Gatwick Airport installs next generation IT network

Airport now brilliantly positioned to take best advantage of new technologies – including artificial intelligence, Internet of Things and machine learning – with network also more resilient to disruption.


Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) has supported Gatwick Airport – the UK’s second largest airport and a critical national infrastructure site – in future proofing its entire IT network.

The new network, provided by HPE and Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, allows the airport to take advantage of new, modern technologies for the benefit of airport users – including more than 250 onsite businesses, 30,000 staff and 45 million annual passengers – while also making the network more resilient and tolerant to disruption.

Completed in just 18 months while the airport remained 100% operational, the project had to be completed without any downtime or instability. Similar transitions typically take up to four years, but Gatwick and HPE absorbed the challenges of completing the massive project in less than half the normal time, to ensure Gatwick had the resilience necessary for a critical national infrastructure site and the world’s most efficient single-runway airport.

Marc Waters, Managing Director for UK & Ireland, HPE, said: “Transitioning from old to new networks while keeping the world’s most efficient runway operating is like performing open heart surgery on a patient while he is running. We’re delighted with how smoothly the project has run - the world’s most efficient single runway now has an equally powerful and productive IT network to match it. All parties have worked seamlessly, while the airport remains fully functioning, to avoid any impact to the day-to-day running of the airport and its millions of passengers. This transition will be one of the most impressive to have taken place in recent years – we’re very proud to have led it.”

For Gatwick Airport, resilience and security is absolutely essential in the network. The old network provided a limited number of data paths to communicate between its constituent components – but the new simplified and fully meshed design provides 10 times the number of links for data to traverse the campus, making it much more resilient to disruption. By removing bottlenecks and potential single points of failure, and by utilising a backbone based on many multiples of 40Gb connections, Gatwick’s new network represents a step change in resilience and performance.

Increases in the airport’s data capability also mean that Gatwick, its passengers and on-site businesses will be able to take advantage of the latest technologies. This will completely change the passenger experience and improve efficiency across the airport, with new technologies including:

Internet of Things – deploying sensors to measure numerous parameters including waste bin levels, occupancy of check in desks, table availability or pond water levels.Superfast WiFi – Free WiFi for passengers which typically gives more than 30mbps download speed.Network for campus entities – Stable network services for airlines, ground handlers and retailers, improving the flexibility and stability of their business operations, in addition to generating IT related revenue for the airport.CCTV & IPTV services – Ability to operate high definition CCTV and IPTV systems.Passenger flow analytics – Detection of passenger flow based on smart phone locations as well as heat maps identifying queueing and performance improvement opportunities.Baggage reconciliation – Reliable WiFi services for airlines to reconcile bags with passengers.Machine learning and facial recognition – to bolster security or develop Passenger Journey Mapping so gate staff can track late running passengers and send notifications via apps.

Cathal Corcoran, Chief Information Officer, Gatwick Airport, said: “We’ve seen record breaking passenger growth since 2010 and to make sure our passengers have the best experience possible, we needed a new network that could handle our expected future growth numbers."

“The network’s capability has been uplifted by such a scale that it now matches that of an Internet Service Provider and allows the airport to provide the latest technologies across a campus that serves over 250 onsite businesses, 30,000 staff and 45 million annual passengers."

“We also needed a much more resilient, self-healing and fault tolerant network and one that is capable of handling future technologies that process considerably more data. HPE’s combined network offering provides this and more as it ultimately supports our vision of an IT infrastructure for a decade.”

The network deal, worth $15 million, was implemented by a team of leading international experts within HPE, Aruba and the Gatwick team. The project strategy has been deliberately streamlined to keep things simple, with HPE designing, implementing, and installing everything from end-to-end. The HPE Pointnext team automated and simplified the complex migration using HPE IP and tools and provided a dashboard for stakeholders and an audit trail of activities.

HPE Pointnext will also provide ongoing management of the new network underpinning the day-to-day running of the airport, including flight information displays, ticketing and baggage services, security surveillance and local commercial activities. HPE will also provide support on the delivery of future projects and provide innovative networking and security solutions via Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company.


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