Equinox Converged Solutions has been awarded the Computer Reseller News (CRN)/Syscap Approved Technology Innovator of the Month award for November, in recognition of its design for a metropolitan area network (Man) to deliver broadband services to 2,600 schools across London.
The capital's 33 Local Education Authorities (LEAs) wanted their schools to have broadband access so that they could use online learning facilities.
Brian Durrant, chief executive of the London Grid for Learning (LGfL), was impressed by Equinox's willingness to make a substantial investment in the project.
Durrant, who is responsible for providing the most cost-effective systems possible for the LEAs, stressed that Equinox's approach was quite different.
"For Equinox this project was completely different in terms of scale and the capital investment it would have to make to make it happen," he said.
In effect, Equinox and its technical team, led by Stuart Britt and Bhupen Mistry, would have to set up a complete network of fibre connections, linking a large number of points and providing the technology and services that would enable the bandwidth to be managed.
That is exactly what the company has set about doing, working with its telecoms partner, Thus, to provide the basic fabric of the network and connections to the 2,600 schools and about 1,000 libraries and other establishments in the London area. To date, 600 locations are online.
The design and deployment of leading edge network technology is what impressed the judges, but Durrant pointed out that Equinox also deserves praise for its approach to the project.
"The public sector can be a challenging environment and [Equinox] has worked very hard," he explained. "It not only had to deal with the LGfL but had to manage 33 other client relationships.
"We now have 600 schools connected and a range of managed services in place. [Equinox has] come forward with the different solutions very effectively."
When complete, the LEA network may, as Equinox has claimed, form the largest Man in the world. Technically it is already worthy of recognition. The network uses two core sites offering about 320Gbps of switching capability with twin 9.6Gbps links between them.
From the cores, nodal loops link out to the schools through a series of aggregation points using 100Mbps or 1Gbps switches.
These links provide 50 times the bandwidth of a conventional 2Mbps line, and offer massive savings compared with the alternatives.
When completed, the network will provide an end-to-end service using Multiprotocol Label Switching to support four different classes of traffic as well as multicast capabilities.
It will also effectively support thousands of virtual private networks on a per-client basis, and firewall protection is slated to be provided at this level.
Juniper Networks' M160 routers are being used at the core of the network and Extreme Networks' Black Diamond switches will be used on the loop.
Perhaps most impressively of all, Equinox estimates that the system will offer savings of 90 per cent compared with commercially available alternatives.
Angus Merelie, chief executive at Equinox, explained that the project presented a massive challenge to the company, and that he was proud of Equinox's achievement.
"It involved a huge amount of work and we mobilised virtually the whole of the company," he said.
Equinox spent a lot of time during the tendering process clarifying how the solution would work, and this also helped to build confidence, according to Merelie.
But he claimed that the LGfL was impressed with the approach that Equinox had taken. "I think it became apparent to them fairly quickly that what we had was something different and innovative," he said.
Backed by the UK's two leading independent weekly papers for IT professionals and for the IT industry, Computing and CRN, the Innovator awards have been sponsored for the past two years by technology financing and leasing company Syscap. This month's award is the final one for 2002.
At the Channel Awards on 20 November all the year's winners will be in the running for Innovator of the Year awards: one for the public sector and one for private sector projects.
Acknowledging that the awards have been a huge success, Lisa Little, marketing manager at Syscap, said: "We have sponsored these awards, not only to gain higher visibility for Syscap, but to recognise the innovation, creativity and achievements of solution providers. Only rarely do they get the appreciation they deserve.
"We believe that, in delivering the very highest quality products and services, the IT industry is making an important contribution to the competitive capability of the UK."
Paul Briggs, editor of CRN, said that the Innovator awards have an important role to play in encouraging resellers to provide solutions of the highest standard.
"Our readers do a great deal of good work, and the Innovator awards give them some recognition for that," he said.
"All too often we hear about the very few projects that run into trouble. The Innovator awards highlight just a few of the projects that are delivering real value to customers."
For information on the CRN/Syscap Approved Technology Innovator awards and the Channel Awards, contact Helen Boydell on (020) 7316 9000 or email [email protected].
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