Blazing new trails: Jumeirah opts for SDN
Jumeirah Group becomes one of the first companies in the region to roll out an authentic software-defined network
For anyone familiar with the Middle East, the Dubai-based Jumeirah Group needs little introduction.
The company has built and managed some of the best-known and celebrated luxury hotels in this part of the world, with some, such as the Burj Al Arab or the Emirates Towers, even credited with putting Dubai as on the map as a high-end tourism destination. It now operates dozens of luxury properties across the world, from London to China, and is one of the UAE’s most successful global exports.
Indeed, with the UAE back in high-growth mode, the Jumeirah Group has embarked on a period of rapid expansion. Its website details four up-and-coming projects in the MENA region, 10 in Asia, and another one in Europe. To support this growth, the company needs a robust and agile IT department capable of not only delivering services with zero downtime, but being able to scale services quickly when demands peak. This is especially true given that the IT organisation works as a service provider to various Jumeirah hotels around the world.
“The way Jumeirah Group works is that we have group IT, which offers services to all of the other hotels from a technology perspective,” explains Neil Menezes, vice president of IT at Jumeirah Group.
While the business side of Jumeirah Group was on the up, Menezes says that the IT infrastructure was straining under the pressure. The company had started to out-grow its IT department in its current form.
Meanwhile, the group needed a fast time-to-market, which meant delivering services to its business not just in days or hours but in a matter of a few minutes. And whatever the solution, it was vital that its systems were open and could integrate seamlessly with one another — whatever the technology and vendor selected. This meant that disparate systems needed to come together and speak the same language. The IT team at Jumeirah needed greater flexibility over the range of latest innovations available on the market.
There was another requirement for the deployment, too; it couldn’t affect the guests’ hotel stays. From giving guests seamless internet, swift check-in and check-out, hotel online bookings to enabling requests for room service, all of this needed to be available at all times without affecting guest user-experience. Zero-downtime was vital so that hotels were able to manage the influx of guests during the festive seasons.
At first, then, the company simply decided that it needed to modernise its data centre — a new core network, some better switching, and modern kit across the board. But, given that the infrastructure was as virtualised as it reasonably could be — with a private cloud solution and all — it soon became clear that, no matter how new the kit was, the currently favoured architecture wasn’t going to be best-suited to Jumeirah’s growth plans.
“This whole project that we’re talking about, started off initially with something around data centre modernisation. However, it quickly became obvious that we didn’t just want to refresh the hardware, we wanted to make sure that whatever we bought in provided a solid platform that we could use as a springboard in terms of services that we offer our hotels,” says Menezes.
The answer, as any forward-thinking vendor would suggest, could be software-defined networking (SDN) — which promises to end long provisioning times and create a more agile data centre. According to Menezes, the company had little choice but to take the plunge.
“We also wanted to look into coming up with SaaS services, and it was all very much focused around software-defined networking, very much focused around delivering the right services, at the right time, to the right people when they needed it,” he says.
“At the same time, it became obvious for us that I didn’t want to spend a load of money. Especially when it comes to these very expensive servers. It’s a commodity, I wanted to make sure that I had the right-sized infrastructure that could provide me the scalability at a good price,” explains Menezes.
After much deliberation, and with price in mind, Jumeirah Group selected Huawei to create its next-generation architecture, which Menezes says enables a simple, smart, and open next-generation data centre that accelerates the deployment and delivery of applications within and across multiple sites and clouds.
He says that the architecture gets around the complexity and compromises associated with the geographic distribution of data centres and their compute and storage nodes. Hence, the company went about fully virtualising its data centres to alleviate pressures that the business was experiencing.