London - SAS Global Communications, an international provider of managed and professional network services, has announced the completion of a project to upgrade the WAN infrastructure of the Advanced Travel Partner (ATP), one of the largest business travel companies in Europe with a turnover in excess of €500m. SAS will also work in collaboration with the company to provide managed services for six regional offices in the UK and is currently working with ATP to roll-out Avaya’s unified communications technology.
As one of the fastest growing travel companies in the world, ATP has witnessed many changes in the physical infrastructure and demands of its business over recent years and there are few areas where this has been more evident, than in its network and communications infrastructure.
For its IT department, an aggressive acquisition strategy had led to a considerable amount of incompatibility and duplication of systems, all of which were compounded by an increasingly fragile network. This was particularly true of the company’s IP-based phone system, used by staff at its London headquarters.
“Sometimes, you could be mid-sentence and the system would reboot,” said Felix Clarke-Wills, Information communications and technology manager for ATP.
Clarke-Wills was not only keen to resolve what he saw as a looming network problem but also wanted to create a common platform that would bring together all of the organisations in the group, allowing ATP to take advantage of new and cheaper options for accessing the airline inventory system, Galileo.
“Until just recently, we were only permitted to access Galileo via point-to-point connectivity using expensive and restrictive private lease lines,” said Clarke-Wills. “To keep costs down, most of our offices had to connect to Galileo across our WAN, which only served to add to the network congestion and performance issues.”
Another challenge that ATP had a compelling need to address was its firewall infrastructure, which was no longer supported by the manufacturer, therefore leaving the company potentially vulnerable to attack. Clarke-Wills also recognised that the lack of any failover for ATP’s communications infrastructure could be a threat to the business, particularly with the company’s imminent plans to roll-out Avaya’s IP telephony and unified communications across the UK.
Following a recommendation from long-term supplier BT, ATP invited SAS to carry out an audit of its communications estate and present a proposal addressing all of its network requirements and providing infrastructure management services.
The results of the audit showed that whilst the BT and Cisco technology in use was of a high standard, it had not been correctly optimised for its intended use. In addition, class of service (CoS), required to ensure voice traffic prioritisation, had not been properly applied and some of the LAN switch equipment also needed upgrading to support voice over IP.
In response to SAS’s findings and recommendations, ATP commissioned the company to carry out an upgrade of its WAN infrastructure.
SAS began by creating a parallel network based on a public VPN. The VPN was deployed at each ATP office to provide primary access to Galileo for all users; it also provides failover for the company’s MPLS network, IP Converge.
To ensure business continuity for the VPN, SAS reversed the failover of the network so that if users are unable to access Galileo via the VPN, traffic could be routed across the WAN, via London or Lowestoft, to connect with the system.
For the second stage of the project, SAS applied a series of BT network upgrades to optimise CoS; it also changed the CoS parameters across the entire network to ensure that voice traffic would always be given the appropriate level of priority. In addition, new LAN switch equipment was deployed at some sites and all switches were reconfigured and tested for CoS.
Following the upgrade of its WAN infrastructure, ATP signed a three-year contract with SAS to provide managed services in collaboration with its own team of in-house specialists. The new service delivers 24/7 network monitoring of ATP’s WAN, VPN, firewalls, LAN and Internet circuits, as well as providing support and management for the company’s WAN infrastructure.
However, unlike traditional managed services agreements, ATP will not only have access to real-time information on its network’s performance but will also be in control of all its network equipment as well; any moves, adds or changes will be carried out by ATP staff under the guidance and supervision of SAS.
“Working with SAS allows us to manage our own infrastructure without putting the network at risk and without feeling like we’re abusing our supplier relationship,” said Clarke-Wills. “If we don’t have the skills to do a job, we know there’s always going to be someone at the end of the phone to fix the problem.”