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Unified communications takes off

Kanika Goswami | Aug. 4, 2008
Airports around the world were gearing up for the future and the Mumbai International Airport (MIAL) was presented with a chance to do some catching up.

Toronto's Lester B. Pearson International Airport, which handles over four lakh passengers everyday and is among the world's busiest airports, also worked with UC. For this airport, UC added value in terms of enhanced passenger, baggage and network security. It also improved operational efficiency and flexibility, lowered overhead costs, introduced revenue opportunities; and improved network reliability.

Munich International Airport, Athens International Airport, and Sydney International Airport, Anantheswaran found, were all on their way to completely unifying their communications.

But Anantheswaran was not looking to copy these airports. He wanted more. "We were clear that we wanted to leapfrog and put in the best technology." His plan would also need to meet the additional requirements that eventual expansion would bring. For example, by the end of 2008, the airport plans to bump up its 3,600 CCTV cameras to 6,000. With each camera requiring at least one Gbps of bandwidth, Anantheswaran knew he should prepare now or pay later.

Rubber Hits the Runway

Ground zero looked bleak. To begin with, when Anantheswaran took over, he didn't even have a team. Neither did the airport have structured cabling, or IP network infrastructure, which meant that everything would have to be started from scratch.

In terms of technology, Anantheswaran was clear of two things: the network he was building must have 99.999 uptime and it had to be created so that it could be used by multiple airlines and their passengers.

The choice of technology partner was an important issue. It came down to two giants: Nortel and Cisco. But as Anantheswaran points out, MIAL found a better fit with Nortel. "We evaluated both Cisco and Nortel," he says, "but we wanted to be a service provider rather than an enterprise, and while both were ok technology-wise, Nortel understood our requirements much better."

It also helped that MIAL got access to Nortel labs, he adds, which helped the airport develop some customizations that were unique to MIAL's requirements. "Whatever [we] did not have, [Nortel was] willing to commit resources, time and money to develop it. So that tomorrow... we can claim that we are the best in the world," remembers Reddy.

The infrastructure that the IT team finally chose uses a Metro Ethernet Network portfolio's Optical Metro 10G DWDM (Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing) fiber-optic backbone, a multi-service platform and Metro Ethernet Routing Switch 8600 platform with Provider Backbone Bridges (PBB) and (Provider Backbone Transport) PBT solutions. The backbone allows 10G Ethernet and storage connectivity, and should significantly reduce the airports capital expenses while simplifying network management and optimization. The PBB/PBT technologies are used to provide VPN and point-to-point Ethernet transport services for the airlines. PBT enables carrier-grade reliability and ease of management with great efficiency and control.

 

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