ISSUED BY: SIMEKA TWS COMMUNICATIONS [Johannesburg, 26 June 2001] - Sugarmill Casino, a Durban-based gaming establishment in the Sun International stable, achieved complete redundancy of its extensive mission-critical gaming networks when it chose a Category 5 ModTap cabling installation from national network and cabling specialist, CCI Technology Solutions, in a R400 000 deal
CEO of CCI, Steve Pinkney, says it was imperative that the casino's 800 slot machines and 26 tables were kept on two separate networks, leading to two network rooms, for complete failover.
"With a site such as this, you have to prepare for the worst possible contingency," he says. "We can basically switch off one whole network room and still have the casino floor run safely."
IT facilities manager for Sugar Mill, Cronjé Stadler, explains that between eight and 20 slot machines are "housed" on each casino slot base. Each base is connected to both the primary and secondary network room with colour-coded ModTap cabling running at 100Mbps, the current desktop standard.
To illustrate the importance of redundant network infrastructure, Stadler uses the example of a network switch going down in one network room. "This could bring several slot bases down at a time, a contingency that we have prepared for with two network rooms and two cabling feeds," he says.
Gaming information from slot machines is hosted on the central system, consisting of numerous servers, for gaming and taxation purposes. This vital administrative function serves to further underline the importance of redundancy, in order to keep the casino's affairs running smoothly.
ModTap cabling adheres to international standards of interoperability and safety, and the installation satisfied stringent requirements. With CCI a certified ModTap installer, every cabling point is tested separately and certified for use.
Stadler says CCI was "an absolute pleasure" to work with. "They could be called upon virtually any time for assistance.
"I will recommend their service any time. CCI technicians and management were always willing to go out of their way to cater for extra requirements, and they finished installation on specification and on time."
ISSUED BY: SIMEKA TWS COMMUNICATIONS [Johannesburg, 1 February 2001] - CCI Technology Solutions reinforced its leadership in the SA network integration market today when it officially announced its successful completion of a R2 million structured, managed cabling solution for Canal Walk, the largest shopping complex in South Africa.
The company made the announcement in partnership with iCITI, which led the implementation of an "intelligent mall environment" for Canal Walk and surrounding premises, and outsourced Canal Walk's physical network installation to CCI, says the integrator's CEO, Steve Pinkney.
iCITI CEO Alan West says the appointment of CCI slotted in well with iCITI's vision of "an intelligent environment that harnesses a single, pervasive network, to provide a whole range of services to customers and tenants".
The iCITI project encompassed the provisioning of voice, video and data services to tenants, shoppers and adjacent residents in other premises of the R1.6 billion Century City development. Multimedia applications include e-tail storefronts for shopping tenants, large screen video advertising boards, electronic data interchange and more.
CCI's role in the project was the supply and integration of RIT Category 5E and fibre optic cabling to support the multi-service network. To complement this, iCITI supplied central computer control rooms.
"Tenants will simply move in, plug their PCs, telephones, point-of-sale devices and other equipment into the convergent network, and start ringing up sales," West says. "Such is the sophistication of this easy-to-use intelligent environment that tenants will even have access to centrally hosted office applications on an application rental basis."
CCI's Pinkney says CCI laid a wealth of copper and single- as well as multi-mode fibre optic cabling, terminating in 3 000 copper outlets and 800 fibre outlets." The fibre conduits run to the core of the network, and the 100 Mbps copper from the central computer rooms to the shops.
This cabling deal follows a million rand contract for CCI to provide a high-speed fibre-optic data/voice cabling infrastructure for the R350-million Ratanga Junction theme park within the Century City development.
This earlier work was carried out as an ultra-fast-track 'wire-as-you-build' project, with cabling being installed during construction rather than afterwards, as is traditional.
BY STEVE PINKNEY, MD, CCI TECHNOLOGY SOLUTIONS - An integrated connectivity solution is the foundation for any "smart" building's intelligence.
Steve Pinkney, CEO for supplier of connectivity and cable maintenance, CCI Holdings, believes rapid technological advances - such as the convergence of voice, data and building automation systems - have made it possible to develop a single, integrated solution to manage the entire technology infrastructure in a building.
Known as "intelligent" or "smart" building, this type of solution is nothing new overseas, but locally we are only now starting to wake up to its many potential benefits, such as substantial savings on the cost of facilities management.
