Research firm Gartner has predicted that non-IT companies will look to develop new revenue streams from their own computing infrastructure to offset systems costs over the next few years, something that staff at the Celtic Manor Resort in Wales have been doing since the Ryder Cup finished in October this year.
The resort had installed a secondary 100Mbit/s fibre optic broadband link to support media coverage during the golf event, with more than 1,000 journalists and photographers sending stories, pictures and videos back to their publications from their laptops, smartphones and other internet-enabled devices.
But once the journalists went home, Celtic Manor realised all that extra bandwidth could be put to good use supporting both its own staff and new services that could help bring more money into the resort, and help justify the £2,000 a month subscription fee.
"Initially it was always going to be a temporary facility once we had been awarded the Ryder Cup," says Russell Philips, vice-president of facilities and development at Celtic Manor Resort.
"But once we got around the table and realised we had moved on since the days of using ISDN lines, the more we looked into it and the more having two 100Mbit/s pipes with flexible bandwidth for our own purposes made sense."
The second fibre-optic ring, supplied by Virgin Media Business, uses around 10 miles of cabling over 1,400 acres, linking the main resort hotel with the club house and lodge 1.5 miles away through a series of specially dug ducts. It feeds into an 802.11a/b/g wireless network that gives Celtic Manor staff access to the internet, email and other business applications from wherever they happen to be within the resort, and supports remote application access for teleworkers.
"We had an option of a one-off installation cost and monthly subscription or just paying a slightly higher monthly fee – £2,000 – and we opted for the latter," said Philips.
Celtic Manor is owned by Terry Matthews, a Welsh-born Canadian entrepreneur with a long heritage in communications technology that has included founding Mitel and Newbridge Networks, sold to BT and Alcatel respectively. Matthews is also founder and chairman of the Wesley Clover Group, which has a big information and communications technology portfolio that includes fixed and mobile communications, videoconferencing and digital media.
With so much bandwidth available, the resort was also able to set up advanced teleconferencing facilities within its meeting and events rooms, initially as a way to attract corporate events to the hotel, with high-definition displays and on-screen drag and drop collaboration facilities provided by Wesley Clover.
But the hotel has also identified some more innovative usages for its equipment, including putting audio visual equipment in its restaurants to provide virtual dining for people on the other side of the world, in Matthews' other golf resort Brook Street in Canada, for example, and providing virtual wedding facilities that allow guests to participate in ceremonies taking place on different continents.
"More recently we have hit the market with Indian weddings because Terry also has offices and software developers in India, which makes it easy to set up," said Philips. "We can also use it in our restaurants to provide a live dining experience with people on the other side of the world."
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