New network fails to set the world on fire - which is a good thing!

When Dubbo City Council's main building burned down, its network went with it. The new network's great, but let's avoid the fire metaphors.

After a fire ripped through Dubbo City Council's main administration building, the IT department had the opportunity to make great advances, installing the absolute latest network technologies.

The council operated out of temporary premises for two years using a variety of different networking hardware while the building was rebuilt with an extra floor and communications room. New cabling was laid and the council took the decision to evaluate networking providers for the fit out - especially the switching hardware.

After comparing the offerings from a number of vendors, Dubbo City Council settled on ProCurve Networking by HP.

Today, Dubbo City Council runs a high-speed network with the capability of delivering a gigabit of bandwidth to each desktop. It reaches many corners of this large local government area, and yet is managed centrally from the headquarters in Dubbo. The council is now reaping myriad benefits, including centralised management, improved bandwidth and reliability, and fast, effective service.

Dubbo is a city in western NSW with a population of around 39,300. It is one of the largest cities in central NSW and acts as a regional centre and gateway to many towns further west.

The council provides various community services and maintains detailed records on ratepayers and properties. As part of its responsibilities, the council is a primary point of contact for businesses and individuals looking to develop property. The staff comprises 250 personnel, of which 220 regularly use computers.

Many of the council's documents are sensitive in nature. Records comprise financial information, ratepayer details, property information, maps, plans, documents and other business-critical correspondence including email. Network security and integrity is a major concern - not just within the walls of the council building, but also between future remote sites. Dubbo City Council felt HP offered robust, industry-leading security.

Previously the council was relying on switches daisy-chained together, which were up to five-tiers deep. Because of the inefficient network configuration, dropped data packets and network glitches were a daily part of life at the council. "We were getting complaints very often about the speed of certain segments of the network that was in place," said Darryl Lynch, IT infrastructure support team leader at Dubbo City Council.

The council specifically wanted gigabit connections to each desktop to maximise future flexibility and to allow the council to realise new, more ambitious opportunities like remote system imaging and application deployment.

The Dubbo Council settled on four ProCurve 5308xl series devices with two ProCurve 3400 switches at the core. HP provided assistance in the design and provided templates to follow.

The communications room in the new facility was small, so the council demanded a high-density rack configuration to provide adequate network ports. The equipment all fits into a standard 19" rack, minimising the overall footprint.

Training on the new hardware was provided, but the straight-forward operation helped streamline the transition for Lynch's staff. The migration was completed over a weekend, and "all went very smoothly," according to Lynch.

Dubbo City Council is now using its temporary facility as a backup, and the ProCurve Manager Plus software enables IT staff to configure network devices even with the router at the remote disaster recovery site or on any part of the network. Each network device features a web interface, which is both easy to use and powerful, but it was HP's support and maintenance that tipped the scale.

"We also had support and maintenance requirements and I have to say that's one area HP blitzed all others on," said Lynch.

"When we came to the new premises and the new network, there were tears of joy from users. We were getting congratulations from all sides for quite a long time on how improved the performance and productivity was. So we're coming up to our second year back here now and I still haven't heard any complaints about the network being slow. It appears that the satisfaction of users was still high with the network," said Lynch.

The increased bandwidth and network stability has even enabled Dubbo City Council to re-evaluate its use of IT and deliver further benefits. The network is now used to roll out system images to machines, as well as distribute applications in a multi-cast fashion. Lynch said, "We couldn't do that before, and this equipment gives good control over all that; this equipment handles everything we've thrown at it so far very easily."

As with any mission-critical infrastructure, reliability is a key concern.

"Our work means that there is always something urgent and critical, and so far all this equipment has been meeting those sorts of expectations and demands. There's never been an incident involving this equipment where there has been a failure. The HP support has been excellent, and we're looking to consolidate on more HP equipment because of the positive experiences," said Lynch.

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