And while the single integrated building management solution bandwagon is busy gathering speed locally, one thing remains clear: the foundation of any "smart" building's intelligence lies in a single, integrated connectivity solution.
The business benefits of the intelligent building concept are there for the taking, as the technology to provide an integrated connectivity solution is readily available at an affordable cost. An intelligent building requires a connectivity solution that can handle voice, data, video and multimedia traffic plus building automation applications such as access control, fire detection, security, lighting, CCTV, environmental control and elevators/escalators across common set of cables.
And, in order to optimise benefits such as flexibility and problem-free expansion, the infrastructure should ideally be designed and incorporated at the construction phase.
We need to be clear on what is meant by "intelligent" building. There are various formal definitions of this concept, but it is generally agreed that an "intelligent" building is one that provides a productive and cost-effective environment through the optimisation of its four basic elements - structure, systems, services and management - and the interrelationship between them.
Intelligent buildings offer a single solution for a broad range of business applications, such as e-mail, intra/internet access, file transfers, video conferencing and more. And should the business environment dictate modifications to the present office layout (for example a new project team needing to establish common working areas) the design's flexibility means devices currently attached to the building-network can be swiftly moved and reconnected with minimal effort, disruption and cost.
The use of a single cabling solution for various applications further lightens the load on the IT service provider significantly, as it is now easy, from a PC, to troubleshoot, rapidly identify and correct problems or send out the appropriate repair personnel. Structured cabling also eliminates the inconvenience (and possible cost) of dealing with multiple vendors, who typically use their own cabling systems with different sorts of cable.
Local property developers are increasingly seeing the marketing advantage in providing tenants with intelligent infrastructure. Architects have also taken note and are designing infrastructure into buildings that cater for this type of connectivity.
Monex's R300 million Ratanga Junction theme park and surrounding Century City site near Cape Town is a case in point. The requirement was to integrate a wide area of systems from many different vendors, including time and attendance, access control, electric payment/point of sale, physical security, food and beverage and the systems that monitor and maintain the (in)famous "Cobra" as well as the various other rides, into a single flexible solution that could accommodate future changes.
The decision was made to install the cabling infrastructure during construction of the park and CCI Technology Holdings, contracted to manage and install the R1 million cabling project, had to complete the installation while the building contractors worked to meet a fast-track development deadline.
Among the key features of this infrastructure is an integrated telephone/data system that enables any data point (physically the wall outlet) to be used as either a telephone or PC connection.
In cases where it is not possible or desirable to install structured cabling during construction, infrastructure can be "retrofitted" after completion of the building with equal or better success. A case in point is DataFusion Systems, a unit within the R800 million JSE-listed Spescom Electronics group.
Relocating to an existing (through newly-built) office complex in Stellenbosch-based Tempo Park, DataFusion commissioned CCI to provide an 800-point structured cabling infrastructure with fully integrated voice/data services. This solution pivoted on RIT Technologies' structured premise wiring system for commercial buildings, SMART-Giga cabling systems.
While some organisations choose to integrate all of the electronic elements within their environment, including voice, data/video and building management, others may have an initial requirement for only some services, such as voice and data. The integrated cabling solution caters for this approach while providing a cost-effective expansion route, enabling systems such as electrical power, safety and security to be integrated at a future date.
In one of the prime examples of intelligent building technology overseas - the Ecole de Technologie Superieure (ETS) in Montreal, Canada - the single connectivity solution allows personnel to use a PC in their own work area to tap into their own advanced infrastructure to not only access and process information, but also adjust the heating, turn the air-conditioning on or off and monitor the security surveillance system. If staff members move to another part of the building, the services available to their offices can be duplicated electronically in the new location.
In essence, an intelligent building is one that combines innovations - technological or not - with skilful management to maximise return on investment. And this makes good business sense to developers, building owners and tenants alike.
BY STEVE PINKNEY, MD, CCI TECHNOLOGY SOLUTIONS - Business today is driven by IT, increasingly relying on the hardware, software, communications platforms and, underpinning it all, physical infrastructure, to enable economic activities.
Without this connectivity infrastructure the terabyte-transfers of information taking place among the world's computers every second would not be possible. As we move into the 21st century our dependence on IT (and infrastructure) will only increase and South Africa must keep abreast in the march to the technology-centric future.
