Qatar academy goes for gold

Aspire looks to 3Com for network support as it attempts to mould a generation of Qatari youth into sporting champions.

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By  Simon Duddy Published  September 23, 2004

|~|Aspire-photo_m.jpg|~|Aspire’s Soubhi Abdul Karim says the unique requirements of the sports academy made wireless connectivity and high bandwidth important considerations. The academy has a mobile office structure, with all employees using notebooks and a wireless network providing full coverage across the campus, including on to the sports fields.|~|Aspire, Qatar’s new sports academy for promising athletes, has completed the first phase of its 3Com network infrastructure implementation. The academy envisages the state-of-the-art network will play a key role in helping students achieve sporting excellence. The million dollar deployment comprises a 10Gigabit enabled core featuring two 3Com Switch 7700R models, a Gigabit to the desktop switching architecture based on 3Com’s XRN technology using pairs of 3Com SuperStack 3 Switch 4070s, as well as power over Ethernet (PoE) for the wireless LAN infrastructure. Aspire sees the new network playing an integral part in the development of the athletes. The technology will be used to extend computer related performance analysis to the field where the athletes will be training and competing. “Aspire has a unique IT department in that we invest lots of research and development in sport,” says Soubhi Abdul Karim, IT manager, Aspire. “We have an athletes database that is connected to most of the training and medical equipment at Aspire. It is also connected to the restaurants so we can track the food intake of the students. The database is available to coaches and psychologists who can access the data when it matters, on the field,” he explains. The unique requirements of the sports academy made wireless connectivity and high bandwidth important considerations. The academy has a mobile office structure, with all employees using notebooks and a wireless network providing full coverage across the campus, including on to the sports fields. “We will use 3D modelling to assess the performance of athletes. This information will also be available in the field. This adds up to a lot of data, which is why we chose a Gigabit network,” says Abdul Karim. A key factor behind Aspire’s decision to opt for 3Com to provide the infrastructure was the success of proof of concept testing, which took place at 3Com’s labs in London. “We set up everything we have in our solution from core switches to edge switches, connections to access points,” says Abdul Karim. “We made a small version of the network we wanted and tested what would happen if failures occurred. This proved to us that 3Com’s claim of almost 100% redundancy was true,” he says. A high level of redundancy was a critical requirement for Aspire as the organisation will use the network to carry voice and access control traffic as well as data. In terms of management, Aspire is using the management tools that 3Com provides as part of its solution. Aspire uses 3Com Network Administrator, which is based on HP’s OpenView. “Of all of the vendors we evaluated we found the 3Com solution had the easiest management tools. It is so easy to create VLANs and partition the network, even a junior engineer can do a good job with it,” says Abdul Karim. There is a lot of valuable data, for example medical information in the sports academy and the sports academy is taking steps to ensure that it is protected. “Most of the time hacking comes from inside, so we have inactive Ethernet ports until a user is authenticated in the network,” says Abdul Karim. “As far as outside attacks are concerned, we are looking at putting an antivirus appliance at the perimeter, as well as multiple firewalls. We want to be careful but at the same time we don’t want the performance of the network to suffer,” he adds. The academy expects the second phase of its implementation, involving the dome which houses football pitches and other sports venues, to be completed in Q1 2005.||**||

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