UOB makes the switch to 3Com

The University of Bahrain (UOB) is slashing its network maintenance costs by moving from an aging Nortel ATM (asynchronous transfer mode) network to a gigabit ethernet solution supplied by 3Com.

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By  Peter Branton Published  May 15, 2005

The University of Bahrain (UOB) is slashing its network maintenance costs by moving from an aging Nortel ATM (asynchronous transfer mode) network to a gigabit ethernet solution supplied by 3Com. The new network will also allow the university to give its 20,000 students remote access to its systems from anywhere in the world. The University’s ATM network dated back five years, a period which has seen massive expansion for UOB. As a result, the IT department was keen to upgrade the technology to a gigabit ethernet-based system, according to Yousif Al-Bastaki, head of IT for the University. “As our student body has grown, the subsequent increase in user traffic caused problems with the previous system, seriously decreasing network speeds, hampering administrative duties and hindering the deployment of e-learning applications,” he said. “We knew that our existing network architecture lacked the scalability to meet UOB’s rapidly expanding needs and decided that we should implement a new solution,” Al-Bastaki added. A number of vendors were invited to tender for the new system, including Nortel again, Cisco, Foundry and 3Com. Initially, Al-Bastaki was keen to use a Cisco solution, having read a lot about the company. However, after evaluating competing solutions, he changed his mind. “I personally said ‘let’s go for Cisco’, but when we started studying the technology we realised there wasn’t any real difference between Cisco and 3Com in terms of technology,” said Al-Bastaki. “However, 3Com had the major advantage that its price was almost half that of Cisco’s,” he said. As per government regulations in Bahrain, which require all contracts worth more than 100,000 Bahrain dinar (US$265,000) to go for tender, UOB invited companies to pitch in the open tender. 3Com’s bid won and the university began the migration at the beginning of this year, a process which was completed earlier this month. As well as providing a good purchase price, Al-Bastaki said the 3Com network also represents major cost savings on maintenance, compared to what UOB was paying for the Nortel solution. “We spent nearly 500,000 dinars (US$1,326,000) on the ATM network over the five years, which is a lot of money to us,” he claimed. “The 3Com solution is costing us in total less than 120,000 dinars (US$318,000), which includes a five-year maintenance contract. So we’re getting five-year support and a new technology for the same amount.” The support contract was key to UOB taking the deal, Al-Bastaki said. “Technology changes very fast, this gives us some security,” he explained. “We have 24 by seven support built in to the contract.” The 3Com solution will also underpin the University’s plans for expansion, Al-Bastaki said. “We have 20,000 students which is a lot for a small place like Bahrain, but we want to expand,” he added. UOB is looking to add three new schools, in law, science and IT this year. As part of the contract, 3Com is providing training and equipment for specialist training labs for students. The 3Com solution UOB has implemented includes a number of the vendor’s switch products, plus its XRN (expandible resilient networking) technology. 3Com is also ensuring the integrity of the network with access control lists confining users to authorised areas within the network and protocol authentication technology to prevent unauthorised users from entering the network, which will keep student data safe.

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