|University||University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN)|
|Subject||Business Computing and Information Systems|
You are a sought-after technical consultant known for your excellent solutions that tailor-fit a project’s requirements, utilizing minimal spend, and a quick return on investment (RoI). The board has asked you to attend a meeting regarding restructuring their IT infrastructure and services, given the changing needs during the pandemic and the lockdowns.
The board intends to contract you to advise them on a re-design of their online infrastructure. They would like you to suggest a state-of-the-art design that includes new communications technologies and services available from providers. The system must support voice, data, images, video, and audio streaming. The associated costs are required, to allocate a budget which will need to be sanctioned by the management team. The costing accuracy is required to be within ±15%.
The Chief Information Officer will be chairing the meeting, it will also be attended by the management team. On the video conference call, you are told:
“XX & Co.” is a fast-growing online consumer electronics company with an annual turnover of £4 million and a gross profit of 20%. We are growing and aim for our turnover to be £8m the following year and expect to retain the same gross profits.
We are looking to restructure following the changes to business due to the pandemic. Presently, we have an in-house networking and computing infrastructure. The company is known for its excellent customer interaction and support – a USP that has seen its business grow exponentially in the last few years.
There are four core functional components of the Business – Management, Infrastructure and Operations, Marketing, and Sales & support. All documentation and business operations are online. The business runs out of a single large building with an adjoining warehouse.
The online business is in the consumer retail sector. The business fulfills over 150,000 customer orders per day on average and about ten times the number during the end-of-year sale and the annual Summer sale. The customer
deliveries are handled by delivery companies as per the requirement of the customer orders.
All the employees are located in the four-floor building with the inventory in the adjoining warehouse. The Management and admin team is on Floor 1, the Infrastructure and The operations team is on Floor 2, the Sales and Support team is on Floor 3 and the Marketing team is on Floor 4. One part of the sales team that handles inventory and shipping is in the adjoining warehouse.
Currently, the online operations are all handled by an internal network that spans four floors and the warehouse. A server farm located on floor 2, houses all the servers and a core switch in a redundant configuration. There are six distribution switches in all – one.
for each floor and two in the warehouse. A WLAN controller and 50 access points provide WiFi access. An Intrusion protection system is deployed with sensors in each of the network segments. Each of the distribution switches and WiFi controllers is configured as VLAN segments from the core switch.
The Internet access is via two providers (redundant Internet access, load-balanced) and the links terminate on Floor 2. A firewall and access router, both in redundant configurations interconnect the internal network to the Internet. All Internet-facing servers (WWW, email, VPN, load-balanced proxies for access to the sales, etc.) are in a DMZ with the firewall regulating access to and from the DMZ, the internal network, and the Internet.
The company realizes the need to restructure its network and integrate newer technologies for its operations. The management however specifies that their Enterprise Resource Systems (ERP) systems must be located on-site. It realizes the need to use cloud service providers appropriately. However, its primary concern is providing customer interaction and support.
The sales and support team works from home. There are in total 90 personnel that work across three shifts, round the clock. These are the key people that require to be online to service customers. Apart from this, all other customer services are online.
Due to the pandemic, the sales & support, marketing personnel, and the management work from home. The infrastructure and operations personnel that comprise the warehouse team, the IT operations team, and the physical security team will remain on-site. In the expected restructuring, the company intends to permanently move the personnel on Floor 3 and Floor 4 to work-from-home. The network restructuring must ensure:
- No compromise in customer interactions – online chats, emails, video calls, requiring high-bandwidth communications links to support real-time streaming of multimedia content.
- Reducing on-site equipment and infrastructure
- Minimizing the on-site workforce
- Identify quality broadband (wired and wireless) providers for work-from-home users
The meeting ends with a request for you to provide the initial documentation addressing a specific set of questions (listed as tasks below), this is to be packaged as a report.
The report is expected to be circulated to the entire management team as well as the CIO and his team.
Guidelines for addressing the tasks:
- The company has not provided you any specific inputs in terms of their network diagrams, functional schematics, etc. Therefore, make assumptions appropriately and state the list of assumptions made.
- Similarly, you have not received any specific details about their suite of services. Make appropriate assumptions and state them clearly, upfront.
- When presenting schematics or network diagrams, use landscape orientation on your pages.
- Attempt to package information into tables and illustrations wherever possible. That can contribute to reducing word count while increasing the information content.
- Research real-world costs for all network devices and provider services and provide a web link to the sources used.
a) Draw a functional schematic indicating the functional sections of the network infrastructure and their interconnectivity. Indicate the various services provided, their type (voice, video, data, or multimedia), and the direction of access to them (incoming or outgoing with respect to the organization). Specify a list of services provided and profile the services in terms of their data characteristics such as typical data rates, response times, etc.
Make appropriate assumptions and state them. This schematic and profile will be the basis of the rest of the tasks. HINT: Research real-world data traffic statistics.
b) Draw and present the network schematic/s. The primary schematic will be a broadly labeled schematic of the entire network. Next, prepare a schematic of the network backbone connectivity (core and distribution switches), indicating their locations. Follow this up with schematic/s of each of the floors and the warehouse.
Make a listing of all the equipment used and the approximate amount and type of cabling used. Indicate the make, configuration, and market price of each of the network components.
Make appropriate assumptions and state them. Remember to orient the schematics in the landscape. Indicate the source from where you quote the price of the equipment.
Use the output of task 1as the basis and address the potential restructuring requested by the company. Evolve your plan of action using the following steps.
- What factors would you consider when suggesting broadband providers for use by the work-from-home (WFH) users? Specify the requirements per user connection for the broadband provider. Use diagrams to illustrate where possible.
- What would you do to minimize the computing infrastructure? How would you
manage the interconnectivity from an Internet provider’s perspective? What fail-over provisions would you build into the requirements? Recall the company’s USP. Use diagrams/schematics to illustrate your proposals.
- What modifications would you suggest be made to the infrastructure, on-site, after the minimization? Illustrate with a schematic showing the services and access, as well as a high-level network diagram indicating the components on-site and their interconnectivity. Illustrate the minimization mentioning a list of equipment and services removed.
- Summarise overall your plan by listing a set of action points that you would perform in a sequence.
Having drawn up a technical proposal, draw a single network diagram showing the recommended solution. Include a list of networking devices, accessories, software, and provider service costs, along with their configurations/services and pricing. Assess the total cost of ownership of the network which you have proposed.
List out the risks and benefits of your proposal. Include the technical risks (including cybersecurity) as well as any business risks that arise due to the technical risks. To end the proposal, highlight your key selling points for the proposal, and include a quick RoI (return on investment) as one of the primary points.
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