Seven-star connectivity

Emirates Palace upgrades its wireless infrastructure with Aruba Networks’ 802.11ac solution

Tags: Aruba NetworksEmirates PalaceUnited Arab Emirates
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Seven-star connectivity Opened in 2005, the hotel was built at a cost of more than $3 billion.
By  Tom Paye Published  August 6, 2014

Emirates Palace is perhaps the best-known luxury hotel in the UAE’s capital. Opened in 2005, the so-called seven-star property was built at an estimated cost of more than $3 billion. The main building, though only eight storeys high, is a daunting and instantly recognisable structure, designed by renowned architect John Elliott, famous for his work on Dubai’s Jumeirah Beach Residence, the One & Only Royal Mirage and King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, among a wealth of other projects.

The architecture is purely Arabian — there are 114 domes nestled around the property, with the Grand Atrium, the hotel’s striking entrance hall, being higher than the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Inside, the opulence of Arabian culture shines on every surface. Silver, gold and marble adorn the floors and walls, while dazzling chandeliers made of Swarovski crystals hang delicately above. As befits its name, the hotel is fit for royalty, with six Rulers’ Suites being reserved for Emirati rulers and visiting dignitaries. For other guests, there are 394 rooms, each of which is fitted to the highest standards of both luxury and technology. Outside, a 1.3-kilometre beach front ensures the utmost tranquillity, as do the two luxury swimming pools and stunning garden areas.

The hotel, managed by Kempinski, also regularly plays host to large-scale conferences. The property houses an 1,100-seat auditorium as well as an enormous, opulent ballroom with a 2,500-seat capacity. Total conference space exceeds 23,000 square feet. Business leaders will also find their needs easily met, given the 40 meeting rooms equipped with the latest in conference facilities.

Of course, such a hotel attracts only the most demanding guests, and one of the most important amenities to such guests is high-quality wireless connectivity, and the ability to connect with any personal device. Indeed, for many guests, the seven-star opulence comes second to the need for good Wi-Fi. It makes sense, then, that earlier this year, Emirates Palace rolled out one of the most high-performing wireless networks that the region has seen.

Business challenge
Emirates Palace has always strived to offer high-end connectivity to guests. According to the hotel’s director of IT and AV, Mehmet Akdeniz, Wi-Fi has, from the beginning, been of high quality even since the early days. However, while the previous solution worked, by last year, it was being stretched to its limits. What’s more, the decentralised nature of the wireless solution was resulting in wasted manpower, particularly as the hotel continued to play host to bigger and bigger events every year.

“It was meant to be for the Internet only. It was in place many years ago, and it was a decentralised solution, which means that each and every access point had to be configured one by one for every event. The issue was, when we had a big conference, we had over 1,000 access points to configure, and it was really a lot of wasted manpower,” Akdeniz says.

Another issue that Emirates Palace faced with its old infrastructure was bandwidth. The original solution offered 54 Mbps connectivity, which, when it was first installed, was reasonably good. However, as connectivity demands soared, and the hotel began placing more strain on the network — through point-of-sale devices and digital signage, among other things — the infrastructure was beginning to show its age. And while it was holding up well, there was no doubting that a revamp was in order.

“At the time that it was installed, it was good - it was meant to be for Internet so it was alright. But that wireless network later on began getting used for point of sale devices, digital signage, and the in-room control applications. The wireless was doing well, considering its technology, using all these applications. However, its capacity was at the maximum, and we needed something more than that,” Akdeniz explains.

The implementation
Having consulted MDS UAE, an IT services company, Emirates Palace went about a six-month selection period to work out which vendors to work with for the network upgrade. Indeed, it was to be a large-scale implementation, with the hotel looking to upgrade both its wired and wireless infrastructures. For its wired network, MDS recommended Juniper Networks, and for the wireless network, Aruba Networks was chosen.

According to Akdeniz, there were a number of factors behind the Aruba recommendation. He says that Emirates Palace wanted full coverage across the hotel and all of its grounds, the highest bandwidth available, and the ability to centralise the network so that it could be managed more efficiently. Stability and security were also of paramount importance, he adds.

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