The University of Kent is one of the country’s leading academic institutions producing world-class research, rated internationally excellent and leading the way in many fields of study. Granted the Royal Charter in 1965, the University is an exempt charity subject to the provisions of the Charities Act 2011. The University has campuses in Canterbury and Medway and is the only UK University with specialist postgraduate centres in four European capital cities: Athens, Brussels, Paris, and Rome.
In 2018, European Electronique (EE) was successful in winning a network replacement contract with the University, via the NEUPC HENSS networking framework, to replace their Cisco, EoL Procurve and H3C Comware environment with an Aruba solution across the edge, and L2 distribution wired estate. EE delivered against the initial requirement over various phases. Subsequent to the initial contract, in March 2022, the University undertook a bidding process to find a strategic partner to architect and undertake a project to refresh the University’s wired network infrastructure over a 7-year replacement cycle and provide thought leadership and innovation to work with the University on their longer-term networking requirements.
EE was successful in winning this tender (also via the HENSS Framework) allowing us to introduce the latest CX model line into their environment thus, allowing the University to keep pace with emerging technologies. Kent University and EE used this partnership to replace the Cisco Nexus 9K used as a VMware NSX underlay data centre network with 8325-48Y-8C to support 100Gbit.
The University were looking for a long-term and proven wired network and data centres to support the campus for years to come, to ensure minimal downtime for students and staff. The approach from EE was to not simply just be another supplier of hardware for the solution, but to build a strategic partnership and help deliver innovation based on the University’s strategic objectives, all underpinned by the foundation of a stable network.
Following on from the initial Aruba network deployment, and to allow them to stay up to date with emerging technologies in the wired networking space, the University was seeking to replace their switches as part of a rolling 7-year replacement cycle. The proposed platform was anticipated to provide 1-Gigabit Ethernet edge ports, Power-over-Ethernet Plus capabilities as well as the ability to support 10Gb uplinks. This included a Data Centre replacement including 25GB Server connectivity with 4x100gb into the core, ensuring the University’s requirement to have the correct up to date network capable of managing and monitoring the infrastructure covering their edge, network, and replacement of their current environment, allowing for all areas to communicate with each other and deliver the best end user experience across the University. EE was tasked with driving best economic value for the solution, whilst architecting and delivering central services.
EE demonstrated that it had the requisite skills, infrastructure, resources, and procedures already in place to deliver the contract to the standard required by the University. The University needed a platform from which they could build a stable, reliable, fast network backbone to their core, edge, and distribution infrastructure. A POE+ solution was also designed to support future projects such as video, consisting of AV, Teams rooms, CCTV, IP phones, and wireless access points with multiple antennas. PoE+ switches can support devices requiring higher power wattage such as video conferencing system components and building management devices and laptops. By investing in the future-proofed technology this allows the University the capability to introduce new technologies to support additional wireless and security innovation at a later date.
To deliver the solution, EE mobilised a dedicated Network Team, which included Solutions Architects (Wired, Wireless & Security), as well as a Commercial team. EE utilised its own in-house Professional Services staff for the collaboration with the University, working alongside subject matter experts from its vendor partner HPE Aruba. EE’s approach is to provide an end-to-end implementation service using our own skills to procure, resource and augment the University technical team.
The University’s approach to finding a strategic partner allowed EE to work closely with the University to ensure that they were not adversely affected by stock availability due to Covid-19 keeping the project in line with predicted timeframes. EE also ensured that the necessary professional services resource was available to the university when required to manage expectations and deadlines. Continuous improvement was engrained into the project delivery process. Regular business updates were delivered and ‘lessons learnt’ overviews discussed to minimise downtime.
EE continues to work with the University’s IT team through all areas of expansion and does its utmost to support the University where required, whether through networking and security innovation or commercial flexibility. To maintain cost control and set the right expectations of fluctuating equipment costs over a long timeframe, EE and Aruba regularly update and continue to advise the University with projected equipment price rises, driven by market forces, and attempt to mitigate further lead-time and cost risk by forward ordering common kit requirements in advance of proposed price rises, working collaboratively with the University budget cycles in mind.