New TAFE network beats tender traumas

Kangan Batman Institute of Tafe is on the verge of completing a $1.2 million voice, video and data network upgrade after rising above a tough tendering process.

The Tafe is in the final stages of integrating and upgrading a number of disparate legacy networks and IT systems spread across three main campuses.

The institution is the result of a merger between the former Kangan Tafe, the former John Batman Institute of Tafe and the former Barton Tafe, to serve Melbourne's north western suburbs.

Ron Wilson, Kangan Batman's general manager support services, explained problems began when only the former Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) answered Tafe's first tender proposal.

DEC fronted a 'consortium' of partners associated with each different campus with a solution Wilson described as costing "quite a lot more than we had anticipated".

"It wasn't a successful experience for us," Wilson said.

Tafe reissued the tender to incorporate a broader technical scope and receive competitive bids from other industry players.

As a result, Ericsson is supplying the Tafe's new campus-wide network infrastructure based on Cisco routers and Catalyst switches.

Tafe appointed Compaq to supply the desktops and servers, while Southmark Solutions installed the computers and Desa installed new cabling.

The network offers all Kangan Batman Tafe campuses integrated voice, data and video capabilities, and a platform for using IP telephony in the future, in addition to centralised operators, call centre facilities, multimedia extensions, videoconferencing, integrated voice mail and an intranet-based directory.

Supporting these applications is an inter-campus microwave backbone and an Ericsson MD110 system, which also provides the Tafe with a single voice network.

After starting the rollout in December 1998, the project is expected to be complete in April.

Meanwhile, Wilson reports the experience has served as the catalyst for the Tafe to nail down its IT budget. He said the Tafe will spend between 3 and 5 per cent of its income on IT over the next five years.

"The whole planning process has involved people right across this institute," he said.

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