IT Brief New Zealand logo
Technology news for New Zealand's largest enterprises
Story image

Lessons from NEAL

By Contributor
Mon 1 Feb 2010
FYI, this story is more than a year old

With the government poised to invest $1.5 billion in a broadband network, and with fibre optic cable to schools a top priority, it’s timely to look at NEAL – the North Shore Education Access Loop.

Built by Vector with a combination of private and public money, NEAL was championed by the North Shore City Council. As the council’s economic development manager Roger Matthews explained at the time, “The government has brought $4.5 million to the table, Vector has brought $2 million to the table and the council has brought leadership.”

Three years later, Matthews says the council’s objectives have not been met. Of the 45 schools connected to network, only 24 are actively using it. The council, which was also connected to 1GB pipe, is limited by a 10MB connection from its supplier, Revera.

Matthews says there are lessons from NEAL for both local and central governments looking for social outcomes when partnering with private organisations such as electricity companies and telcos in building a fibre network.

“Increasingly I think that our problem is not an engineering or infrastructure problem, it’s a marketing problem,” he says. “Whilst we absolutely need fibre, I think of the old line of ‘build it, they will come’. Well, we built it and they didn’t come.”

But, says Alan Curtis, North Shore schools are taking advantage of fibre connectivity. He’s the chair of a newly incorporated society, the NEAL Education Trust, and the chair of the Westlake Girls College Board of Trustees.

According to Curtis, one of the problems with NEAL was there was no money to show teachers how to utilise the fibre connection. “It’s not reluctance; it’s ignorance,” he says.

One of the first achievements of the Trust has been to secure funding for professional development from the Ministry of Education in 2010.

45 schools

Vector wholesales the fibre service at a Layer 2 level, but if each school has its own ISP, it can mean they are unable to connect to each other within the NEAL network.

As each school functions as an autonomous entity, with its own budgets out of which ICT is purchased, to date there has been little or no aggregation of demand. “You’ve got 45 schools with 45 boards oftrustees, making 45 purchasing decisions independent of each other, and they’re chasing 100 vendors around New Zealand, all independent. If you could get people to make the same decision at the same time, they’re certainly not going to make any money,” says Matthews.

Yet, while it might be technically possible to accommodate multiple ISPs on Layer 3 services, Matthews has found the ISPs themselves are unwilling to provide the service without also charging a connection fee – in other words, they want to retail to the end-user both Layer 3 and Layer 2 services.

However Curtis says that schools are learning about the power of aggregation, with 10 schools now connected to the same ISP. This arrangement has meant that the individual schools only pay for thebandwidth they use, when they use it – over the Christmas holiday period the bill is almost nothing, while in the peak teaching periods it rises dramatically, but Curtis says that schools need to accept that ICT is “just the cost doing education”.

He predicts that over time all schools on NEAL will be served by one or two ISPs. He points out that telcos and other ICT providers need to understand that schools, in particular secondary schools, are larger than many New Zealand businesses. The average high school principal on the North Shore is managing an annual budget of between $12 million and $18 million. In one school they required backup storage for three terabytes of data.

Service providers not interested

The connection fee that schools pay Vector is around $200 a month, so one of the obvious uses Matthews envisaged was a VoIP connection.

“No school in the country would have less than three commercial phone lines. So if you could cut the copper, you’ve made your $200 then and there,” he explains. “And two years ago we went to the market and asked for expressions of interest for fibre-based IP telephony in schools, and got nothing. The best expression we got was from WorldxChange; it was toll-only on the copper. No one wanted a piece of that business – not one.”

But Curtis says that schools already have PBX systems, and are unlikely to want to ditch them until they need to be upgraded. “Schools don’t spend money unless they have too,” he says.

Unwillingness to outsource

One of the greatest benefits for schools with fast fibre connections is to outsource their servers. Matthews says if a school only uses 10% of its server capacity there’s a huge potential for hardware savings on a virtual network – but the schools themselves have, to date, been reluctant to outsource.

Curtis says the NEAL Education Trust is currently working with data centres to outsource school servers. He says in Westlake Girls College there are about 25 servers, which are currently underutilised.

Demand and supply

Matthews says the large secondary schools are using the capacity that fibre allows, but they aren’t using it any differently to a copper connection. And therein lies the dilemma:

“No one is using fibre-based services because no one has seen them being used. Because no one is using them, there’s nobody selling them, which means there’s no demand – the whole thing is a circular argument.”

Matthews likens it to being the first person to get a fax machine: it’s of no use until someone else buys one.

Again, Curtis says it will take time for schools to understand what fibre can offer, that while those connected are using the connectivity it is probably not in the same innovative ways they will be using it in future.

