Cisco Wired and Wireless Networks Give Tenants Instant Connectivity
SENTRE Partners Taps Cisco Network for More Efficient, Web- based Facility Management
November 12, 2003
By Stacy Williams, News@Cisco
"Hotspots" offering Wi-Fi wireless Internet service have become popular nationwide, but for those who need to stay connected, an even more popular trend may be on the horizon: the "Hot Building."
Tenants, guests and visitors at San Diego's One America Plaza can enjoy Wi-Fi at no charge. Wired broadband service at 100 Mbps is billed by usage, and most tenants pay just $250 a month. This is approximately 60 times faster and 1/5 the cost of a typical T-1 (1.5 Mbps) connection.
Real estate investment firm SENTRE Partners, also known as Stewards & Entrepreneurs of Real Estate, teamed up with GE Asset Management to purchase One America Plaza and worked with Intel, Corning, Wireless Facilities Inc., and Cisco on the building's IT infrastructure. An end-to-end Cisco network supports both wired and wireless connectivity within the 580,000-square-foot building, including 34 floors plus four parking levels.
SENTRE has provided free Wi-Fi access in three other buildings it manages, but only in public places such as the ground floor and lobby. "We're offering Wi-Fi as an amenity and broadband as a utility at One America Plaza," says Matthew Spathas, managing partner for SENTRE Partners. "We believe this is the first building in the U.S. to deploy wireless in every square inch of the building and parking garage. We've moved from the concept of 'hotspot' to 'Hot Building.'"
Cisco Catalyst 4500 and 3500 Series switches connect the building's high-speed optical network, which Spathas refers to as a Building Optical Network (BON). Bandwidth is purchased in bulk off the bandwidth grid in much the same manner as power is purchased off a power grid. The BON enables aggregated distribution.
San Diego, California-based Wireless Facilties Inc. handles design, implementation and front-end provisioning for Bandwidth Now. Other Bandwidth Now buildings, also managed by SENTRE, include the San Diego Tech Center, the NBC Building and the SBC Building.
"The beauty of the 'wired' Cisco network-the BON-is that we can provision our tenants immediately," says Spathas. "They can plug in and be operational in three minutes versus taking three months waiting for provisioning a T-1."
Approximately 80 Cisco Aironet 1200 Series Wi-Fi access points connect the building's wireless local-area network (WLAN) to provide free Wi-Fi service. Spathas says the network has been highly reliable, allowing tenants, guests and visitors to turn on a laptop or PDA and immediately be on the Internet.
SENTRE chose Cisco equipment for One America Plaza based on Cisco's strong commitment to open standards and market leadership. The Cisco solution also ensures that the network can be easily upgraded and managed remotely-a key consideration in keeping costs down.
"Cisco is clearly the trusted market leader, especially in the IP [Internet Protocol] space," says Spathas, "We did not want any type of legacy solution. With Cisco, we can rely on standards compatibility, upgradeability and easy management."
SENTRE outsources design, deployment and management of both wired and wireless networks to Wireless Facilities Inc. (WFI) in San Diego, California. By owning and operating the building's networks itself, SENTRE can provide instant, cost-effective connectivity to tenants. SENTRE can also leverage the Cisco infrastructure for its own benefit by deploying several back-end applications to better serve tenants and operate the building more efficiently.
One example is a web-based work order system that taps the WLAN. Engineers can carry web tablets and pocket PCs to open and close work orders on the spot-without the delay of filling out paper-based forms. Other planned uses include web-enabled security cameras that will allow security guards to roam the building versus sitting in front of a console.
"We're finding numerous applications for the wired and wireless, always-on free network that extend beyond just putting our tenants and their guests on the Internet," says Spathas. "Once you've aggregated bandwidth across a building, opportunities for automating IT and delivering managed services become obvious."
Potential managed services include backing up tenant data to a central server over the BON and offering IP telephony (IPT) services to tenants. "The concept would be for clients to purchase a Cisco IP Phone, plug into the network and pay for phone service just like they do for data communications," says Spathas. "Essentially, we're providing bandwidth for data or voice like any other utility."
SENTRE believes that the Cisco infrastructure will pay off in higher rents, better tenants and higher customer retention and occupancy rates. One America Plaza is currently 95 percent leased.
Spathas says SENTRE's success with "Hot Buildings" will ultimately depend on solving tenants' problems. "Most non enterprise tenants cannot afford a full-time IT staff, yet they need high-speed, flexible communications and the ability to be as productive as possible," says Spathas. "With our Cisco solution, we're finding new ways to automate tenants' processes, reduce their cost of doing business and increase their productivity."
Stacy Williams is a freelance journalist based in Dutch John, UT.
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