Cutting the cord

Aldar Properties upgrades it wireless network to keep pace with demand for enterprise mobility

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Aldar Properties is the leading real estate developer in Abu Dhabi with a diverse portfolio spanning across properties, asset management, malls, and hotels. Aldar has developed some of the iconic projects in the Emirate including its HQ building in Al Raha, Gate Towers in Shams Abu Dhabi and F1 circuit in Yas Island.

As one of the largest listed real estate developers in the MENA region with a massive footprint, Aldar uses cutting-edge technology to digitise and mobilise its business operations. With an ever-growing mobile workforce, Aldar’s IT team has the mandate to make sure employees have continuous access to business applications on the go to gain an edge in a highly competitive industry.

With the increasing demand to provide mission-critical applications on business-grade WiFi, the company’s IT team faced a daunting challenge – its aging wireless network was running on the infrastructure from a vendor which exited WLAN business. It meant no technical support to solve issues and made an upgrade to the newest WLAN standards impossible.

“We decided to rip the old network out and replace it with a new WLAN solution to cater to the demands of our workforce. However, with the explosion of smartphones, tablets, and other portable devices, designing and implementing wireless networks can be challenging. We had to make sure that our WLAN design factored in specific business needs and the physical environments,” says Sreedhar Reddy, CIO of Aldar Properties.

After a rigorous vendor evaluation process, Aldar’s IT team chose Aruba for its performance, security features and the flexibility to integrate with third-party devices on the network infrastructure.

Reddy and his team started deployment of the new wireless network in schools owned by Aldar Academies first. “This was to support our chairman’s vision of promoting more interactive, self-driven and collaborative learning in schools. We wanted to empower the way teachers teach and children learn,” says Reddy.

Today, every classroom is equipped with a WiFi access point that can support up to 250 users with 1.7 Gbps of bandwidth, allowing more than 7000 students and 1000 staff in eight schools to take advantage of new e-learning tools.

The deployment also features centralised management features that prevent unauthorized network access by students. “We made sure that WiFi is not a costly distraction for students by putting in place advanced content filtering and DLP solutions so that they can access only education-related content. Though we do allow students to bring their own devices, wireless connectivity is limited to one device per student, which is issued by the school,”

After a smooth roll-out at Aldar Academies, Reddy’s team went on to implement an enterprise WLAN at the corporate headquarters, remote office sites and Yas Mall. “Our corporate wireless network supports more than 600 employees spread over 20 locations including Al Ain, and Yas Mall was a complete greenfield project with more than 350 access points. Since it’s a network designed primarily for the public use, it was set up differently from the network deployed for employee access,” says Reddy.

Aldar’s high-bandwidth WLAN is designed to ensure optimal signal coverage across the network even if the device density goes up in the future. “Wireless has become the preferred access method for our employees, and we do capacity reviews often. A major benefit of the wireless implementation is the seamless connectivity it provides; all our employees use a single SSID for access across all our office locations without having to change any settings and enjoy similar experience anywhere,” says Reddy.

For Aldar, security has also been a major factor while deploying the enterprise wireless LAN right from the outset. “Our WLAN is combined with Aruba’s ClearPass network access control solution in the backend to enable network segmentation and access layers across both wired and wireless networks. It has provided us with a flexible platform with end-to-end protection to ensure only legitimate users have access to networks and sensitive information,” says Reddy.

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