Core values

Emaar’s infrastructure arm Sahm Technologies provides the network building blocks for the huge Dubai Marina development.

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By  Simon Duddy Published  November 25, 2004

|~|sahm_m.jpg|~|“We bought thousands of metres of UTP cabling and as a pure telecommunications company we wanted to provide the best quality service. That’s why we went for world renowned, best of breed vendors.” - Richard Jasnau, divisional manager of telco operations & infrastructure at Sahm Technologies|~|Sahm Technologies has built a sophisticated infrastructure to provide a solid foundation for Emaar’s futuristic Dubai Marina property development. The first building phase was completed in 2003, with the last of the towers due to be completed this month. The smart homes offer applications such as high-speed internet connectivity, video streaming and remote access to automated appliances such as refrigerators and air conditioning systems, and cater to the high-end of the residential and holiday property markets. To ensure interconnectivity, Sahm opted to run all of its applications on an internet protocol (IP) infrastructure creating 33,000 network points across the six towers at Dubai Marina. In the buildings, Sahm laid down a Gigabit fibre backbone provided by Superior with Fast Ethernet unshielded twisted pair (UTP) Cat 5e cabling from Systimax running to individual housing units. Emaar uses the fibre to run unicast and multicast transmissions and at the switches this is then segregated between digital and analogue signals. In each villa or apartment the cabling runs to RJ45 sockets, which can be used to connect PCs, TV set top boxes or IP phones. Sahm does not provide IP phones at present as it has not seen sufficient demand, with most users opting for analogue phones. The company has however, tested its network with IP phones and is evaluating units from vendors such as Mitel and Swiss. “We bought thousands of metres of UTP cabling and as a pure telecommunications company we want to provide the best quality service. That’s why we went for world-renowned, best of breed vendors,” says Richard Jasnau, divisional manager of telco operations & infrastructure at Sahm. Sahm has installed single mode fibre as the backbone medium, which it brings into the buildings. At the telecommunications equipment room at each building it distributes the fibre to the customer premises devices (CPEs) on each floor. The CPEs also connect the UTP cabling inside the apartments to the backbone. The backbone transmission speed is 1Gbytes/s and the system is capable of bringing 100Mbytes/s to each socket in the houses. Each floor of the building has an IT closet to house the CPEs, which also take care of switching requirements. They designate whether each socket within the residence handles analogue, for example faxes and analogue phones, or digital equipment based on the user’s requirements. Sahm uses World Wide Packets CPEs in the townhouses and villas, with Media Tricks and 3Com providing CPEs in the apartments. The floor switches route traffic to an aggregate switch provided by Riverstone housed in the telecommunications equipment room at the base of each building. The traffic from the aggregate switches in each building is routed to Sahm’s 5,000sq foot data centre, which houses Riverstone core switches, a softswitch from Marconi, a TV head–in from Tandberg, Sun computer systems, and Cisco firewalls. “The softswitch allows us to avoid having a large main distributing frames (MDF) room and allows us to use software and hardware technology to provide voice services to our customers,” explains Jasnau. The company also utilises a hard switch from Nortel, which it uses more for business PBX functionality, while the softswitch is predominately reserved for residential users. Pursuing a best of breed strategy has led to a proliferation of equipment from a wide variety of vendors, which could lead to a management headache. Sahm has countered this by deploying a network operations centre (NOC), which is located in the same building as the data centre. “Each component has a network management function, which is tied into the NOC. This allows staff in the NOC, using tools such as HP OpenView, to monitor network activity,” says Jasnau. In terms of security, Sahm relies on Cisco firewalls to prevent intrusion to both the customer networks and Sahm’s own corporate network. “We stop a lot of attacks, such as hackers trying to pick up our IP addresses or introduce a Trojan or worm. If our firewalls and antivirus software don’t keep it out, we can close down the attacked port and contain the threat,” explains Jasnau. Sahm Technologies has also introduced a formidable amount of resiliency into the network with a UPS device, which can run indefinitely in the event of a power outage. The company also has redundancy in its active devices, so if one device goes down, a back-up will kick in. Combined with a 24 hours, seven days a week maintenance service, Sahm is confident that it can keep the network running. While Sahm has succeeded in delivering a solid network that ensures that Emaar residents can access a number of advanced services, the company has yet to commit to providing wireless. At the moment, Emaar’s wireless service is limited to a Wi-Fi test configuration at the Emirates Lakes’ community centre. “We don’t want to expand so fast that everything we put together has growing pains,” explains Jasnau. “So we’re taking it a step at a time to ensure a high level of quality,” he adds. Sahm is talking to hardware vendors and management and billing firms and hopes to have a Wi-Fi application implemented by 2005. “We are looking to partner with a Wi-Fi company and there are a couple that we are in negotiations with. We are looking at putting Wi-Fi into our malls, restaurants, golf courses and schools. For example, on the golf course, we will utilise it to calculate handicaps and score the rounds,” says Jasnau. Looking to the future in strategic terms, Emaar plans to roll-out a number of UAE-based developments in the coming months, with Sahm Technologies laying the groundwork. Sahm caters to 5,800 users at present and this will grow to 8,000 by the end of the year, a figure Jasnau predicts will grow at a rate of 1,000 users per month from then as further Emaar constructions are completed.||**||

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