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Example Capstone Proposal Summary - Technology

Technology Capstone WritingAs technology continues to evolve, companies both large and small are seeking opportunities to reduce spending while using technology to grow their respective businesses into efficient entities. Whether through infrastructure improvements or enhanced products, this trend is beginning to be realized for many corporations. This project will focus on one of the world’s largest hotel chains and their effort to become leaders in the world of hospitality. In June of 2015, the Marriot chain of hotels flagship brand of Marriot international along with Netflix announced a groundbreaking partnership to revolutionize the guest room experience. They will be the first hotel and commercial organization in any capacity to cut the proverbial and physical cord of Cable TV in an effort to provide more comfortable and appealing entertainment television options. I am charged with planning and implementing this endeavor in the Marriot hotel located in Melville, NY.

Before we can determine the project scope and the upgrades necessary to support this endeavor, I will need to utilize a degree of project management principles in order to define a strategic flow from one step to another in an ordered manner. As per the Project Management Body of Knowledge Guide (PMBOK) I have already gained the necessary approval from the Marriot’s senior leadership members in order to approach local management and begin the planning phase of this project (Project Management Institute, 2008). I met with the Marriot’s regional vice president of operations, director of information technology management, local hotel manager – or for the purposes of this project, stakeholders - to determine current challenges, budgeting constraints, deadlines and the eventual acceptance of the project’s deliverables. As per site-management, the Melville Marriot has presently committed over $1300/month to an antiquated/basic satellite TV and shared bandwidth DSL internet services which is provided by local provider Broadview Networks. This service is delivered to 35 guest rooms, 4 suites and a visitor’s lounge. The stakeholders described their TV services as boringly basic with access to undesirable networks, the Internet as terribly slow with peak traffic speeds often below 1Mbit/second and described WI-FI accessibility as virtually non-existent. The stakeholders have confirmed that they’re prepared to allocate up to $15,000 for one-time equipment charges and mandatory network upgrade, as well as increase their total monthly budget to $1800/mo.

Based on their budget, timeline and current broadband infrastructure, I have chosen to partner with local telecom provider Lightpath to put together a total solution to meet these goals. The project will entail the rationale necessary to determine which configurations to use with Optical Transport Network (OTS) and Managed WI-FI services. The deliverables for this project will include high-speed, gigabit connection with transmission between 5GB-10GB, and a 10GB burst available on-demand during peak data hours. The aforementioned burst will be most beneficial to the client while their customer’s access video streaming as well as WI-FI services. The Marriot chains of hotels are among the first hotel chains to reach an agreement with Netflix to offer streaming video services to their guests. This Netflix package will allow for instant logon privileges on up to 50 television units and single-session logon to over 100 mobile devices.

For the purposes of this project, we will focus primarily on the infrastructure components required to achieve our project deliverables.

Wireless Routers

For Managed Wi-Fi, the Cisco Dual Gigabit WAN VPN Router (RV042G-NA) will be provided by Lightpath, but thankfully we will have the option of choosing either the Cisco WAP321 or Ubiquiti Networks UniFi access points. The amount of access points necessary will be decided later on.

Multimedia Streaming Video Access:

- We will decide whether to go with either the Roku or Apple TV multimedia streaming devices.

- By and large my main objective is to provide a comprehensive Internet/Streaming Video solution that will exceed expectations, provide scalability for future growth while remaining cost effective. I am fully prepared to give my opinion on all matters relative to the project, albeit unpopular, as long as the suggested solution makes sense in the long run. The Proof of Concept (POC) testing was completed on July 15th, 2015. The Marriot’s stakeholders were briefed on outcomes and recommendations on July 24th and all sides are in agreement with the recommendation to proceed with the project. The stakeholders have also requested a project completion date of October 1st, 2015.

Review of Other Work

At the recommendation of Lightpath, we will go with the Cisco RV042G-NA Gigabit Router. Although I would have preferred to go with a unit of my choosing, I was pleased to find that after extensive research, the selected RV unit comes highly regarded due to its secure VPN - which provides access to over 100 simultaneous connections and it includes world-class security features such as advanced encryption, and authentication, which will placate our stakeholders (Cisco). The fact that it is Managed Wi-Fi also offers the benefit of outsourcing the complexities and costs associated with a wireless data network without the expense of up-front capital, training and ongoing support, thus eliminating the risk of technology obsolescence.

Five strategically placed access points will complement the managed Wi-Fi solution. At the behest of the Marriot’s Director of IT, we will consider the Cisco WAP321 access point due to its guaranteed, direct compatibility with Lightpath’s selected router as well as the fact that Ligthpath has used this AP in a few of their previous projects. Although the Cisco unit offers less risk of compatibility issues, I have suggested that the stakeholders also consider the Ubiquiti Networks UniFi AP due to its affordability – at almost half the price of the Cisco unit with a total range of up to 400 feet.

