Cisco network gives CN redundancy, peace of mind

Their network infrastructure may not have been keeping the IT staff awake nights at CN Investment Division, but it also wasn’t giving them a level of redundancy and security they were comfortable with. That’s where Cisco Systems and partner CCSI Compucom stepped in.

Based in Montreal, CN Investment Division invests and manages the pension fund assets of rail and transportation company CN. They run a trading system and rely on third-party information applications, so if the network goes down they need it back up and running quickly said Francois Coallier, supervisor of systems support, CN Investment Division.

Their legacy network, based around a Cisco Catalyst 6500 switch with Mini VLANS configured and while it was a good network, Coallier said it just didn’t have the level of redundancy they wanted or needed.

“We had a very good network, but no redundancy. We were at risk if any of that equipment failed,” said Coallier.

When the network was built in 2000, while the need to be back online quickly was there, the need wasn’t as pressing to CN’s business and its bottom line as it is today. Their Cisco service contract promised four-hour service, and that was acceptable at the time. But now, the network has become absolutely mission critical.

“We realized we now needed something more than that,” said Coallier. “We needed to be back up right away. We can’t have four hours downtime anymore.”

When it came to shopping for a new network, Coallier said in addition to redundancy they also wanted something that could be easily supported. They’d had good experience with Cisco and had developed strong Cisco skillsets in-house, so Cisco remained their vendor of choice.

“We wanted something that, after the implementation, the guys here could take care of,” said Coallier. “We didn’t want to have to rely on consultants or other people.”

On the recommendation of Cisco, CN turned to Cisco partner CCSI CompuCom to perform the design and installation of the network. Coallier said CCSI had the skills and expertise to complete the implementation itself, rather than having to bring in more partners, which was a key consideration for CN.

The new network has been live since November of 2008, and Coallier said it has gone well so far, with no problems and just a few minor adjustments. The knowledge transfer was well done and CN’s team has been managing the network ever since.

“The security is a lot better than it was before. We feel more secure now with the different security aspects we’ve added to the network,” said Coallier. “For the users, the good thing is they didn’t habe to adapt at all to the work we did, so it wasn’t a big change for them.”

Martin Roy, Cisco Solutions Architect for Mississauga, Ont.-based CCSI, said they began the engagement with CN by sitting down with them and ironing-out their business requirements. And to ensure the implementation went smoothly, everything was built in the lab first and tested for a period of time, and then rolled-out into production in phases.

The knowledge transfer from CCSI’s team to CN was also a key part of the process.

“It was fulfilled in two ways,” said Roy. “In the lab while we did set-up, we’d take key staff aside and show them how to do this and how to do that. During implementation, we had sections pushed-out to them on purpose so they’d get hands-on experience.”

As well, Roy said they also let behind a comprehensive as-built reference document for the CN team.

Through their work, Roy said he’d confident CCSI has developed a trusted advisor role with CN.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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