Case study: Jesus College Cambridge prefers Procurve


With buildings dating from the 12th century, Jesus College is one of Cambridge’s oldest academic institutions. It has high standards and an enviable reputation which attracts the most talented and capable students from around the globe. But delivering advanced services in such a historical setting can be a challenge...

Each year the college welcomes around 140 undergraduates and 90 post graduates. These students expect excellent computing facilities to support their studies. However, ’12th century buildings are not the easiest places to deliver 21st century network technology,’ observes Damian Kramer, the College’s IT Operations Manager.

Business Challenge

Damian’s team of five manage two separate networks: the administrative network, supporting the college’s business processes and a more open public network, supporting some 750 students’ personal machines. Naturally, students expect the college’s network to support their demanding requirements no matter what equipment they connect: desktop computers, laptops, Macs, iPads or smartphones. In addition the College IT team manages one of Cambridge University’s best equipped student computing centres: the Kwok room, situated in Jesus College library.

For eight years the College’s networks were powered by Cisco. However, the equipment was starting to age and with that age came issues/limitations such as only 100Mb to the wall. IT Operations Manager, Damian Kramer, was also concerned about increasing support costs and data security. The original core switch was only slightly newer than the aging network. Any futher extension to its operational life would have created an unacceptable risk of a major network failure.

Evaluating Options

‘We immediately turned to CWL Systems for advice’ recalls Damian, ‘they had been supporting the College’s networking requirements for over five years and were well aware of our business needs. They have a cadre of experienced engineers who are qualified in a variety of networking systems. They are ‘solution agnostic’, which means they are able to recommend technology based upon our business need, rather than narrow commercial partnerships. CWL produced a report detailing the technical options open to us and the costs associated with each solution.’

‘We were not surprised that Cisco turned out to be the most expensive option’ said Damian, ‘they are the industry leader and their equipment offers a variety of functions that others do not.’ However, the detailed CWL report did not just identify differences in cost, it also highlighted what the College would be getting for its money. CWL matched functionality against known business requirements and the result was illuminating.

It soon became clear that whilst the Cisco solution delivered several benefits over and above the competitors, many of those benefits were not aligned with the College’s business needs. ‘Cisco’s solution came with a lot of ‘nice to have features’, but when examined against the business requirement, the extra cost could not be justified’ explains Damian.

In contrast the business case for HP was compelling: the hardware delivered everything the College required to expedite its daily business and the initial equipment investment was significantly cheaper. The good news did not end with the upfront purchase. HP networking equipment comes with a comprehensive warranty. It meant that Jesus College’s IT team did not have to budget for expensive maintenance contracts: if a piece of hardware failed, it would simply be swopped out and replaced – free of charge.

For Jesus College, selecting HP networking equipment made good commercial and operational sense.

Installing a New Network

Reduced costs gave the team at Jesus College more options when it came to upgrading the network. The college is essentially a single campus multi-building estate and the team deployed two HP ProCurve 8212 zl modular switches as part of their core network. Central to the College’s needs these switches delivered:

  • System-level high availability (HA)
  • Enterprise-class rich feature and integrated security
  • Scalable connectivity (10 Mb to 10 GbE)
  • Integrated applications on services module

One switch was associated with the main site, the second switch at a back-up datacentre to provide business continuity and disaster recovery. The access layer was serviced by a fleet of ProCurve E2520 and E2810 access switches provide 1Gb network speed to users. The solution also supported the following features and level of service required by the College’s business:

  • Unified features (layer 2 to 4)
  • Scalable connectivity (24 to 48 ports, 10 Mb to 10 GbE)
  • Advanced built-in security features
  • POE+ and QOS enabled
  • Scalable connectivity (24 to 48 ports, 10 Mb to 1 GbE)
  • Flexible uplink options (supports 10G)
  • POE+ for VoIP phones and WLAN APs

New fibre was required throughout the campus, which meant users suffered little or no disruption as the new network was rolled out. Users simply accessed the new network as it became available in their location. CWL’s engineers supported the College’s IT department in configuring the new core switches. The whole project was delivered within three months.

Business Benefits

Selecting HP enabled the College to more than meet its business challenges. The new network delivers 1Gb to the wall and has resilience built in. The IT team were able to isolate and secure the College’s administrative network from the more public network supporting the students. From an ongoing support perspective, HP’s comprehensive hardware warranty significantly reduced ongoing costs. ‘Put simply’ observes Damian, ‘CWL’s thorough analysis of our requirement has delivered a network that is more capable, more secure, cheaper to acquire and to support. Their engineers are friendly, responsive and dedicated to delivering the best solution for your business.’


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