Data caps and the cost of bandwidth

One of the frustrations for Matthews is that while the North Shore City Council is connected to a 1GB pipe, it can only access 10MB for its 750 staff members, because that’s all the bandwidth it can afford to purchase from its supplier, Revera.

“I sit at my desk and we’re on optic fibre – no comment whatsoever on the Vector network – but because we’re sitting on a 10MB gateway, quite often I change to my Vodafone card because it’s faster than fibre.”

Part of the reason bandwidth is so expensive is the cost of international connectivity, which in turn leads ISPs to meter out the supply through the use of data caps. This becomes a severely limiting factor if you’re connected to a fibre network.

Matthews says if it’s not cost-effective for a council to connect at full speed, how will you ever convince a consumer about the benefits of fibre to the home?

“If Vector said we’ve got fibre-optic close to your place, we’ll connect you this weekend, what would I do with it?” he asks. “Use my data cap in 38 seconds?”

Curtis agrees that one of major issues is that “NEAL is throttled at 10MG”.

Lessons from NEAL

Matthews remains a passionate advocate of fibre, and it’s obvious he’s proud to have been part of a fibre network that’s connected 45 schools, but he’s concerned about the slow uptake of services and the impact this might have on future government-funded networks.

“I have this nightmare of them getting 10 months into this, finding that the uptake isn’t there, the Minister of Finance reading the political winds and pulling the plug.”

But Curtis says that uptake is occurring; it’s just not as fast as people might like. So the greatest lesson from NEAL may be patience.

“We must all have an understanding that the process will not be overnight, and we have taken time and it has been a little like watching grass grow, but the grass is growing and it’s strong.”

