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Imperial College London Readies New IP Services with Brocade Extraordinary Network

Additional 10Gbps capacity reduces back up times by over 50 percent, cuts support costs and enables VoIP and other advances in service delivery

November 27, 2009 12:00 by

Brocade® (Nasdaq:BRCD) today announced that Imperial College London has added Brocade FastIron SX 800 and SX 1600 10 Gbps switches to increase network capacity for departments and third parties using its state-of-the-art data centre facilities. Despite the growth in data traversing and being stored on the network the Brocade architecture has reduced back-up times by 50 per cent and cut £15,000 from the College’s annual support costs. The equipment was supplied by Brocade’s partner, Calyx.

Consistently rated amongst the world’s best universities1, Imperial College London is a science-based institution with a reputation for excellence in teaching and research, with particular focus on engineering, medicine, natural sciences and business. Home to 14 Nobel Laureates and two Fields Medal winners, Imperial College was founded in 1907 and has a long history of innovation – its academics discovered penicillin, invented holography and developed the use of fibre optics2. Ranked top in the UK for world-leading and internationally excellent research3, Imperial College today has over 13,000 students, 6,000 staff and an annual income exceeding £600 million.

Dathan Birrell, Imperial College London’s network operations manager, explained: “The university’s data centre estate has grown by 50 percent in three years and uptime is paramount. Network performance and resilience has been massively improved and our Layer 2 data centre ring now has sub second failover. Such resilience means that we can operate in the unfortunate event of an outage – even the loss of an entire data centre – and still offer highly available services to our stakeholders.”

Backing up huge volumes of data was another challenge for the university. With 37,000 mailboxes – with 7 TB of mail data stored – along with 50,000 Active Directory accounts, and 27,000 different devices connected to the network at any one time, the Brocade solution has significantly reduced central back-up times. What now takes between four and six hours previously would have run into the next working day. Birrell concluded: “Our Exchange Mail servers are the biggest stores to back up quickly, and by creating a Layer 2 back up LAN utilising the Brocade switches we’ve reduced the time to do so by 50 percent. We also see this performance as an enabler to migrate from our legacy PBX solution to VoIP services, all thanks to the head-room offered by 10Gbps performance.”

Because of the reliability of the Brocade infrastructure, Imperial College estimates that it has saved £15,000 per annum on support as business day cover is all that is required, not 24/7 monitoring.

Imperial College has three data centre locations on its South Kensington Campus, all offering redundant power and cooling supplies, rack space, centralised storage and backup. While considerable investment has been made in creating a multi-vendor network environment, the university has standardised on Brocade’s FastIron range of SX switches for access- layer server connectivity in these data centres, linking them together with a 10 Gbps Layer 2 metro ring. Easy to integrate, the Brocade FastIron switches offer the speed and resilience the university was looking for, at the right price - a step-change improvement compared to 10/100 MB 3Com edge technology previously installed.

Birrell continued: “In effect we’ve created a fully managed, internal co-location facility where centralised IT systems are provided or systems hosted. The investment in this data centre-class technology is then made available to other organisations. For example, The Royal College of Music, Natural History Museum and some commercial and charity organizations all locate their IT with us, too.”

In 2006, two Brocade FastIron SX 800 and two SX 1600 chassis-based switches were deployed, with the university now adding one more of each (and additional line cards) to increase capacity. Birrell added: “With our latest purchase, we have increased our port count by 40 percent over the past three years. The benefit of a chassis-based solution is the ease in which you can scale over time without interruption to service.”

Offering a non blocking IP switch architecture, the Brocade FastIron SX-series switches provide n+1 power and have fully hot swappable line cards, so that should individual components need to be removed for maintenance or replacement, the whole network operates unimpeded. Similarly, servers are dually attached to the Brocade switches ensuring additional reliability and protection against outages. This is important as 680 servers from various departments are hosted in the three data centres, and connect directly to the Brocade FastIron switches, along with 460 servers used for providing centralised IT services. The data centre team is currently looking to capitalise on support for Jumbo Frames in the Brocade FastIron switches to further improve back up performance given the packet sizes processed are greater.

Ulrich Plechschmidt, vice president, EMEA at Brocade, concludes, “Imperial College London is a prestigious university customer, where our technology is used to help ensure 100 percent service delivery - crucial given Brocade underpins the organisation’s day-to-day operations. We’re delighted the university continues to appreciate the class-leading networking technology we offer.”

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