Network ventures

Venture capitalist and private equity investor 3i has a 60-year history of investing in innovative start-ups and helping them grow.

Its ability to spot and nurture future stars depends on the expertise of its employees and like many knowledge-based businesses, the ability to collaborate and communicate is imperative.

Currently, 3i has 23 sites located across the UK and Europe. Sharing important information cannot just be done around the water cooler: staff need state-of-the-art networks to facilitate the sharing of ideas and knowledge.

Historically, 3i had two network contracts: one covering the UK; the other for the rest of Europe. But as those contracts were up for renewal, 3i recently opted to consolidate the deals, seeking a single IP network supplier.

“We had point-to-point networks hubbing off our data centre in Birmingham. What we wanted was a network to provide some agility in the IT infrastructure going forward, getting real quality of service on the network and allowing multiple applications to run over it,” explains John Tracey, the head of information systems at the venture capitalist.

“Under the legacy network, if we wanted to send large files during a videoconference from, for example,  London to Frankfurt it would have had an impact on the quality,” he adds.

Now, 3i has signed a three year deal with Colt Telecoms, for an IP-based virtual private network. The deal is worth £1.6 million, but Tracey believes it stands to save the company around 20% or more each year.

Colt will use multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) technology to speed up traffic flows by giving certain labeled packets a path so the router does not have slow them down whilst finding the destination of their next node.

In choosing Colt, 3i also has a vendor that is large enough to have the necessary infrastructure – Colt has undertaken an extensive fibre network rollout at 3i’s European offices, ensuring that the problematic last mile is bypassed.

“Colt is big enough to provide the right level of service for us and small enough to still mean we are a significant customer for them with all the benefits in service that that entails,” says Tracey.

Through using a single network provider, 3i will also be able to reduce its management overheads: 80% of its European offices will have no dedicated IT staff.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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