Case Study: 3Com CoreBuilder 9000 Enterprise Switch

IT and business service company the Sema Group favoured 3Com’s network switch products when it needed to concentrate its staff in...

IT and business service company the Sema Group favoured 3Com’s network switch products when it needed to concentrate its staff in one location

Corporate networks are now under more pressure than ever before, and large corporate companies need an IT infrastructure that they can rely on. Sema Group chose 3Com as a preferred supplier for the company's network and customer showcase in its new London offices to build a resilient, fault tolerant solution.

Sema Group is one of the world's leading information technology and business services companies, providing clients with specialist knowledge in systems integration, outsourcing and consultancy services. With a turnover of £1,250 billion, Sema Group serves clients in the strategic markets:

Telecommunications; Finance; Services and Transport; Public Sector; Defence

Industry and Energy. Major customers include the DSS, Olivetti, Ericsson, Railtrack, Standard Chartered Bank

Following the company's acquisition of BR Business Systems, Sema Group was looking to consolidate its resources and concentrate its staff from the many offices it had inherited to one location. This, it was felt, would bring performance benefits and ease the maintenance and day-to-day running of the business and its IT systems.

From choosing its new offices in Triton Square, London, the pressure was on to select, design and implement a network infrastructure in three months. Sema Group also needed a very modular design that could be easily adapted as the company developed.

Companies around the world are now totally dependent on their information systems to manage their organisations effectively and control core business processes. Sema Group's clients rely on the company to support them without failure. Sema Group in turn, cannot afford to have a failure on its network which would take its systems down, affecting the service to its clients and jeopardising the clients' profitability.

Users demand transparent access to network resources at any time. Competition together with constant improvements in technology means that companies have to run their networks at the greatest efficiency and performance levels possible. The quality of information technology systems often defines the growth of a company, and networks must be implemented correctly to withstand the growing levels of traffic while improving levels of customer service and cutting costs.

Robin Farr, IT manager at Sema Group, understands how crucial it is that a company must get it right when implementing a new network: "It is not acceptable to have any network outages. Our projects for clients are charged on a per day basis. Both Sema Group and the client can lose money if our systems go down."

The Triton Square offices accommodate staff working on consulting projects, systems support and application development for clients. There are approximately 600 employees in the building, a large number of meeting rooms and project bids for new business are also held at these offices.

The Triton Square site is the largest Sema Group local area network to date, with the previous largest site supporting 300 users. "It is dictated by the business that the system needs to be highly resilient. There are easily 20 to 30 projects going on in the building at any one time," says Farr. "We have learnt from experience that it is essential to remove the environment for a single point of failure."

The new network was designed for 1,200 active points calculated at a ratio of two points per person. This was due to the constantly changing work environment of today's IT professionals. A network has to be flexible enough to accommodate the consultants' need to be able to move around the building and still have access to the network. In addition, many consultants and support technicians now require more than one computer to be linked to a network at a given time.

Sema Group opted to use two CoreBuilder 9000 Enterprise Switches which are the networks switching and routing centre, supporting real-time traffic flows and reducing the cost of ownership of the network due to their management and fault tolerant features. "We have Gigabit Ethernet in the backbone, and are using SuperStack II 3900s for peripherals to run 10/100Mb to the desktop," explained Farr. "Having two CoreBuilder 9000s means that should we decide to move the system, this can be done in stages, and the network can be kept running."

A high level of network management was also required. The network is currently running at both 10 and 100Mbit Ethernet to the desktop, but Sema Group is undergoing a technology refresh where within three months the entire building is planned to be running at 100Mbit.

The site will be managed from Birmingham, where 3Com's Transcend management software was purchased specifically to run the Triton Square network, running on HP OpenView on the Unix platform. "We feel that Transcend is especially good at managing the network from end to end, and provides the level of control that we need," says Farr. The application delivers complete system-wide control of the network components. Graphical representations of the network show colour-coded port status in real time, as well as statistics that show traffic and error loads. Creation, configuration, and management of resilient pair hub or switch ports provide fault tolerance in client/server LANs. Automatic upgrade and administration can be undertaken and backups of configuration information can be easily performed.

The Remote Monitoring tool draws on data collected from SmartAgents and from Transcend and SuperStack II Enterprise Monitors to provide a comprehensive, graphical view of LAN and enterprise network activity. This is a key component in providing fault tolerance to the system.

(c) Sema Group 1999

Geoff Marshall

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