Related stories
Top stories
Story image
NZ program recovers and recycles more than 177 tonnes of e-waste
The TechCollect NZ pilot program says its milestone of recovering and recycling more than 177 tonnes of ICT e-waste recognises the efforts of many.
Story image
Data analytics
Data analytics a struggle for A/NZ healthcare organisations
A study by InterSystems has found that most Australian and New Zealand healthcare organisations struggle to use data analytics to support their business objectives.
Story image
Automation to take over 63 million jobs in APAC by 2040 - report
Forrester forecasts that working populations in the five largest economies in APAC are more at risk of physical robot automation than in Europe and North America.
Story image
Digital Transformation
Adobe and FC Bayern collaborate on a multi-year partnership
Adobe is embarking on a multi-year partnership with FC Bayern, using its enterprise solutions to carry out the club’s digital transformation.
Story image
AvePoint rebrands SaaS learning product to MaivenPoint
"Our mission with MaivenPoint is to make your learning experience limitless and inspire everyone to achieve their aspirations."
Story image
DCI Data Centers breaks ground on AKL02 center
DCI Data Centers has commenced construction on Auckland's largest data center.
Story image
Exclusive: Inde provides innovative solutions across the tech sector
Inde likes to call its approach the 'power of the collective', which essentially means that if a client approaches the company with a problem, they'll get the team's collective insight to help drive the best outcome.
Story image
Fortinet reports second quarter 2022 financial results
“We delivered strong revenue and billings growth in the second quarter driven by an increase in the number of transactions larger than one million dollars."
Story image
Gartner Magic Quadrant
Gartner positions Commvault as Leader in 2022 Magic Quadrant
Gartner has named Commvault a Leader in its 2022 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Backup and Recovery Software Solutions report.
Story image
Claroty launches new cloud-based industrial cybersecurity platform
The company says Claroty xDome is the industry's first solution to deliver the ease and scalability of SaaS without compromising on visibility, protection, and monitoring controls.
Story image
LG Electronics
LG Electronics’ revenue in NZ grows by 57% in FY 2021
The New Zealand branch of LG Electronics Australia's total revenue shot up by nearly NZD $45 million reaching a total of $123.7 million for FY 2021.
Story image
Hybrid Cloud
The essential guide to digital transformation by SolarWinds
Digital transformation is a buzzword thrown around all the time by companies, but what does it actually mean and why is it important? SolarWinds breaks it down.
Story image
Tablets & laptops
Chromebook and tablet shipments see another rapid decline for the year
According to research from Canalys PC Analysis, Chromebook and tablet shipments have fallen for the fourth quarter in a row for Q2 of 2022.
AWS Marketplace
See how managed security services (MSS) have evolved to Managed Detection and Response (MDR) and Extended Detection and Response (XDR). Learn how these new holistic solutions can simplify security management and improve your threat detection and response.
Link image
Story image
Gartner names Rubrik Leader in 2022 Magic Quadrant
Rubrik has been positioned by Gartner as a Leader in the 2022 Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Backup and Recovery Software Solutions.
Story image
Visa launches Eco Benefits solutions in Australia and NZ
Eco Benefits is a suite of sustainability-focused solutions that will help Visa cardholders better understand the environmental impact of their payments.
Story image
Open source
Flashpoint acquires Echosec Systems, elevates OSINT capabilities
Flashpoint has acquired Echosec Systems, a provider of open-source intelligence and publicly available information.
Story image
Veeam named Leader in enterprise backup and recovery
"We believe our innovation and ability to execute validates our solid standing as the #1 trusted provider of modern data protection."
AWS Marketplace
Learn how security orchestration, automation, and response (SOAR) enhances your security strategy.
Link image
Story image
Pure Storage
Pure Storage named leader in GigaOm report for Kubernetes storage
Pure Storage named the leader for the third consecutive year by GigaOm Radar Report for enterprise Kubernetes storage.
Register now for the Sydney Cloud & Datacenter Convention 2022 and learn about topics ranging from digital transformation to data center sustainability.
Link image
Story image
Ivanti and SentinelOne partner on patch management solution
Ivanti and SentinelOne will integrate their technologies Ivanti Neurons for Patch Management and SentinelOne's Singularity XDR platform.
Story image
Why security needs to shape your journey to the cloud
It's estimated that 80% of workloads could be in the cloud in the next few years. How can you make all that data secure?
Story image
Data Protection
Video: 10 Minute IT Jams - An update from SearchInform
Alexey Pinchuk joins us today to discuss the role the company plays in helping organisations manage risk and provide better security outcomes.
Story image
Document Management
TrustRadius gives M-Files two document management awards
TrustRadius has recognised M-Files with both a 2022 Best Feature Set and a 2022 Best Relationship award in document management.
Story image
Exclusive: UKG brings a people focused approach to workforce management
Managing an effective and efficient workforce is the crux of any business operation, and in today's climate, it's more than just work employers need to be aware of.
Story image
Why the Metaverse could be the key to enhancing the healthcare sector
The experts at Accenture understand that the programmable world is about building the next version of the physical world in healthcare, understanding complex layers in order to fully utilise technology to its maximum effect.
Story image
10 Minute IT Jams
Video: 10 Minute IT Jams - An update from Talend
Stu Garrow joins us today to discuss the company’s key solutions, and how they can help organisations thrive in the data management space.
Story image
Google NZ numbers show strong comprehensive profit increase
The latest financial report from Google New Zealand Limited has revealed an increase in total comprehensive profit of over $NZD 7 million.
Story image
Talend announces support for Amazon Redshift Serverless
Talend has announced its support for Amazon Redshift Serverless, with the company saying the integration reinforces its commitment and leadership in supporting businesses.
Story image
Chorus announces Hyperfibre sponsorship deal with NZ Esports
Chorus has put its support behind New Zealand's Esports community with a newly announced three-year Hyperfibre sponsorship deal with NZ Esports.
Story image
OfficeMax NZ sees significant growth through Seismic partnership
OfficeMax New Zealand has announced it has seen a significant increase in customer and sales confidence as a result of Seismic’s digital enablement software.
Story image
Fortinet unveils compact firewall for hyperscale data centres, 5G networks
"Fortinet’s dedication to pushing the boundaries of what is possible in security performance has yielded the most powerful compact firewall yet."
Story image
Financial results
Facebook NZ financial report reveals notable revenue increase
Revenue from contracts with customers increased by $NZD 1,089,292 compared to 2020's figures.
Story image
Mergers and Acquisitions
Netskope acquires Infiot, delivers integrated SASE platform
Converged SASE platform provides AI-driven zero trust security and simplified, optimised connectivity to any network location or device, including IoT.
Story image
10 Minute IT Jams
Video: 10 Minute IT Jams - An update from Heidrick & Struggles
Graham Kittle joins us today to discuss how the company is helping organisations bring about change within their business.
Story image
Workplace design a crucial factor for better employee experience - report
The key to a successful workplace could be its design, according to research from Ecosystm and Neat.
Story image
2degrees unveils eSIM functionality for selected devices
2degrees has enabled eSIM functionality to work with a variety of Apple, Samsung and Oppo devices, including a range of iPads.
Story image
Tech job moves
Tech job moves - Cohesity, Equinix, IDC, Proofpoint & Xero
We round up all job appointments from July 29 - August 5, 2022, in one place to keep you updated with the latest from across the tech industries.
Story image
Why enhancing bot protection for web and API endpoints matters
The trouble with bots is that they aren’t all bad. Unfortunately, this can make it challenging to detect malicious bots that find their way into your system and threaten your business.
Story image
Norton research finds NZ threat landscape diversifying on social media
Norton's quarterly report has highlighted the seriousness of the threat landscape in New Zealand.
Story image
Enterprise Resource Planning / ERP
Why the right ERP (and partner) is crucial to an innovative and successful business
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is a foundational step to ensuring a robust business model; here's why choosing the right one could be vital to ensuring long-term success and innovative results.