Ashridge Business School revamps network with HP

Ashridge Business School, in Berkhamsted, rolls out HP FlexCampus to encourage its students to bring their own devices

HP has deployed networking infrastructure at the Ashridge Business School to boost connectivity for the institution’s students. 

The independent school provides short courses and postgraduate education for executives, teaching business skills and practical lessons on how to improve management. They run their own conference centre and have a number of repeat clients who come in to use the facilities.

But, with up to 8,000 visitors each year expecting to work on their abilities in the corporate world, they needed infrastructure which would keep up with their demands.

“We used to have Enterasys networking equipment mostly due to legacy and just kept upgrading with the product line,” said Matt Woodland, IT operations manager at Ashridge Business School. “But we got to a position where we needed a forklift upgrade as the network wasn’t up to speed.”

Being based in a grade-one listed building in acres of rural grounds, Wi-Fi was also very challenging.

“We have difficulty with cabling and have to keep our equipment in cupboards and loft spaces,” he added. 

“Stately homes are not exactly designed for cooling.”

As a result, there were a lot of issues with downtime and the school even got to a stage where they were having to rip and replace sections of the network every three months.

Now, they have done a deal with HP to roll out the supplier’s FlexCampus network, giving wired and wireless options to student and staff and encouraging both to bring their own devices into the school.

“All of our clients were pushing for this solution,” said Woodland. “They come with all sorts of devices, from the larger laptops with one big antenna to tablets, phablets and all manner of modern devices. 

"Being quite isolated, we needed to provide them with better connectivity.

“Our own staff are also using their equipment on our network and we are looking to move to a model of rather than issue corporate laptops, bring your own device. We needed a network that gave us that flexibility.”

Easy journey

The virtualised local area network installed by HP has two 10500 series switches at its centre, providing 10GB connections, with the option of 40GB or 100GB over Ethernet in the future. Once the network has travelled through the virtualised switch, it then continues out to 32 HP 5120 power over Ethernet (PoE) switches to provide 1GB connections over wires.

There is also a wireless local area network (WLAN) running on dual HP MSM760 access controllers, which in turn connect to 195 HP MSM460 access points, giving Wi-Fi to staff, students and visitors to the school.

Woodland said the planning process was “a really easy journey” with a lot of thanks put at the door of HP’s partner NETconnection Systems.

“All the kit was put together in labs off-site and tested there, which took about one month,” he said. “Then we did a piecemeal roll-out of the edges and a big bang on the core.”

Network downtime and speed... is no longer a water cooler conversation

Matt Woodland, IT operations manager, Ashridge Business School

“We had enough cabling and fibre in place to run the networks parallel, meaning our users didn’t experience any downtime. When we went live, pushing over onto our last switch, it was a good day!”

This process again took about one month and, since it went live in December 2012, the school has had no downtime at all.

Woodland and his team now manage the network with HP Intelligent Management Centre (IMC) software with additional HP IMC User Access Management (UAM) and Endpoint Admission Defence (EAD) modules to ensure a safe and secure network for its users.

“Network downtime and speed is no longer the concern of our users,” added Woodland. “It is no longer a water cooler conversation, which says it all.”

Sean Brown, head of public sector at HP Networking, concluded: “Multimedia communications and ubiquitous mobile devices are taxing legacy network architectures and stifling the ability to innovate and compete.”

“HP Networking has enabled Ashridge Business School to securely deploy and centrally orchestrate a mobile-optimised environment that scales from the datacentre to the network edge.”


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