Building the network of your dreams

The IT team at the Centre for Engineering and Manufacturing Excellence in London has been given the opportunity to build a...

case study The IT team at the Centre for Engineering and Manufacturing Excellence in London has been given the opportunity to build a state-of-the art network from scratch.

What would you do if you had the chance to design a network and IT infrastructure around up-to-the-minute teaching methods at a new technology college?

The IT team at the new Centre for Engineering and Manufacturing Excellence (Ceme), set up in East London by motor manufacturer Ford in conjunction with local development agencies and colleges, had just such an opportunity.

The first principles taken into account by the team were:

  • The college needed to offer anywhere-access to up to 1,200 students internally and a greater number logging in from outside the campus
  • The IT strategy needed to be aligned to business needs so that money saved could be reinvested
  • The network needed to be highly secure and scalable up to 50,000 users.

The college will make heavy use of IP telephony and wireless networks to allow access from anywhere, voice and video over the network and hot-desking in the college. All this will run on Microsoft infrastructure and applications on IBM hardware linked via Cisco Avvid voice, video and data network technology supplied by Omnetica.

IT manager Roy Sharples explained how the network was fitted to the new teaching methods. "Students and lecturers increasingly expect to be able to use mobile devices, such as portable computers and Tablet PCs, wherever they are working, teaching and learning.

"Ceme is backing this requirement with wireless Lan support and making Tablet PCs and portable computers available to students and lecturers. This would mean that a student could sit in a lecture taking notes on a Tablet PC, simultaneously checking background information on the subject from the information portal."

Sharples said the provision of state-of-the-art e-learning facilities is an important goal for Ceme, so the centre needed networks, software and hardware that could provide facilities such as real-time video and multimedia lectures. Ceme needs to be able to deliver e-learning functionality in a stable, low management and virtually transparent way.

As a training facility for future engineers, Ceme is also ensuring it operates in an enterprise culture from the start. This is evident in the considerations taken into account in planning the network infrastructure. "We worked rigorously with our stakeholders and business partners to align our IT strategy to their business strategies and to ensure that IT is a business-driven line activity and decisions were based on value.

"We wanted the organisation to benefit from the IT investment, and, although we are a not for profit organisation we need to operate as a lean and agile enterprise, generating a surplus to reinvest."

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