Aussie theme park upgrades aging network with Brocade

Visitors to Dreamworld, Australia’s largest theme park, will soon be enjoying wireless Internet access that is every bit as good as the park’s 50 rides and attractions thanks to a major network upgrade program being rolled out by its owner, the Ardent Leisure Group.

In order to meet customer demand for connectivity across its properties and embrace new entertainment opportunities over time, the group turned to Brocade to provide a high-performance network based on the Brocade ICX family of switches. Delivered by Brocade’s local partner, ASI Solutions, the new network will enable Ardent to quickly and efficiently evolve alongside its ever-changing business environment.

While Dreamworld is the largest single asset in Ardent’s leisure portfolio, the group has 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 centers across Australia and New Zealand, and multi-attraction entertainment centers in the United States. The portfolio has been built through a series of acquisitions by Ardent, and has resulted in what is now one of Australia’s leading leisure groups. In the process, however, the group has also come to own disparate networking systems.

The aging network infrastructure across the key sites mentioned above was constraining the services and service levels Ardent could provide. As such, the lack of performance, reliability and manageability in the local area networks at Ardent’s sites were beginning to impact service delivery. At Dreamworld, for instance, the throughput of WiFi access points was constrained by their 100 megabit per second (Mbps) performance limits.

“Our portfolio is diverse and IT demands vary, but one thing we certainly need across all sites is much better manageability. 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, which is where Brocade comes in. We’ve been running its Fibre Channel SAN switches for six years and never had to reboot them,” said Steven van Rooyen, Ardent’s Group Network Administrator.

“Our inspiration to consider Brocade solutions was influenced by Gartner as we seek to work with market innovators in order to achieve the most value from our budget, and for this Brocade is right on target,” he said.

At Dreamworld, Ardent has deployed a Brocade ICX 6610 switch stack in its server room, acting as the site’s network core. Brocade ICX 6610 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, Ardent has 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. The result is that all the performance bottlenecks have been eliminated and, thanks to manageability of the entire infrastructure, it takes five minutes to turn on a feature whereas it used to take all day to change switch configurations,” said van Rooyen.

For Greig Guy, Brocade’s Country Manager for Australia and New Zealand, Brocade’s solutions are ideal for an ever-growing network such as Ardent’s that also adds applications for its end users: “The move from a disparate structure to a centrally managed network design will deliver true business and technology benefits for Ardent Leisure. In a sense this strategic upgrade will let them punch above their weight from a networking perspective.”