250 Acres of Seamless Wireless Coverage: What You can Learn from the Network Upgrade at The Phoenician

| September 03, 2009

A luxury resort in Scottsdale, Arizona, The Phoenician offers a boutique hotel, 10 restaurants and lounges, a championship golf course, a world-renowned spa, retail shops, tennis courts and even a 2-acre cactus garden. As part of a capital improvement project, resort leaders sought an upgrade to The Phoenician's data and communications network in 2008. Its pre-existing equipment was aging and offered limited network management capabilities. Also, the resort's wireless local area network (WLAN) only supported WiFi in the hotel lobby and pool area.

"We faced two major obstacles," explains Billy Graham, systems manager for The Phoenician. "First, we wanted network coverage throughout the entire resort, which spans 250 acres. Second, we don't have CAT-5 cabling in the hotel guest rooms, and rewiring the entire facility was not feasible from a cost standpoint."

To overcome these challenges, Graham and his team decided to pursue a mostly wireless network infrastructure. Unfortunately, this tact presented hurdles of its own. "Our resort covers a lot of ground and our walls are made of concrete, so we couldn't use indoor access points," says Graham. "We needed to find an outdoor-in solution that can withstand the harsh conditions of the Arizona desert."

Manageability was also a top priority, he adds. With The Phoenician's previous network, each switch, router and access point had to be administered manually. Graham sought network equipment that could be managed collectively and remotely. "HP ProCurve," Graham says, "offered the only network solution that met all of our needs."

Easing network management
The Phoenician's new data and communications network features an HP ProCurve 3500yl series backbone and five HP ProCurve 2610 series Power over Ethernet (PoE) switches to support its wireless infrastructure. Roughly 150 HP ProCurve MSM310, MSM320 and MSM422 access points are located throughout resort grounds. And two dozen HP ProCurve MSM317 access devices deliver 'quad play' services to The Phoenician's conference spaces. The entire network is administered using HP ProCurve Manager Plus (PCM+) network management software.

"The HP ProCurve network has been fantastic," says Graham. "The switches have been 100 percent rock solid. We've never had a problem with the access points. And everything is incredibly flexible and easy to manage."

In the past, he explains, network changes required manual modifications at each switch and access point. With HP ProCurve equipment, however, Graham and his team can administer all network devices collectively or individually, from virtually anywhere.

"With automated discovery and remote configuration, device management is effortless and has saved us countless man hours. I can provision a dedicated VLAN for a conference or troubleshoot an issue involving dropped packets from home," Graham says. "And we don't worry about each individual access point any more unless there is a particular need. When we do make changes, it's a simple drag-and drop procedure from any browser."

The flexibility of The Phoenician's new network has been particularly advantageous. The new MSM317 access devices, for example, offer integrated wired and wireless connectivity and four Ethernet ports in a standard wall box. Installed in The Phoenician's meeting rooms, the MSM317s are being used to offer multiple data and communication services for conference guests.

"We can deliver Internet access over our network, pull in a guest's data over a T1 line, provide a dedicated VLAN and support IP phones," Graham explains, "all in a single room through a single MSM317."

Boosting guest and conference services
This kind of flexibility has led to new opportunities for guest and conference services. The Phoenician was previously bound by network limitations; if wire couldn't be extended to a certain location, paper-based processes had to be employed. With complete wireless coverage, however, network-based services are always an option and there is never a need for paper.

The wireless network is currently supporting handheld point-of-sale (POS) devices for food and beverage sales throughout the property. It also enables The Phoenician to offer guest registration, no-cash bars and credit card transactions anywhere on resort grounds, whether it is in the conference area, on the golf course or among the cactus garden.

The Phoenician is currently working to place in-room mini-bar monitoring and billing on the network. The resort has also considered using its wireless capabilities to support Voice over IP (VoIP) phones for the maintenance team and other staff members.

"Our HP ProCurve network has helped us think and operate differently," says Graham. "The wireless infrastructure has only been in place for a half year, but we've already utilized it in ways that we never imagined. And the possibilities for future use are unlimited."

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