Thanks to IT conglomerates such as Microsoft, IBM and Compaq, and the brilliance of our own IT professionals, South Africa has to date been able to keep pace with the rest of the developed world and, in some instances, even led the pack in designing and deploying advanced technologies.
But will South Africa's IT infrastructure support the technological future? Will the connectivity layers provide sufficient capacity, speed and reliability to carry the IT-powered economy into the digital tomorrow?
As far as the use of and access to technology is concerned, the cabling industry is definitely well positioned for the future. We enjoy ready access to sophisticated locally developed technologies and, through global market leaders such as RIT and Krone to leading-edge international technology as well.
However, in terms of implementation and installation skills, there is a disturbing disparity between the future needs of the user-community and the ability of the industry in general to deliver in a consistent and reliable manner. All too often one hears horror stories of cabling installers failing to adhere to service levels agreements because they lack resources, or experience or basic ethical standards. This is not acceptable now and certainly will not be acceptable in the future.
A critical problem is the traditionally low entry level to the cabling industry in South Africa. There are numerous reasons for this, such as the lingering perception that cabling is a 'low-tech' business. Nothing is further from the truth. Cabling is often seen as the wide-open door into the profitable, high-growth IT business. Again, a perception that is devoid of all truth. The crux of the matter is that there are currently no minimum standards or qualifications for entry to the local cabling industry. Which could be taken to mean that cabling is an 'easy' job that anyone can do. In reality it takes a team of highly trained and experienced individuals to "wire up" an Old Mutual or, for that matter, a small fledgling company that is dependent on its IT infrastructure to prosper and grow.
To improve its credibility and image, the industry must band together and agree to minimum entry level standards. The advantages to clients are many: firstly, they will enjoy the reassurance that installers will deliver on time, according to the specification, and that the installed cabling bandwidth will cater for the hardware requirements. Secondly, installations will be completed in a consistent and standards-compliant manner. Thirdly, networks will run reliably at the requisite speed. Finally, installers will be encouraged to compete on the basis of service and price (as opposed to today's prevalent price-cutting), which will translate into improved service delivery to users.
I do not suggest that introducing baseline standards to the industry will be simple or straightforward. However, we in the industry can ease the process by actively supporting home-grown industry bodies (such as the Communications Cabling Association of Southern Africa) and by linking up with international regulatory bodies such as BICSI.
Founded in 1974 and based in the USA, BICSI is a non-profit telecommunications association which aims to serve and support companies responsible for the design and distribution of telecommunications wiring in commercial and multi-family buildings. It has some 17 000 members in over 75 countries - among them cabling manufacturers, installers, VARs, end-users, architects and electrical engineers - and is still expanding. BICSI has not yet established a branch in South Africa but a few of the local installers, such as CCI Technology Holdings, have joined as individual members and are seeing the benefits of this association.
I believe that allying ourselves with the likes of BICSI will provide the industry with access to top-drawer educational and certification services that have been developed and proven over many years. Wide-ranging services offered to members include libraries of technical information and manuals, conferences throughout the world and registration programmes with various levels of training for apprentices, installers and technicians. The type of education offered by these international bodies is high quality, on-going and generic - something our industry desperately needs to enhance its credibility in the marketplace.
It might be argued that, since suppliers of various cabling products offer their own training courses, there is no local need to expend resources on industry training and test equipment. The counter-argument is that suppliers' training, while invaluable, is of limited duration and scope, usually focusing only on the manufacturer's particular product(s).
Access to generic training for newcomers (and more experienced cabling professionals) will have a major positive impact on the entire industry. For example, trainees will be exposed to all topologies (fibre, copper, CAT5, CAT6), not just specific products. They will be instructed in proper safety codes, and will gain wide-ranging knowledge and experience of project management, including planning, installation and troubleshooting.
Overall, trainees will gain a sound grounding in how to complete the most cost-effective installation with the minimum of disruption to users. Surely this is something both we in the industry and our clients will loudly applaud?
So whereto from here? Product suppliers and installers must rally together to agree and implement appropriate, uniform standards and training. We should not reinvent the wheel, but rather look to tap into well-honed international experience and apply this judiciously to our environment. We should agree on a budget - there is no free lunch! - and make funds and resources available for infrastructure and training. And we must do it now. The 21st century won't wait.