Network TV

Emirates Media begins IT restructure by installing four Foundry FastIron 800 core switches.

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By  Simon Duddy Published  February 20, 2005

|~|Derek_Holland_m.jpg|~|“The core switch revamp is all part and parcel of a series of security and infrastructure implementations EMI is working on. These came about from us looking within and identifying strength and weaknesses.” - Derek Holland, head of Information Technology at EMI.|~|Emirates Media Inc (EMI) has revamped its core by installing four FastIron 800 switches from Foundry in December 2004, as part of an overhaul of its network in preparation for new business challenges. The media company has upped bandwidth at the core to Gigabit speeds with the potential to go to 10Gigabit built-in. The installation of new core switches is a key phase in the firm’s ongoing IT restructure and involved replacing the core switch the company previously relied on with four FastIrons spread across the two main campuses in Abu Dhabi. EMI has installed the switches in a triangular configuration, with two models in redundant mode in the data centre at the Ittihad campus and two more looking after critical systems at the TV campus. Another key part of the initial phase is the replacement of UTP cabling with fibre. “In terms of phases, we looked at cabling uplinks throughout the buildings first and upgraded from UTP to fibre. The next stage was the core switches, where we replaced a single core model with a four core switch architecture. It is 30-40% populated at present, which gives us room for growth,” says Derek Holland, head of Information Technology at EMI. EMI says the next stage in the implementation is to rationalise the edge switches, which it hopes to start in Q205. Prior to installing the new core switches, the company had 73 edge devices, which has now been reduced to around 50. The company plans to reduce this further in the next stage of the process. The media firm has carried out the core switch revamp as part of its IT restructure, which was driven by a re-assessment of the company’s aims. As a result of this re-assessment, EMI identified key infrastructure requirements it would need to put in place to meet these aims. “The core switch revamp is all part and parcel of a series of security and infrastructure implementations EMI is working on. These came about from us looking within and identifying strength and weaknesses,” says Holland. EMI identified crucial areas where it felt it could create decisive competitive advantages, including developing financial and human resources (HR) systems and building up a ‘media anywhere’ ethos. These initiatives proved to the major drivers behind the IT infrastructure. “We put out an enterprise resource planning (ERP) tender but we knew that to get the maximum benefits from the system and to properly secure the data, infrastructure needs had to be addressed,” says Holland. With the Foundry-based network in place, the Oracle financial implementation went live in early 2005. The ‘media anywhere’ strategy focuses on EMI’s attempts to better utilise content from different media types. The improved network better facilitates this approach. Before the network was upgraded the most typical method of moving footage from one editing console to another, or from one department to another was putting it on tape, manually delivering it and re-digitising it at the other end, which results in a loss of quality. However, the revamped network is robust enough to handle even uncompressed high quality video and when further fine tuning is completed the network will be able to play a more active role. “In the not too distant future, when we complete the implementation and set up VLANs between departments, we will be able to move video sequences over the network,” Holland. “This is content that is now mainly delivered manually,” he adds. The network will allow EMI to avoid the drop in quality that comes from having to re-digitise footage, but an even more fundamental benefit of the new network is that it delivers greater redundancy to the company. EMI’s decision to invest on multiple core switches delivers more reliability than leaning on one switch. The company also pulled out the FastIron ability to use virtual router redundancy protocol (VRRP) as important. VRRP means that if one of the core switches goes down, the system automatically compensates for the loss using the other switches, meaning there is high availability. With EMI relying on advertising money for TV programmes, downtime can be very costly. The network restructure has also proved of great benefit to EMI in terms of visibility and management on the network, both with the Foundry IronView software, which comes with the FastIron switches and other tools from Novell and Exinda Networks. “Desktop management is key, with tools such as bandwidth management application Exinda giving us more control,” says Holland. “We can collect data and make decisions in a more informed manner. We had a couple of enforcements in a remote office where we previously had no visibility. Users had been complaining of performance issues and we felt it was because colleagues were downloading material for their own personal use while at work, thus slowly down the connection. With the network revamp, we have been able to get precise information on what people have been downloading and when and we took appropriate action to stop it,” he explains. The improved network has also allowed EMI to enhance efficiency by prioritising traffic, such as traffic from departments such as sales, and from applications such as Citrix. EMI also wanted more control in its security management and uses the capability in the FastIron switches that allows for central control of firewall policies. This allows corporate policy to be enforced more rigidly than relying on the end user at the desktop level. A key requirement identified by EMI was being able to easily migrate the network if and when the needs of the company change. This was one of the main reasons why EMI chose Foundry. “Adherence to industry standards is very important for us,” says Holland. “We have every brand of edge switch you can think of. It was important we had core switch that could integrate seamlessly with the existing edge environment. Foundry also had a product that allowed us to grow and expand without having redundant hardware. That we can migrate system elements from a FastIron to a BigIron was crucial,” he adds.||**||

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