Leeds Beckett University

Topic : Virtualization
2500+ Employees

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Leeds Beckett University


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Leeds Beckett University places great importance on the quality and reliability of the technology services it delivers to its students. With technological demand increasing, it is making sure that these standards are maintained by pioneering the use of Avaya Virtual Enterprise Network Architecture Enterprise Fabric capability, a solution based on the Shortest Path Bridging standard – a next generation Ethernet Protocol that makes virtualised networks even more efficient and easy to manage.
These are uniquely challenging times for IT teams working in UK universities. Cuts to Government funding makes the education sector a more competitive environment and for IT departments, this means increased pressure to deliver world-class services that will attract those students, and which can be accessed from anywhere, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Students also now have easy access to an ever increasing array of smartphones, tablets and other portable devices, all of which are shifting expectations of how learning experiences should be delivered.

Combined, these factors mean that IT departments need to continually improve infrastructure and services, all on a limited budget.

The need to find new, more flexible ways of building IT infrastructure has never been greater.

A culture of continual improvement

Leeds Beckett University is a very popular University in the UK – serving the needs of over 25,000 students – and is at the forefront of creating a new spirit of enterprise and innovation within UK universities.

The University’s IT team has done much to keep its network in line with the sector’s pace of change. Over the past 10 years it has built a modern and reliable core network using multilink trunk technology from Avaya. It has also introduced greater flexibility and availability through virtualisation, and has established a second data centre to improve resilience across the University’s two campuses.

Phil Taylor, Communications Consultant, Leeds Beckett University, explains: “We’ve moved from a situation where we had a very large flat network to a subnetted architecture with VLANs per location. We now have a very stable core network that has really moved us on in terms of flexibility and resilience. From there we’ve been able to overlay crucial new services such as CCTV, VOIP, retail systems, and also staff and student data services.”

The work undertaken has proved to be very successful. For example, the infrastructure teams have played a crucial role in supporting the University’s Libraries and Learning Innovation department make services available 24/7 and achieve the Government’s Customer Service Excellence standard. Leeds Beckett’s IT and Library services also score consistently well in the annual, independently commissioned National Student Survey, gaining satisfaction scores of 86 per cent and 84 per cent respectively in 2011.

However, Taylor and his team know that they can never rest satisfied.
“Although we were very pleased with the advances we’d made it was clear we were going to need to do more,” says Taylor. “Demand for wireless connectivity and multimedia services have increased significantly in recent years, putting further pressure on the network that could affect availability. Because we offer distance learning, support international students and have an increased demand for access anytime, anywhere, we need to be available 24/7, even on Christmas day. This has reduced the maintenance time available to us significantly. We needed to find new ways of maintaining or even improving reliability and resilience.”

Leeds Beckett University

Improving business continuity

Leeds Beckett is now tackling these challenges through the introduction of Avaya VENA Enterprise Fabric capability, a solution based on the Shortest Path Bridging standard – a new IEEE Ethernet protocol that Avaya is pioneering within its Virtual Enterprise Network Architecture.

As Taylor explains, a key driver for adoption came when the University identified a number of potential ‘disaster’ scenarios that could affect the continuity and availability of key services, such as email. We needed to be able to respond quickly and flexibly to keep these services running.

“One of the biggest threats identified was the potential loss of our primary data centre, because many of our services were central to this location,” says Taylor. “We realised that if we had Layer 2 virtualisation between our two data centres, services could be moved between sites more easily.”

The Avaya Virtual Enterprise Network Architecture solves this kind of problem by enabling a network fabric within and between data centres and campuses. This virtual services fabric – based on Shortest Path Bridging – creates a multipath Ethernet network that uses the Intermediate System-to-Intermediate System (IS-IS) protocol to dynamically build a topology between nodes. The result is an open virtualisation solution that simplifies the design, deployment and management of networks.

At Leeds Beckett, the introduction of Shortest Path Bridging has already proved to be a success.

“We now have inter-site resilience for our email service and we anticipate being able to save costs by removing some dedicated private links from service,” says Taylor.

In addition, the Leeds Beckett team has completed testing that will enable Virtual Servers to run on the same address space in either of the data centres. Taylor says that the ability to be able to take a server or move it to the other data centre via this method will be a real bonus in terms maintenance and availability.