The UniFi AP can be purchased for less than $100 each and it provides exceptional range and reliability. Perhaps most importantly for the Marriot is the fact that the UniFi AP has a much different design from that of the Cisco WAP321. The UniFI AP is a sleek AP that actually looks a lot like a smoke detector. Because of this, the device can be placed on any wall or ceiling in the hotel room and not arouse the slightest bit of suspicion from the guests. It is possible that even more of these access points could be placed throughout the hotel in an effort to make the signal even more reliable, since it is far more nondescript than a traditional device. A comparison of the two devices can be seen below:

- The Cisco WAP321

- The UniFi AP

Though there are several advantages to the UniFi AP as can be seen from the photos. But there is another, even more pertinent reason for the Marriot to consider using UniFi access points. In 2011 Gartner, a technology research firm, issued a report that condemned the use of single-vendor networks (Duffy, 2011). Gartner insisted that a multi-vendor approach could significantly reduce customer costs and simplify their operations, in direct contrast to the end-to-end architectural approach advocated by Cisco (Duffy, 2011). These cost savings can be significant for enterprise customers and the additional simplicity of design can make the system much easier to maintain over the long run.

Cisco, however, insists that their approach to networking with a strategic vendor relationship is more business critical (Duffy, 2011). Many companies apparently agree with the way Cisco approaches networking. Prior to engaging Cisco as their network provider, the Columbus Regional Airport Authority used equipment from both 3Com and HP (Duffy, 2011). With three airports and 350 employees this system proved to unmanageable for their team of twenty IT employees (Duffy, 2011). Additionally as they look to install passenger kiosks, high-definition cameras and video analytics for security, a single vendor makes more sense (Duffy, 2011).

Tesco, a company with 5,000 locations and over 500,000 employees has had a single vendor for their networking needs for several years (Duffy, 2011).. Tesco uses Cisco TelePresence for its intra-company collaboration and is currently seeking to outfit many of its stores with Wi-Fi so its customers will have in-store internet access (Duffy, 2011). None of this, they insist, would be possible with a multi-vendor network and, in fact, the current setup gives them a tremendous advantage over their competitors.

For simplicity sake it may be best to go with the Cisco WAP321 for the time being. This device has been proven reliable with Lightpath in the past and also works well with the system that is being installed. Management prefers to keep everything as simple as possible for future maintenance and upgrades. It is possible that a UniFi AP could be installed at some later date so that it could be monitored for performance and compatibility. If it proves to be a capable device in the system, it could become permanent.

Project Rationale

One major concern of the stakeholders was that the available speeds may not be sufficient for multiple video streaming at one time. This could conceivably prove problematic in the evening when most of the guests are in their rooms and watching TV before going to sleep for the night. The issue could certainly be exacerbated on busy holidays or weekends when the hotel is fully booked. The staff was concerned that their already sluggish connections would be inundated with requests and everyone would experience only spotty results, at best, with their streaming connections. Another solution was required.

Netflix recommends that its users have at least 3Mbps available in order to view high definition video streams (Komando, 2014). While that is not a problem for one room watching one movie, it could present issues if ten rooms are all trying to stream a movie at once. In such a scenario, the usage would then increase to over 30 Mbps. Twenty rooms at once would take you up to 60 Mbps and so on. That’s fine as long as only one person in the room is using the connection, but often there are multiple devices in each room all connected simultaneously. It is easy to see the need for faster, more reliable connections in excess of 100 Mbps.

The only solution that appeared to consistently offer such speeds was an Optical Transport Network over fiber optic lines. Lightpath offered just such a service with speeds from 1 Gb to 10 Gb with 10 Gb bursts. This will provide more than adequate speed at all times for the multiple users to access the Internet at once, even if they are all streaming video at the same time. There should be no issues with video lag or other Internet-related problems due to the ISP.

Another potential bottleneck with the service is the wireless speed that the routers are capable of attaining. The Cisco 321WAP is rated for 802.11n Wi-Fi speeds. 802.11m is capable of achieving 300 Mbps for each device, though they rarely reach such lofty speeds. Even so, by positioning five of these devices throughout the hotel, the speeds achieved should be adequate In the event that the devices only reach about half their speed, it would still allow for about fifty streaming videos on each one at any given time.

Though several options were available for streaming services, it was felt that Netflix offered the best name recognition and most reliable services. It also has a well-known and extensive library of videos from which to choose. The cost of the service is also in line with other similar offerings. The decision to use Apple TV or Roku may simply come down to cost, as there seems to be little advantage to one over the other. The decision to go with Lightpath as ISP for the hotel was an easy choice, considering they offer the best plan for the money in regards to speed and they have an excellent reputation in their industry.

Systems Analysis and Methodology

In order to ensure that the design is suitable to the needs of the end-users, a proper design analysis method must be used. Since this is a Cisco-based system, it only makes sense to employ their PPDIOO method of analysis. The first part of this analysis is Prepare, which involves establishing organizational requirements and developing the strategy. Next is to Plan by identifying initial network requirements based on goals, facilities and user needs. From those steps the initial requirements drive the activity of Design. This is a comprehensive detailed design that meets current business and technical requirements. That allows the next step of Implementing the design to occur. Operation is the final test of the appropriateness of the design and it involve maintaining network health through day-to-day operations. Finally the system can be Optimized over time through proactive management of the network.

Currently there is a shared bandwidth DSL service that must be replaced by the Optical Transport network. This will not require a major renovation since the basic infrastructure for the new system is virtually unchanged. All that will be required is to install the new equipment.