Ardent Leisure

ASI Solutions Rolls Out High Performance Brocade Network at Dreamworld.

Visitors to Dreamworld now enjoy significantly enhanced wireless Internet access thanks to a major network upgrade rolled out by ASI Solutions. A high-performance network based on the Brocade® ICX® family of switches has been deployed, which enables the theme park to quickly and efficiently evolve alongside its ever-changing communications requirements. The strategic upgrade from disparate infrastructure to a centrally managed network design has delivered true business and technology benefits for Ardent Leisure, the owner of Dreamworld.

“The reality is that as we continue to move into a data driven work environment, the more important our network becomes. In addition to servicing our visitors’ needs, more systems like turnstiles, ticket scanners and other equipment at Dreamworld require connectivity to provide us with real-time data feeds. Brocade helped design the Dreamworld network, taking extra effort to ensure that it was correct, while ASI Solutions was very helpful in getting the project done.”

Steven van Rooyen, Group Network Administrator, Ardent Leisure

Meeting customer demand and embracing new opportunities are vitally important for the leisure industry, particularly as consumers become more technologically savvy and use their smartphones and tablet devices as an integral part of their daily lives.

Not content with just being Australia’s largest theme park, Dreamworld has become an industry leader in meeting the communications needs of visitors, with a number of initiatives launched over the last two years to exceed guest expectations. In particular, it became the first Gold Coast theme park to launch a mobile app in 2012, to enable guests to make the most of their day in the theme park, from booking tickets, navigating to and around Dreamworld, choosing a ride using the thrill-o-metre, or locating the family car at the end of a fun-filled day.

Whilst it is great to offer these convenient services to visitors, Dreamworld needed a major upgrade of its network infrastructure to be able to offer them wireless Internet access that is every bit as good as the park’s 50 rides and attractions. Owner Ardent Leisure Group (Ardent) turned to ASI Solutions (ASI) to quickly and efficiently evolve its networking requirements alongside its ever-changing business environment.

Replacing aging network infrastructure

Dreamworld is the largest single asset in Ardent’s leisure portfolio, which also includes another 138 assets across Australia, New Zealand and the United States. These assets include: WhiteWater World and SkyPoint Observation Deck on the Gold Coast; health clubs, marinas and bowling centres across Australia and New Zealand; as well as multi-attraction entertainment centres in the United States. The portfolio has been built through a series of acquisitions by Ardent, resulting in what is now one of Australia’s leading leisure groups.

In the process, however, the group has also inherited a number of disparate networking systems. The aging network infrastructure across its sites was constraining the services and service levels Ardent could provide. Lack of performance, reliability and manageability in the local area networks at Ardent’s sites were beginning to impact service delivery.

“Our portfolio is diverse and IT demands vary, but one thing we certainly need across all sites is much better manageability,” said Steven van Rooyen, Group Network Administrator for Ardent. “As we acquire sites – such as the gyms we bought at the end of 2012 – we generally find that they are running consumer-grade equipment. We’re quite cost-conscious and our IT team is always busy, so we were looking for a local area networking solution that would work without fuss when installed.”

Dreamworld receives first network performance upgrade

To meet customer demand for connectivity across its properties and embrace new entertainment opportunities over time, the group is focused on rolling out high-performance networks that address its WiFi needs across many of it sites, with Dreamworld the first to receive a major upgrade. The theme park was previously using networking technology that constrained the throughput of WiFi access points by 100 megabit per second (Mbps) performance limits. It needed a faster performing, centrally managed networking solution to give it the bandwidth required to meet its future networking needs.

“The reality is that as we continue to move into a data driven work environment, the more important our network becomes,” added Mr van Rooyen. “In addition to servicing our visitors’ needs, more systems like turnstiles, ticket scanners and other equipment at Dreamworld require connectivity to provide us with real-time data feeds.”

Ardent reviewed a number of different solutions in the market, but only one matched all of its requirements. ASI recommended the Brocade® ICX® family of switches, which provided the best solution with a managed platform and the best price.

“Our inspiration to consider Brocade solutions was influenced by Gartner’s Magic quadrant for data centre network infrastructure – we seek to work with market innovators to achieve the most value from our budget, and for this Brocade is right on target,” said Mr van Rooyen. “We have also had experience running its Fibre Channel SAN switches for six years as part of a VMWare SAN kit and never had to reboot them during that time. So we already have strong trust in its networking solutions.”

Rolling out a high performance network

In 2013, Ardent engaged ASI to rollout a high performance network based on the Brocade ICX family of switches at Dreamworld. A Brocade ICX 6610 switch stack was deployed in its server room, acting as the site’s network core. These switches provide chassis-like capabilities in a stackable form factor, supporting Gigabit per second (Gbps) wire-speed, non-blocking performance across all ports. The switches can be stacked using four full-duplex 40 Gbps stacking ports that provide 320 Gbps of backplane stacking bandwidth with full redundancy – eliminating inter-switch bottlenecks.

In addition, ASI extensively deployed Brocade ICX 6430 switches across the Dreamworld site to provide Gigabit Ethernet network access, with power over Ethernet (PoE) capabilities that support WiFi access points and voice-over-IP (VoIP) phones.

“Brocade helped design the Dreamworld network, taking extra effort to ensure that it was correct, while ASI Solutions was very helpful in getting the project done,” commented Mr van Rooyen.

Bottlenecks eliminated

The strategic upgrade from disparate infrastructure to a centrally managed network design has delivered true business and technology benefits for Ardent Leisure.

“The result is that all the performance bottlenecks have been eliminated,” said Mr van Rooyen. “Thanks to the manageability of the entire infrastructure, it now takes five minutes to turn on a feature, whereas it used to take all day to change switch configurations.”

According to Mr van Rooyen, one of the unique things about its new network is its failsafe. If the network at Dreamworld goes down, it loses the ability to collect money from people coming into the gate. It now has built-in redundancy in the design of the network, meaning if a switch potentially fails there is always another pathway for the information to travel through.

Moving on to the next phase

Now that Dreamworld has been delivered a high performing network, the next phase is for ASI to work with Ardent to upgrade further sites, starting with the group’s new builds and renovations – AMF Bowling and Goodlife Healthclubs, followed by a program for refreshing its other sites.