Networking Century City

Posted On Thursday, 29 March 2001 03:01 Published by
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CENTURY City, one of the largest and most high-profile property developments in Cape Town, is also one of the first projects of its kind in the world to be fully wired for a high speed data network from the

CENTURY City, one of the largest (260 hectares) and most high-profile property developments in Cape Town, is also one of the first projects of its kind in the world to be fully wired for a high speed (Gigabit Ethernet) data network from the ground up.

The Century City site is a mixed-use complex, which is home to the well-known Ratanga Junction theme park, the vast Canal Walk shopping centre and two established office tower blocks. The site is also zoned for three hotels - one of which is already operating - a convention centre, one million square metres of leasable office space and a 3 700-unit residential estate.

The integral data network, managed by iCITI, using the latest 3Com equipment, provides a number of sophisticated services to tenants of all kinds, including some 400 retail outlets and major corporates such as Vodacom, Nashua, Discovery Health and IT companies such as SAP, Hewlett-Packard, Computer Associates and Unisys.

'The concept was completely new,' says Alan West, CEO of iCITI. 'We quickly found that it was not comparable to the established overseas developments of smart buildings and MANs [Metropolitan Area Networks] used in urban revitalisation projects.'

Using 3Com equipment and expertise, iCITI's team was able to design and implement a sophisticated switching fabric that was integral to the Century City development. It was also built to include complete scalability and the potential to handle wireless and mobile technology at a later stage, as required.

The massive bandwidth needs for running services on an ASP-model intranet - not to mention the future prospects of voice and video-conferencing - meant that a hybrid fibre-copper network was the only choice.

'Clients have asked why we did not design for a fully wireless system,' says West. 'The fact is that both cost and bandwidth concerns made this impractical.'

3Com provided a solution to accommodate the infrastructure requirements for the shopping centre and the backbone. This comprises a number of core backbone nodes (3Com Layer 3 switch 4007s) and multiple access nodes onto the backbone. The network backbone runs Gigabit Ethernet with switching through SuperStack II 3300 (both 24- and 12-port) which feed local groups on Cat 5 high-resolution ISDN lines with dual-speed 10/100Mbps Ethernet. Network control is effected via the 3Com Enterprise Management Engine.

'This hybrid model has a hierarchical design,' says Buddie Ceronie, general manager 3Com (sub-Saharan Africa). 'The core is matrixed and offers full network redundancy, using 3Com 4007 systems. This feeds the fibre-optic backbone and switching structures to supply the switched edge devices.

'Designing and building the physical network was not the only achievement,' adds Ceronie. 'The biggest challenge was taking the concept of an intelligent city and making it relevant from the property developer's viewpoint. Our greatest success was in creating a convergence between the thinking of property developers and IT specialists.' West admits that equipping one of the world's largest shopping precincts with an integral IT infrastructure was demanding in itself, as it involved a new level of complexity in terms of project timing and management. 'The involvement of 3Com, and their business partners, was invaluable. This went far beyond the usual vendor commitment to supply a product, which often neglects the service behind that product,' he says.

The present network supplies value-added services to users from a single data centre on an ASP model which functions smoothly on the dedicated intranet network structures.

For users, this allows access to a wide range of services with total confidence in the rate of information and bandwidth provided. For iCITI, as the service provider, the advantage is that many of these services have common features whether the end-user is in retail, hospitality or mainstream business.

'Our business is to apply value-added services to the community - and to enhance the community,' stresses West.

PRIME EXAMPLE

One of the prime examples of what the 3Com network infrastructure makes possible is a new type of reward scheme for shoppers (which launches at the end of March) at the Canal Walk complex. The Incenta Rewards concept has a sophisticated database background, but the practical part of the end-user interface has been simplified by using the large capacity built into the network.

Each shopper carries a card with a magnetic strip, which any normal card-reader can scan. Every purchase accumulates points and a virtual currency, iCASH, according to the amount of money spent, which can then be used to purchase goods at other outlets in the development. Smart cards are not necessary, as the system is handled via the network using Computer Associates' Jasmin ii platform, which is a middleware technology and development tool. This provides a powerful CRM platform, which gives live statistics on shopping patterns as well as opportunities for cross-marketing rewards, tailored to the interests of each shopper. The system operates as a complete financial transaction system with incredible business intelligence abilities.

The Incenta system involved four man-years of development time and is a clicks-and-mortar solution, which offers the advantages of business intelligence, online analysis, real-time operations and communication while still allowing shoppers the physical interactions of shopping in person. The system also provides for online credit card authentication.

'The beauty of this network is that it is intranet-based,' says West. 'It does not have the disadvantages of Internet systems and strategies like Microsoft .NET can be applied easily in this type of environment. The next phases of the service development will see the introduction of a facilities and asset-management solution, comparative shopping portals, electronic commerce and a network managed services application to run alongside the generic ASP services for human resources and accounting which are already available.'


Publisher: Cape Business News
Source: Cape Business News

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