Emirates clears data traffic jam

Emirates Group is embarking on a massive project to consolidate its data centre operations and add support for voice over internet protocol (VoIP) technology.

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By  Diana Milne Published  September 25, 2005

Emirates Group is embarking on a massive project to consolidate its data centre operations and add support for voice over internet protocol (VoIP) technology. The mega-deal is also a first for the group as it will see it lease equipment from the main supplier, Cisco, rather than buying it all outright. Executives at the aviation giant said the consolidation was needed to help it cope with soaring demands for data traffic: “Emirates Group’s business is presently growing at about 20-25% per annum,” said Joshua Koshy, senior vice president of IT at Emirates Group. “However, data traffic is growing at practically double that rate. We not only needed a more scalable network but also one that was future proof and multimedia capable,” he added. One of the reasons for the deal with Cisco was that some parts of the Emirates IT infrastructure were approaching the end of their life, and better technology was needed to cope with growth in the airline’s volume of customers. The airline also needed further scalability within its infrastructure to support peak traffic of data. As part of the deal, Cisco Systems is implementing a 10 gigabit ethernet data centre network at Emirates’ Dubai headquarters. In the first phase of the project Cisco, with the help of partner GBM/UCMC, will install an intelligent data centre networking infrastructure designed to consolidate the airline’s existing server farms. Cisco is supplying four of its heavy-duty Catalyst 6500 Series Switches — two in each data centre — to form the network’s backbone and deliver carrier-class ‘five nines’ availability. While the technology is impressive, Emirates was still concerned that it did not commit itself too far down the line. “We did not want to take the risk of being stuck with obsolete technology and were looking for the option of being able to swap out items as technology continued to advance,” said Koshy. Emirates Group has negotiated a five-year operating lease with Cisco Capital, Cisco’s finance and leasing arm, which allows it to ‘swap out’ a lot of the switching equipment after four years, at zero cost. The deal will also see Emirates Group tap into Cisco’s regional services expertise, with 24-7 access to the Cisco Technical Assistance Centre to help resolve any network problems. Mark de Simone, VP Middle East and Africa for Cisco Systems, said: “The collaboration between Cisco and Emirates Group to deploy Cisco Catalyst 6500 switches at the core of the airline’s data centre network, opens the door for a long-term strategic relationship between the two companies. “By evolving towards a Cisco Business Ready Data Centre architecture, Emirates will benefit from the scalability and service flexibility to continue to deliver network-based services to customer-facing staff, as well as help to build a reliable foundation for business continuity.” Nigel Hopkins, executive vice president service delivery Emirates Group, said the new system would offer support for multimedia services within the network. “Critical data delivery is now guaranteed, and the infrastructure offers support for multi-media services such as VoIP,” Hopkins stated. Last year the Emirates Group announced plans to roll out 11,500 Dell Optiplex desktop PCs over the next two years. The project, which is being carried out by Key Information Technology (KIT), includes sevice and support facilities, including Dell’s Custom Factory Integration (CFI) pre-installation service. Emirates is one of the world’s fastest growing airlines. Earlier this month its fleet of aircraft reached 80 with the arrival of a new Boeing 777-300ER.

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