Master plan

BTAT has built one of the largest converged networks of our time for the King Abdul Aziz Endowment Project (KAEP), and has made it an emulative example for the rest of the Middle East.

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By  Sathya Mithra Ashok Published  September 1, 2007

There are many things about the use of technology in the King Abdul Aziz Endowment Project (KAEP) that sets it apart.

For a start, the sheer size of the project. Facing the Holy Mosque in Mecca, the KAEP development spreads across 15 million square metres, including a thirteen storey main building and seven towers.

All of the buildings in the project will be connected by a single, highly advanced converged network designed to support the latest in business management systems and other IP-based applications. The completed project will have more than 75,000 network outlets and 17 services will run on it providing for the various tenants of the towers including hotels, restaurants and residences.

Almost all network components that are part of KAEP went through a rigorous procedure of selection, testing and simulation before being actually implemented at the site.

KAEP has been built with the singular aim of using technology to provide for better and more efficient living conditions for residents of the project as well as visitors to Mecca. When completed, KAEP will be the biggest converged network in the Middle East, bringing together voice and data on a single network platform.

A large number of vendors are involved in the building and implementation of the networking infrastructure at KAEP. This includes some of the biggest global names in the industry. Many of these vendors believe that the project is setting standards for converged network implementation and at least one of them is using it as a global reference project for IP.

Before selecting the vendors, their products were put through the project lab at BTAT. All vendor components were used in a simulation of the actual project, following which the supplier was chosen.

At the helm of this trend-setting project, involved in technology selection, and implementation is BT Applied Technology (BTAT). One of the largest system integrators in Saudi Arabia, BTAT has become the IT arm of the project - albeit an outsourced one - and has worked on the infrastructure right from the design and vendor selection phase, through pilots, implementation and maintenance.

According to Amr Taher, CEO of BTAT, though it has not always been an easy process, the company has worked at it, consistently combining expertise and well-defined process to make it a success.

Steps to success

"The project has hundreds of tenants. There are hotels, commercial shops, residential apartments and so on. The idea was really to build flexibility in terms of the services that will be provided and to ensure that they would meet the business requirements of all of these tenants. We worked towards that end with the converged network," says Taher.

BTAT has been the IT decision maker from a very early stage and has ensured delivery on deadline for each phase.

"We had in place the network and the main datacentre around a year back. Well before the project is set to complete, we have pulled out of the site and there is now only a need for minimum manpower to take care of the technology until project completion," adds Taher.

To achieve this level of operational efficiency, BTAT applied stringent processes to the project from day one.

"For the infrastructure we chose several vendors. We had requirements for which solutions were not readily available. Following the RFP process we picked the vendors who offered systems closest to what we required and put them through a development process to get our exact requirements," says Taher.

BTAT chose Systimax for passive components along with its iPatch Intelligent Network Management tool. It chose Cisco for core switches and Nortel for edge switches. The company selected Juniper for the routers and servers were brought in from Dell and HP among others.

"Before selecting the vendors their products were put through the project lab at BTAT. All vendor components were used in a simulation of the actual project following which the supplier was chosen. We have maintained a diversity of providers within the project. The message we are trying to send to the market is that we are not vendor dependent. We believe in only setting up what we think is the best solution for the client," adds Taher.

BTAT's unique pre-staging facility helped the firm enforce a high level of efficiency during the implementation and trouble-shooting phases at KAEP.

All equipment was put through the pre-staging facility where it was configured, customised, tested and honed as close to the project's definition of perfection as possible before being shifted to the site. This meant that the team just had to plug-and-play the infrastructure at the site, with minimal trouble-shooting.

"The pre-staging facility is equipped to handle large projects and enabled us to test and clarify equipment and infrastructure in a controlled yet rapid manner. This helped us in completing the core network elements, aggregation at the building level and even the datacentre, at minimum cost and maximum efficiency. Changes needed at this stage could also be performed in no time since we hold IT design and have at hand drawings for all conduiting, networking and infrastructure elements," adds Taher.

The team also achieved high productivity levels in the deployment of the datacentre at KAEP's site.

"We began on the datacentre sometime in 2005. We were in charge of everything connected with it including mechanical and civil work as well as technology. We have an entire professional team dedicated to datacentres which looked into every aspect including design, power and cooling, room conditions and so on," says Taher.

Services on KAEP’s network

1. IP Telephony
2. IP Payphones
3. IP Video Conferencing
4. IP TV & Video On Demand (VOD)
5. IP Advertisement
6. IP Public Address
7. IP Hotel Lock System
8. IP Access Control
9. IP Point of Sale (POS)
10. IP Automated Teller Machine (ATM)
11. High Speed Internet
12. Data Services
14. IP Utility Metering:
a. Power
b. Water
c. Chilled Water (HVAC)
15. Home Automation
16. Proprietary Integrated Management & Billing System
17. Building Management System (BMS)

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