Smart Office

With enterprises increasingly implemeting complex IT infrastructures, Kuwait’s United Realty Company has removed the voice and data headaches for its tenants by deploying an end-to-end network solution from 3Com in its 20-storey URC City Tower complex

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By  Zoe Moleshead Published  May 5, 2002

Integrated network services|~||~||~|Kuwait’s United Realty Company (URC) has implemented an end-to-end 3Com network in its URC City Tower to provide integrated voice and data network services to its tenants. Through these services, URC hopes to differentiate itself from its competition, and enable residents of the 20-storey ‘smart building’ to avoid costly upgrades to their own IT infrastructure.

According to Assaad Assaad, URC’s vice president of information technology, the underlying objective for the deployment was that URC was looking to build its reputation as a technology leader within Kuwait and provide something unique for its tenants.

“URC wanted to do something distinguished, to provide a new service in Kuwait. We were looking at ways we could bring tenants into an office that was technology ready in terms of voice, data and the Internet. This had not been developed in Kuwait, and we are the first people to have created, such a building,” he explains.

The end-to-end networking and voice solution also creates something of a plug and play environment for tenants in the tower building.

“What we provide for the tenant is a complete infrastructure for voice and data. The tenant has all the switches in the floor and a cabinet installed on the wall. They have nothing to do with that,” says Assaad.

“The tenant just has to bring in their servers, PCs, workstations and printers, and plug into the data point,” he adds.

To fulfil its data and Internet commitments, URC has deployed a host of 3Com products. Eight Layer 3 4007 switches form the core of the network, while three SuperStack 3 Switches 3300 switches have been installed on every level of the office complex.

“We have a fibre optic backbone that takes up to 4 G/byte aggregated and we have a Cat 6 enhanced horizontal networking distribution,” explains Assaad. “The switches we have are the high end 4007 switches, providing a combination of fibre optic modules and 10,000/1000 Ethernet connection.”

Forty AirConnect access points have also been deployed throughout the building to enable tenants to move around the tower building and maintain connectivity.

“We have access points on every floor,” says Assaad. “There are two access points that cover the whole floor and those access points are also configured in such a way as to give roaming access for the same tenant on multiple floors.”

According to Assaad, the solution not only meets tenants’ current mobility and flexibility requirements, but will also scale to meet future data and bandwidth requirements.

“It is a scalable and upgradeable solution that takes into consideration the future requirements of our tenants and the evolution of technology for the next five years, in terms of both bandwidth and backbone,” he says.

The building, which has ten tenants and around 400 users, including government ministries, local and international airlines and IT companies, is “fully occupied and fully utilised,” says Assaad. Each of the building’s 400 occupants is equipped with a 3Com NBX Business Phone, which provides integrated voice and data over the local area network (LAN).

URC worked in conjunction with 3Com’s Kuwaiti partner, Kuwait Computer Company (KCC) on the project, which has taken four months to complete.

3Com won the project ahead of rivals Cisco and Nortel because of their “sustained commitment” and help in developing the network and telephony solution, explains Assaad.

“3Com showed that they were really keen to be involved in the project. They helped to design a network solution that met our requirements, and they are taking this issue seriously,” comments the IT vice president.

“3Com added a lot of value throughout the design, implementation and training stages,” he adds.

||**||Support system|~||~||~|With the integrated voice and data network URC has not only removed the network and Internet worries for its occupants, but has also supplied an infrastructure that will prove beneficial to their business activities.

“By providing an infrastructure that enables faster communications and higher volumes of information exchange, organisations benefit from increased employee productivity and therefore business profitability,” Assaad explains.

“The ‘smart building’ is capable of meeting the most sophisticated and application intensive demands of modern enterprises. Our tenants get the benefit of a network that provides greater bandwidth, scalability, performance, security and Internet access,” he adds.

Ensuring data integrity and information security was a key concern for URC as it developed its network services. With multiple tenants in the office complex, it is essential that the building’s network infrastructure is able to meet the security and privacy requirements of each occupant.

“Security has been designed to provide every tenant with their own virtual local area network (VLAN). Using defined VLANs on the networking switches, means nobody will be able to penetrate the VLANs,” explains Assaad.

URC has two on-site administrators at the City Tower building — one to deal with the network and one to deal with the IP telephony solution. Together they monitor the performance of the 3Com network using its management platform to identify and eliminate any potential problems or outages in the service.

“We have our engineers in the main computer room and they are always monitoring the network through the graphical tool in the management software,” says URC’s IT vice president.

“We have also given special access to 3Com in case we have something very urgent and we are not able to solve it — us or our local vendor. 3Com engineers are able to check the network remotely from the UK or the US,” Assaad explains.

URC has also established service level agreements (SLAs) with its tenants, which make it accountable for any network problems that affect the business of its tenants.
“In terms of the infrastructure, the tenants are not allowed to tamper with this or to do any modification or to add onto our existing network, this is also in the agreement,” says Assaad. “Any changes to the network must go through us.”

The charges for the network and phone infrastructure have been calculated upfront by URC and are included in tenants’ rental charges.

“We are embedding the charge inside the rent. We have done our calculations and we have done our margins and we embed the network charges in the rent rate per square metre,” explains Assaad.

“Any new requirements other than the current set up are chargeable. We will have an agreement with tenants about additional charges, and follow that accordingly,” he adds.

For URC, the project is already proving a success, with the building running at full tenancy. Assaad also reveals that the 3Com solution has been fulfilling its requirements without any problems.

“Today we [URC] are satisfied with our selection of 3Com. They have provided continued support, and the network is functioning perfectly and according to our needs and those of our tenants,” he says.

The success of the initial ‘smart building’ has also spurred URC to investigate developing similar projects in other countries around the Middle East.

“We are trying to do something similar to the URC City Tower in a new project, but in an even more enhanced and improved manner. We will be looking into this for any development that we might be involved in — whether it is in Kuwait or abroad,” explains Assaad.
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