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Wed 8 May 2002 04:00 AM

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Network architect

Hyatt Regency Dubai has overhauled its network architecture and directory structure to accommodate its expanding operations. The hotel has also rolled out a thin client computing environment as well.

I|~||~||~|Just over twelve months ago, Michael Heffernan, information systems manager & regional specialist for the Hyatt Regency Dubai, realised that the hotel’s existing infrastructure couldn’t handle its growing business needs. Not only was the hotel group set to open more sites in the Middle East, such as its extended staff accommodation complex and the Grand Hyatt Dubai, but user requirements in existing properties were expanding rapidly. “12 months ago our directory structure was very flat. I could foresee massive expansion with the new hotel and central services. I had to install a completely new directory because the current one was not going to be good enough. We couldn’t expand on it because it was too flat and messy,” says Heffernan.As a result, Heffernan decided to overhaul the organisation’s network architecture by modifying its existing directory structure through the deployment of Novell’s NetWare 5.1 and leveraging on its eDirectory. Hyatt’s worldwide headquarters, Hyatt International Chicago (HIC), was placed at the top of the directory tree followed by Hyatt Middle East. Within the Hyatt Middle East branch each of the hotel group’s sites sit as an individual entity and within those each division, such as rooms and reservations, exists separately.“The structure that we have now is ready for any additional hotels — we can just plug a server into the same tree and log everyone on,” says Heffernan.Through eDirectory, the information systems manager has been able to deploy a series of policies that control system access. “We have policies securing the public access from private and we have internal policies that control what applications users can access. For example, on our front desk we have created a network application launcher (NAL) that takes control of the desktop so that there is no start button,” Heffernan explains.Such control ensures the integrity of the Hyatt’s network architecture and reduces support headaches. Management has been eased yet further by the deployment of Novell’s ZENworks application for workstation management.“We have complete remote access to all 150 plus desktops from my office. This means that I do not need the manpower for support. I can also distribute applications to users without moving,” comments Heffernan. A desire to ease management headaches in a growing IT environment has also inspired the Hyatt’s planned move to a thin client environment. Scheduled for testing during April, the solution will be rolled out through the Hyatt Regency hotel to around 50 users.Heffernan explains that in addition to replicating the easy management created by ZEN on the existing network, the implementation will reduce hardware costs and increase user access.“We are moving from Unix dumb terminals to PCs because we have more users that require access to e-mail and the Internet. We didn’t want to put more PCs around the building because you have to go and load the software locally and it is a nightmare to manage. Having done my research I realised that thin client was the best solution,” he says.In addition to accessing the central reservation application, Hyatt’s Maxial property management system and Lotus iNotes, the thin client environment will be used to connect the hotel’s airport-based check in counter. Staff will log on through the Internet via the Citrix ICA. According to their respective user profiles — as defined by the Novell directory — they will then have direct access to the central system and applications for room and services allocation.||**||II|~||~||~|“The airport counter will have an ADSL connection rather than a leased line. This saves me a lot of money and I still have access to everything,” says Heffernan.Although ZENworks and the Citrix ICA deployment offer similar management benefits, Heffernan is loathed to opt for a single environment. The reason for this, he explains, is that the Novell tree is key to Hyatt’s network architecture and cannot be replaced. “It is what everyone connects to and it is how I distribute apps, create security and maintain my network,” he says.The mixed environment allows Hyatt to distribute the appropriate amount of computer power and bandwidth to each of its users. The hotel’s ‘super users,’ such as those in the financial department and sales & marketing, can still use bandwidth intensive applications and databases on their PCs, while thin clients can be rolled out to those users that have fewer application requirements, such as at the front desk, in public areas, or the food & beverage department.Heffernan’s dedication to a mixed environment has extended to Hyatt’s latest ventures. Both the soon to be installed Internet café at the hotel’s staff accommodation facility and the Grand Hyatt Dubai, currently being built, will utilise a combination of corporate network access and a thin client solution.In the former, around 20 thin clients will be deployed to allow 1200 employees to browse the Internet. At the same time, the Hyatt’s IT team of four will create a branch within the Novell Directory for five networked PCs so that the centre’s administration staff can have direct access to the corporate network, the property management system and iNotes. At the Grand Hyatt Dubai the implementation is far more extensive. 674 rooms are being built and each room has five network connections that run everything from the mini bar to Internet access. Although still in the planning stage, Heffernan suggests that guest access may come under one big group in directory and a set of policies will be designed to suit the users’ needs. “Novell Border Manager can do this very easily with eDirectory. We will be able to create new users and give the guest a log in. Through that they will be given certain access rights automatically,” he says.More important than guest access at present is the need to extend the Hyatt’s existing network infrastructure to accommodate an additional 200 plus administration staff by the end of the year, when the Grand Hyatt opens its doors. While Heffernan confesses that he is still undecided on just how exactly the mixed environment will work, he already has the bare bones in place. “The directory is in place, the applications are in place and the wide area network (WAN) is in place. When the system goes live we will remove the current ADSL link and use a dark fibre connection from Etisalat to guarantee up time,” he explains. Once the cable is laid and the IT team plug in the server it will search for the Novell tree. From there it becomes just another object in that tree and staff will be able to log on immediately. “Because we are the same company and we are using the same applications and the same WAN we will just assign the necessary applications to that tree and the staff will be able to use those applications,” he says.As a result, network administration for the new hotel will be done remotely; with a skeleton staff on hand to deal with small scale problems. Heffernan believes that extending the Hyatt’s mixed environment will be simple because the thin client deployment will mirror that completed at the Hyatt Regency. In addition, the company’s directory has the correct architecture for easy expansion.“The issue for a lot of people is that they do not set up the directory structure and plan for future expansion. You cannot just go in and say you have one hotel and that is your set up. If you want to join hotels together you have to plan your directory properly,” he says.||**||

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