced was that the FDDI rings could not be scaled, so in the summer of 1999 the decision was taken to install a new network based on Gigabit Ethernet.”We were looking for a reliable 10/100 switch that had a Gigabit uplink facility, but as is often the case in these situations we didn’t have the immediate budget to make the uplink active on all of them from day one,” Wilby continues.

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“From that perspective it was important that we had a product that had the uplink facility, but was also capable of carrying the Legacy products through to the next stage of the Upgrade.”After researching the market, the University decided upon the 6700 series of modular Switches from SMC Networks – a specialist provider of departmental and workgroup networking solutions.”We chose the SMC6700’s because of the price performance and the Gigabit uplink capability. We now have over 30 installed around the ‘rim’ of the campus network, and have reached the stage where we are ready to install the Gigabit ‘backbone’ and make all of the Gigabit uplinks active by Autumn 2000. This will mean that three quarters of the user population will be on Gigabit by the Autumn term.

We are also currently evaluating the new upgraded SMC6900 series of switches, and are eagerly awaiting the chance to evaluate SMC’s new 8 port Gigabit Switch with a view to further expanding our Gigabit capacity.”Wilby concludes: “What has also been important throughout this process is the relationship that we have had with both the sales and technical support staff at SMC. It is clear that SMC is focussed on what we are trying to achieve here, and has the expertise in scalable local area solutions that meet the needs of the higher education market.”