Since its inception in 1967, Central Queensland University (CQU) has gone from strength to strength and now has more than 30,000 students, offers 340 courses and employs around 1,800 people. Learners can study online from anywhere or attend one of CQU’s 20 campuses across Australia – it has the largest footprint of any university in the country.  

Connecting within and across so many sites is always a challenge. In 2021, the CQU team decided they needed to update their network hardware – basic task management was proving time-consuming. Keeping the existing hardware up-to-date, for instance, and maintaining security settings across devices, were both proving onerous tasks.  

“We were looking for a better management interface and HPE Aruba Networking Central was very attractive,” says Julianne Weekers, Senior Network Engineer for CQU.  

“With more than 20 campuses, one of the things we wanted was a way to remotely manage equipment at those sites with very low touch.” 

Two women sitting at a desk
As the university with the largest footprint in Australia, CQU wanted a way to remotely manage its more than 20 sites with very low touch.

HPE Aruba Networking and Datacom prove a winning combination

The CQU team did a consultancy exercise to find the right solution and identified HPE Aruba Networking as “a clear winner”, thanks to its value proposition. Datacom had an existing relationship with the networking company and a strong regional base of customers, making Datacom an ideal implementation partner.  

“The ability to roll out the hardware, the ease of the roll-out, and having less pieces in the overall product stack – compared to other vendors it was much simpler with HPE Aruba Networking and Datacom,” says Michael Murphy, Network Engineer for CQU.  

“Our network was already performing well and reliable – this project was about the management, the security and the deployability.”  

For the past two years the small CQU network team has been going from site to site, replacing the old network hardware with HPE Aruba Networking. Because of the size of the institution, the project will take a total of four or five years, as the team physically changes out devices at each location.  

Datacom Technical Specialist Mark Wibaux says the CQU network team’s own deep understanding of their environment provided a solid foundation for the project. 

“The CQU team put a lot of effort into pre-planning, piloting, and testing to maximise the success of the rollout of the HPE Aruba Networking equipment across their environment.” 
“With the deployment process initially targeting some of the more challenging environments, Datacom has been able to provide not only a conduit to HPE Aruba Networking’s own experts, but also bring our own experience from a variety of customers across a diverse range of industries to bear when looking at any challenges that may have arisen during the deployment.” 

Expert technical advice and support for tricky questions 

With the new hardware in place, the improved manageability has been instantly noticeable.  

“It saves us a lot of time doing basic management tasks, which is a real benefit to us,” explains Weekers. “We have really been appreciating that the access points can be managed directly. We don’t need controllers in the mix, so that saves us looking after so many devices. Everything is in one management platform.” 

With support from both HPE Aruba Networking and Datacom, the CQU engineers were able to solve even the trickiest configurations.  

“Datacom has been great for technical advice and hooking us up with HPE Aruba Networking  technical experts,” says Weekers. “That has helped us get to where we want to be in terms of the configs we want to deploy. They were able to answer all our questions. And honestly, all our questions are hard questions.” 

Alongside Datacom’s networking expertise and its technical capabilities and experience with HPE Aruba Networking, Business Development Manager Stephen Frantz says a strong relationship with the CQU team and regular communication has been key to the success of the project. 

“We regularly meet in person to review product updates with Julianne, Michael and the team. Mutual trust, respect and transparency have been paramount in providing CQU with the ability to deploy new products to most of the sites in Queensland and we’re looking forward to continuing our association with the CQU team as the HPE Aruba Networking rollout continues.” 
HPE Aruba Networking’s Channel Leader – Australia, Tristan Rajah, says Datacom has been a highly skilled partner for many years. 
“Datacom shares HPE Aruba Networking’s customer-first approach, and we have a long history of successfully collaborating to achieve business outcomes for our customers. We are really happy with the results that have been delivered for CQU.”  

Five tips for a successful hardware rollout

How can your hardware rollout succeed smoothly? Julianne Weekers and Michael Murphy of CQU offer their top tips for success: 

1. Look closely at your current equipment before you choose new hardware

Preparation is vital, says Weekers: “It’s mostly about working out what the configurations are on your existing equipment and making sure you can replicate them on the new equipment. Especially specialist things with particular conflicts that you’ll need to adjust for – look for those 1% cases.”  

2. Test prospective new equipment as early as possible

Getting hold of the hardware means you can test it out, make sure it works across vendors and that it will meet your specific software needs.  

“It also helps if the equipment is physically ‘like for like’ with your previous equipment,” says Murphy. “It reduces the among of change and means there’s less opportunity for things to go wrong.”  

Man looking inside open harddrive

3. A proof of concept will pinpoint unexpected issues 

The CQU team chose one building for a proof-of-concept roll-out before the large-scale implementation. They let the Aruba hardware run, allowing them to solidify their strategy before rolling it out across Australia. 

4. Do your homework before you go to site

Before you head to any site, be prepared. Know exactly what’s on your network and have everything documented, Murphy advises. Make sure every single part you need has been delivered to site.  

5. Choose the hard areas to upgrade first 

“Don’t pick the easy areas of your network where you know it will work,” says Murphy. “Pick an area where you know you’ll have problems, because you’ll learn a lot more from that.” 

For CQU, that meant steering away from simpler student or staff spaces and instead seeking out physical areas that covered as many edge cases and use cases as possible.  

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