Edith Cowan to upgrade data network

Perth's Edith Cowan University (ECU) will replace its entire data network over the next 18 months with brand new hardware from equipment vendor Nortel. ECU has more than 2,500 staff and 22,500 students, with several campuses in Western Australia.

Perth's Edith Cowan University (ECU) will replace its entire data network over the next 18 months with brand new hardware from equipment vendor Nortel.

ECU has more than 2,500 staff and 22,500 students, with several campuses in Western Australia. The university has some 4,000 PCs, 600 Apple Macs and 120 servers on campus.

The university signed a preferred supplier agreement estimated at AU$5 million with its incumbent supplier Nortel in late September following a competitive tender process, according to ECU's IT infrastructure manager Steve Johnston. The deal is for five years with a two-year extension option.

Johnston told ZDNet Australia this morning via telephone that as there had been no great technical difference between the vendors who competed for the work, ECU was reluctant to part ways with its current supplier.

"Our assessment was that as long as you chose a vendor and implemented their best practice, and their design for how a network should be structured, then technically you would get a very similar result," he said.

"However, Nortel offered some partnership benefits that the other vendors weren't offering, and there was also the churn factor -- which basically means that to change from one vendor to another, we would have to do a big bang style rollout, relatively quickly, and we would run the risk of compatibility issues between products as the rollout occurred."

"From a technical standpoint, one of the other vendors would have had to have offered a substantial difference to us, for us to tolerate that churn, and they [other vendors] weren't able to establish it very well."

ECU has some experience with quick rollouts, having implemented the bulk of its current Nortel network in just three weekends back in 1999.

The university also operates an extensive Nortel-based Wi-Fi mesh network, and is steadily adopting fixed and wireless Internet Protocol-based (IP) telephony.

Among other things, ECU will use Nortel's 10 gigabit 8600 routing switches in the new network's core, along with the vendor's one gigabit 5500 switches at the network's edge.

Johnston said ECU was seeing greater levels of network traffic due to increasing levels of video content, and envisaged some use of one gigabit links to desktops within the term of the contract. However, most users weren't coming close to fully using their existing 100 megabit links, he said, noting hard disk input/output speeds were still a limiting factor.

The initial focus of the deployment will be ECU's new library and technology centre on its Joondalup campus, in addition to a firewall upgrade project and improved wide area network capability.

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