Case Studies

Ellis Park

by Think IT

While the 2010 soccer world cup is predicted to bring a massive surge in activity to South Africa’s entertainment, travel and tourism sectors, the steps many organisations have had to take in order to become ‘FIFA compliant’ are onerous to say the least.

That’s why, instead of simply seeking to comply with FIFA’s technical requirements, a number of organisations have chosen to use their preparation activities as an opportunity to substantially upgrade their technology infrastructure, so that the effects of the soccer world cup will be enjoyed long after the event has come and gone.

And there’s probably no better example of this in practice than the transformation Ellis Park stadium and its management company, Ellis Park World of Sport has undergone over the past year.

“We wanted its 2010 transformation to have a tangible knock-on effect in the community,” says Paul Apalsamy, CEO of Ellis Park World of Sport.

“That’s why, even though we could have easily provided the platform FIFA required for its infrastructure rollout. We felt we wanted to do more,” he says.

Transformation for the patrons, suppliers and community

“FIFA has its own agreements with upstream communications providers, its own infrastructure team and has even put agreements in place with power providers that ensure electricity supply will not be an issue,” Appalsamy explains.

“And as the venue for many of the games during the soccer world cup, we were required to do nothing more than provide the more basic infrastructure elements for FIFA, such as sufficient power and a stadium-wide fibre optic ring network.

“Since this would require somewhat of an upgrade in itself and we were due to overhaul our server, surveillance and network infrastructure anyway, it made sense to carry our system upgrade and FIFA readiness projects out at the same time,” he says.

“We had an opportunity to leapfrog our facilities into an entirely new realm,” Appalsamy says, “and in doing so, ensure that we became a stadium of choice for all sporting and cultural events,” he says.

In doing so, Appalsamy says that Ellis Park World of Sport would at the same time be ensuring that its investments in technology would not only make its stadium far simpler to manage, but also pleasurable for its customers to experience and in time, capable of allowing the community in and around the Doornfontein precinct to connect with technology, the Internet and the outside world.

And since it had an existing relationship with Think iT for the provision of IT services and support, it made logical sense that it was once again chosen to assist the Ellis Park World of Sport with its systems upgrade.
 
Phase one – A solid back-end environment

Rohil Dayaram, Projects Manager at Think iT says that his company had already been partnering with Ellis Park World of Sport on its IT environment for two years when its server infrastructure came up for renewal.

“In fact,” says Dayaram, “the recommendation to upgrade the back-end infrastructure came from us.

The time chosen for the infrastructure upgrade coincided with the company’s move of premises, so that any disruptions caused by the move could be dealt with at the same time.

Dayaram says the new server environment consisted of two servers, a migration away from Microsoft Small Business Server 2003 to the Windows Server 2008 environment and the migration of over 50 users to a new domain.

“We also migrated Ellis Park Word of Sport’s IT security environment onto Microsoft Forefront, substantially improving its security posture and oversaw the migration of its Pastel financial system from the old server infrastructure to the new hardware,” he says.

From beginning to end, the implementation took seven days and was performed over a weekend, starting on a Thursday and ending on a Wednesday.

Dayaram says that while the furniture and client side equipment was being moved from one set of offices to another, Think iT was engaged in moving company information, applications and user accounts from the legacy infrastructure to the new hardware.

“By the Sunday – four days later – the move had taken place and users were able to log onto the new servers and access their information with ease,” he says.

Dayaram however notes that since Think iT makes a point of ensuring a technician is available and on site to iron out any latent issues for three days after the implementation, the implementation time is still considered to be seven days.

“And truth be told, our technician did have some work to do during that time,” he says.

Finalising the migration required the technician going to each user’s desk and ensuring they could access their information in the same way they were able to before, that their preferences were identical to how they were before and that no additional issues had crept out of the woodwork.

“The migration was concluded in the time agreed on and things returned to normal. Importantly, we had renewed faith in our technology and a noticeable increase on the performance front,” says Appalsamy.

Phase two – The stadium upgrade

With Ellis Park World of Sport’s IT systems substantially refreshed and its management team’s IT environment stabilised, it was time to tackle its substantial stadium upgrade.

“With the familiarity Think iT already had with our IT environment and insight it had into the plans we had put in place, it made great sense for us to involve it in the upgrade,” Appalsamy continues.

“To this end then, we involved Think iT in every aspect of our transformation, allowing it to oversee the work of our various suppliers and technology partners and ultimately ensure that the correct choices were being made and the work was being carried out satisfactorily,” he says.

“Looking back, without Think iT’s involvement, we wouldn’t have been nearly as successful as we were,” he says.

Dayaram says that Think iT took Ellis Park World of Sport through its entire upgrade, first helping it specify the equipment and services needed to transform the stadium and its management and then ensuring suppliers were adequately briefed and capable of carrying out the tasks at hand.

“Once this part of the project was completed, we came in as a consultant to Ellis Park World of Sport, to ensure the customer and partners were on the same page and were speaking the same language,” he says.

“This meant we were conducting numerous meetings every week and checking the status of the sub projects with the various cabling companies, video and audio specialists and of course, the company responsible for laying the redundant fibre-optic ring around the stadium.

“The project concluded in September of 2009 – a good time before the world cup was due to kick off – with physical changes to the stadium comprising upgraded seating, sanitary areas, boardrooms and entrance areas.

“On the non-IT infrastructure front, the stadium now has new backup generators, UPS covering the entire stadium.

“From an IT perspective, apart from the redundant fibre ring implemented, the stadium now has a Telkom hub through which all audio and video feeds can run and a new video surveillance system with 24/7 monitoring, ensuring safety for all,” he says.

Dayaram says considering the time frames, it’s quite remarkable what was carried out.

“And since all of the consulting services carried out for Ellis Park were covered by our existing agreement, it worked out substantially more cost effective than usual.”

The bottom line

“We wouldn’t have been as successful at our endeavors if it wasn’t for Think iT’s expertise and input,” Appalsamy says.

“Its valuable opinions, strong understanding of technology and ability to spot possible conflicts early on, helped us keep things on track and avert any disasters. We’re more than satisfied with the job done by Think iT and look forward to a long-term future relationship,” he says.

Looking in a more detailed manner at that future relationship, Appalsamy says that Ellis Park World of Sport wants Think iT to move from the role of service provider to service partner, and for the organisations to begin sharing goals and ambitions.

“This means, for example, if we were to launch a ‘for social gain’ programme in our precinct, Think iT would participate – not just as a supplier, but as a partner.

“And we’re convinced that the way things have been going up until now, this is a realistic expectation,” he says.
While the 2010 soccer world cup is predicted to bring a massive surge in activity to South Africa’s entertainment, travel and tourism sectors, the steps many organisations have had to take in order to become ‘FIFA compliant’ are onerous to say the least.

That’s why, instead of simply seeking to comply with FIFA’s technical requirements, a number of organisations have chosen to use their preparation activities as an opportunity to substantially upgrade their technology infrastructure, so that the effects of the soccer world cup will be enjoyed long after the event has come and gone.