“Previously we had to change the server IP addresses and the DNS entries for this to work,” he says. “Now it is seamless.”.

“Put simply, the Avaya solution has enabled us to do more with our network while at the same time making it simpler to maintain and operate.”

– Phil Taylor, Communications Consultant, Leeds Beckett University

Delivering measurable results

Though the implementation is still in its early stages, Taylor says that his team has also been able to start measuring improvements in performance and pass on the immediate service continuity benefits to users.

“One of the benefits of the migration is the enhanced resilience we’ve found with ISIS routing,” says Taylor. “Previously we had an inter-campus failover of around two to three seconds. This was okay most of the time, but some VoIP calls disconnected, and some SSH/RDP sessions restarted. Also, our Microsoft mailboxes failed over to the master site because the interruption was too high. Since the migration our inter-campus failover has reduced to 15 milliseconds. This means VoIP calls remain active, sessions don’t timeout and email services don’t go down.”

The implementation of the Avaya VENA Enterprise Fabric capability also proved to be a smooth and seamless process. Partly this is because Avaya is able to offer Shortest Path Bridging as a software upgrade to the Avaya ESRS8600 switches used by Leeds Beckett. Another important factor is that Avaya is unique in offering layer3 (L3) extensions to Shortest Path Bridging, which means it is able to offer an end-end solution for data centre and campus.

“Choosing to adopt Avaya VENA has proved to be an excellent choice,” says Taylor. “We evaluated several alternative overlay solutions from other vendors but none could provide what Avaya can offer in a single integrated package. Put simply, the Avaya solution has enabled us to do more with our network while at the same time making it simpler to maintain and operate.”

“We evaluated several alternative overlay solutions from other vendors but none could provide what Avaya can offer in a single integrated package.”

– Phil Taylor, Communications Consultant, Leeds Beckett University

Creating the ‘can do’ department

According to Taylor, the introduction of the Avaya VENA Enterprise Fabric capability has also brought about a change in culture and mindset within his department. He attributes this to the fact that provisioning is only required at the network edge. This means administrators can quickly deploy new services wherever they are required without being constrained by the physical topology.

Taylor says this newfound flexibility supports the external perception of his department. “Successful and rapid delivery of new services is going to be much easier following the introduction of Avaya VENA,” says Taylor. “The knock-on effect is that the conversations we are having are already more positive. We’re in a much better position to say ‘yes, we can do that’, as opposed to working to overcome the obstacles that can be placed in the way. Of course we always tried to help and always tried to say yes before, but Avaya VENA has made it so much easier to make promises that we can deliver on without fear of technical constraints.”

A platform for the future

Leeds Beckett University’s long term vision is to be recognised for its commitment to student success, its innovation and enterprise, and its global reach and local impact. With the introduction of the Avaya VENA Enterprise Fabric capability within its network architecture, Taylor and his team are in a strong position to support these long terms goals without making further significant changes.

“The advantage of Avaya VENA is that you only have to build the core once and don’t have to revisit it with redesign or reconfiguration when your requirements change,” says Taylor. “This makes it much easier to react to demands from the business. There is also a cost benefit to this. With some of the other solutions we evaluated, we could see that we were going to have to spend the same amount again down the line whenever a reconfiguration was needed.”

As such, Taylor is also confident that his team will be able to adapt easily to future demands driven by user adoption of new technologies and learning practices.

“It’s certainly going to be an exciting time over the next few years, especially with all the new devices now available,” says Taylor. “We have a team within the University that is currently investigating new teaching methods, using a variety of devices, including mobile learning. With Avaya VENA, we are now in a much better position to adapt to any new demands on our infrastructure, and to help continue establishing Leeds Beckett as a university that delivers excellence and innovation in its IT services.”

Avaya Solutions

  • Avaya Ethernet Routing Switch 8600
  • Avaya VENA Enterprise Fabric capability

Leeds Beckett University Logo
  • Headquarters:

  • United Kingdom

  • # Employees:

  • 3000

Leeds Beckett University, based in the city of Leeds, UK, serves the needs of over 25,000 undergraduate, postgraduate and research students, over 1500 of which are international students from 122 countries around the globe. Leeds Beckett also employs around 3000 staff, making it one of the biggest employers in the region.

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  • Phil Taylor

  • Leeds Beckett University