Shangri-La Dubai adopts pay as you grow approach

The Shangri-La Hotel, Dubai has deployed a network infrastructure that not only meets its requirements today, but will deliver on its future demands in a flexible, scalable and cost effective manner.

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By  Zoe Moleshead Published  December 1, 2003

Network services|~||~||~|The Shangri-La Hotel, Dubai has deployed a network infrastructure that not only meets its requirements today, but will deliver on its future demands in a flexible, scalable and cost effective manner. The network is based on 3Com's eXpandable resilient Networking (XRN) technology, which effectively allows companies to 'pay as they grow'.

Alongside the reduced upfront investment costs, Shangri-La Hotel, Dubai believes the technology will cater to its plans for growth and offer a simple expansion path.

"3Com explained the technology in terms of the 'pay as you grow' model, that is you keep adding the switches as your requirements become larger and larger and this is something that offers no limitations to us. If we want to expand the network at any point in time it is easy to do," explains Nosh Baria, IT manager, Shangri-La Hotel Dubai.

The network, which was deployed with support from 3Com's local partner, Telematics, contains a number of core and edge switches that are designed to provide the reliability and features required by the hotel.

"We have around 41 edge switches - the [SuperStack 3 switch] 4400s - and we have two 4060s, which are the core switches using the XRN technology. We have deployed the 41 edge switches throughout the hotel and we also have hubs in some areas, which are not such high priority," explains Baria.

The hotel employees utilise the network infrastructure to access a range of applications including Fidelio Front Office, a Micros point of sales (PoS) solution and Windows 2000 Active Directory Services (ADS). For guests, however, free internet access, TV and hotel information services are the priority.

"We are running the Fidelio Front Office that is for the rooms management, then we have Micros 9700, which is the PoS for the restaurants. We also have Lotus Notes, ISA Server and Windows 2000 ADS running," says Baria.

"In terms of technology for the guests, we have high speed internet access, which is completely free of charge. We have HiTV - the interactive TV system, which is also very informative and uses the network to stream all the information from the hotel on to the TV set so the guest can just navigate within the TV set and find out everything they need to about the hotel," he continues.

With the network responsible for delivering interactive television services and high speed internet access to guests, as well as a number of property management applications to the hotel's employees, Shangri-La created virtual local area networks (VLANs) to segregate the different user groups.

"We have two separate VLANs - one for the administration and one for the guests as well as a different class of IP addresses. This is a security feature, but in future we do plan to implement firewalls between guests and admin users," says Baria.

The Shangri-La Hotel, Dubai is also running a Data Valet server to facilitate the management of the internet access to the 301 guest rooms and suites throughout the hotel. The system carries out automatic configuration processes, which eases the management load for the hotel's IT team.

"We have the Data Valet server, which is a Linux box that is also running on the 3Com [network]. It is basically a plug & play, high speed internet access solution," confirms Baria.

"Data Valet is for the high speed internet, automatically it handles all guest communications. There will be no headaches for the IT management, and the IT team doesn't have to go into every room to configure the internet access," explains Stanislas de Boisset, network consultant, 3Com Middle East.

Data Valet also works alongside 3Com Network Supervisor (3NS) to provide management functionalities and information to the Shangri-La Hotel, Dubai's IT team. While the former provides information about the performance of the internet facilities, the latter helps to identify any potential trouble spots in the network.

"Shangri-La Hotel, Dubai is using 3NS, as it allows them to see all the devices [on the network]. If there is any failure on the network it will log a trap automatically and it can also automatically send an e-mail alert to the IT manager," explains 3Com's de Boisset.

As well maintaining uptime and performance levels for the network infrastructure, the hotel's IT team is aiding guests with any IT enquiries or problems they may have.

"The IT team consists of myself, the assistant IT manager and two IT butlers, who visit guest rooms to resolve any networking or computing problems. We are providing coverage 24 hours a day," says Baria.

||**||Future plans|~||~||~|With plans already underway to extend guest services and, in turn, place greater emphasis on the network infrastructure, Baria believes the decision to invest in the 3Com XRN technology has already been warranted. For example, the hotel also features 126 furnished apartments, 62 apartments - known as the Shangri-La Residences - and four floors of offices, most of which are equipped to receive network services. Although the services have yet to be activated for these users, Baria explains that if the situation should change, the 3Com infrastructure will enable him to expand the network quickly and efficiently.

"If we have to provide network access to the offices in the future, we don't have to redesign the entire network. We can simply add-on one more switch and there we go - we can cater to the offices. We don't know if this will be a requirement in the future, but we have taken a proactive approach and ensured provision for it anyway," he says.

More immediately, however, the Shangri-La Hotel, Dubai is in the final stage of plans to roll out wireless hotspots within the hotel. According to Baria, a number of areas throughout the property have already been earmarked as wireless locations, with 3Com providing the access points and Data Valet again playing a role in the management.

"There will be wireless access points in the lobby area, the four meeting rooms in the Business Centre and also the three small boardrooms. On level four, we are planning to make the poolside completely wireless. On the ninth floor we will have four access points, two in each of the grand ballrooms, and then we have the Horizon Club, which is on the 41st floor, where we will have another two access points," Baria explains.

"Once we have the wireless access in the hotel we are going to piggyback on Data Valet," he adds.

Security has also been a priority for the hotel in terms of the wireless infrastructure. As such, the Shangri-La Hotel, Dubai is deploying access points that prevent client-to-client communication, which means a user on one machine cannot see the PC or laptop of another.

The Shangri-La Hotel, Dubai plans to provide the wireless access to users free of charge. "We are moving away from charging guests [for internet access]. Our aim is to make internet access another value-added feature for each and every guest in their room or suite, for conference delegates and so on," says Baria.||**||

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