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Gatwick Airport refreshes its network with HPE

Gatwick Airport has refreshed its campus network, spending £15 million on the 18 month project. Cathal Corcoran, Gatwick Airport’s CIO, described the project as his biggest priority and first challenge, after joining two years ago.

“Previously the network was old, using tier three architecture from BAA [the airports authority which used to own Gatwick],” said Corcoran. “It was clear it wouldn’t last much longer, it was really creaking at the seams.

“So we went from the old world to the new world. It’s a new fully-meshed spine and leaf architecture, and is around a hundred times faster than it was, and we implemented in in the half the time most other organisations would have taken,” he added.

HPE were chosen to supply and support the new network, following a beauty parade of “all the suppliers you’d expect,” principally because of its end to end offering.

“There was no service integrator or project partner, it was all HPE wall to wall. It was a simple strategy, with HPE’s kit, design, architecture, and HPE’s people to install and run it. And because they’re also supporting it now that it’s live, they’ve always known that whatever quality they build is the quality they’re going to have to run. They also supported the previous network until the new one was ready, which enabled us to minimise the number of suppliers we use.

“We liked the full service offering from HPE, and their flexibility. Not everyone is up for doing a campus-wide network refresh at the pace we wanted, and with the risk profile we were willing to accept.”

The project took over 10,000 man hours, with over 20,000 collaborations required. Part of the complexity was that airport operations had to be kept running during the entire project, which enabled any failed switchovers to be rolled back. However, Corcoran added, very few of these were needed.

“Around 96 per cent of implementations went exactly to plan, and the four per cent which didn’t were able to be rolled back within the four hour window we had. We had two hours each night to do the switchover, with another two for the rollback if needed. That took a lot of bodies.”

Corcoran previously told Computing that the airport is exploring the idea of improving security by examining brain waves.

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