Case study: Logicalis helps Birmingham and Loughborough universities with networking challenges

Computer Weekly European User Award Supplier of the Year winner Logicalis explains how it developed modern infrastructures for two universities

As an educational establishment that supports 23,500 students from across the world, Birmingham City University needs a resilient and flexible networking infrastructure that can support the modern, more mobile student.

Unfortunately, years of what the university describes as “patchwork” product upgrades, a lack of co-ordination across the network, a datacentre short on capacity and hardware nearing the end of its life meant it was unable to provide a suitable infrastructure to support its students.

Birmingham City University turned to Logicalis to help it develop a more modern IT infrastructure, with improved networking capabilities at its heart. Shaun Buffery, associate director for converged infrastructure at the university, says the key was to focus on specific outcomes, rather than the technology itself.

“Rather than specify the technologies we needed, we placed our business objectives at the heart of the tender,” he says. “Logicalis understood the pressures facing higher education establishments, and the need to design and implement a [system] that adapts to changes in the technologies and resources that students expect to use, and which enables staff to collaborate with students better.”

The outcome of the project is two new datacentres, a virtualised infrastructure, a unified communications platform and an upgrade to the campus-wide wired and wireless networks. The new 10GbE wired and wireless LAN means the university can now support the increasing use of mobile devices among its student population and provide essential learning resources via video, voice and rich media applications.

For customers in higher education, we try to understand what their business drivers are

Gerry Carroll, Logicalis

Dean England, converged infrastructure architect, servers and storage, says the university’s network is now better able to support its students. 

“How students consume information is continually evolving and we have to keep pace,” he says. “Today, this means providing fast and secure access to e-learning tools and resources, from anywhere and any device. Tomorrow, they will probably be writing their own applications to aid the education process. We are confident our network can adapt.”

Gerry Carroll of Logicalis says the requirements of a university such as Birmingham City were becoming more common as mobile devices become more ubiquitous. 

“The biggest trend is mobility and the great BYOD [bring your own device] buzzword. Students in higher education are bringing their own devices and they want to be in touch with content, with social networks and with teaching staff wherever they are on campus or even off campus,” he says.

Understanding that business requirement before a project begins is the best way to ensure total customer satisfaction, says Carroll. 

“For customers in higher education, we try to understand what their business drivers are. So, for example, with the recent changes in the funding mechanisms and the way students have become consumers and even customers, they have had to change the way they deliver IT to them. Therefore, the infrastructure has had to evolve and develop,” he says.

Logicalis supports Loughborough

As well as making Birmingham City University's infrastructure better, more efficient and easier to manage, Logicalis has helped another education establishment to save money. Loughborough University was running a 40-year-old datacentre that was definitely showing its age, with a poor power utilisation efficiency (PUE) rating and limited capacity.

Loughborough worked with Logicalis to design, build and run its hybrid cloud infrastructure and core network, unified communications and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) platforms. The combined projects have saved Loughborough £3.5m in four years, as well as reducing its annual carbon dioxide output by 640 tonnes.

Phil Richards, formerly director of IT at Loughborough University, says that with the help of Logicalis, the university quickly saw a return on its investment, especially “total cost of ownership and efficiency within the IT team, modest carbon savings, and the provision of an alternative IT service for corporate users”.

He adds: “Deployment was straightforward, and staff were able to securely access our existing library of virtual apps, such as Sage and Autocad, immediately. Staff also found it easy to use, which meant less training and fewer helpdesk demands.”

Logicalis was recognised for its success with these higher education projects in the Computer Weekly European User Awards for Networking 2014, where it was named Supplier of the Year.

Emerging technology trends

One of the ways in which Logicalis improves its understanding of what its customers need is by regularly sitting down with CIOs and other technology decision-makers. Its quarterly CIO Dinners and IT Innovators Club give Logicalis and its customers a platform to discuss their needs and share ideas.

It is one of the ways Logicalis stays on top of emerging technology trends and helps it establish where its customers are in terms of adopting these technologies, says Carroll.

“We put together a group of topics we believe are interesting and we also get nominations from attendees," he says. "It is chaired by a CIO and we tend to cover three or four topics during the evening. The attendees discuss, debate and share their experiences of where they are with emerging trends and technologies.

“It is an interesting forum because we take a step back. We are just there to get an insight into our customers and what sort of things they are looking at. The real benefit is them interacting with their peers and sharing best practice.”

It was partly this approach that attracted Lend Lease, a property developer with more than 18,000 staff worldwide. When its datacentre reached the end of its useful life, Lend Lease switched to an infrastructure as a service (IaaS) model so its IT team could concentrate on supporting business needs.

Chris Lemon, regional infrastructure manager EMEA at Lend Lease, says: “We wanted to focus on innovation and adding value in the business rather than just keeping the lights on, so we sought to partner with an organisation that could enable us to do that. Not only are we making a substantial saving on energy costs, we’ve also moved out of a costly refresh lifecycle. Logicalis has enabled us to repurpose IT resource on business innovation rather than just day-to-day maintenance.

“During this project, we got exactly what we were looking for – a long-term relationship. It’s about how you work together in partnership to overcome any issues which really counts. Logicalis is upfront and open with us, and we see its flexibility, both commercially and technology-wise, as critical to our goals of driving business value through IT.”

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