Succeeding in the hospitality industry requires more than the most comfortable bed, the most delectable menu, or the most luxurious spa. When one bad review can send would-be customers to the competitor, hospitality businesses must rely on technology to deliver delightful experiences.
By Ian Jansen van Rensburg, senior systems engineer at VMware
Both behind the scenes and in guests’ hands, technology can boost the customer experience in countless ways. The experience begins even before the guest arrives, as first impressions are established through websites, reservation systems, and loyalty programs, and continue during the visit with everything from self-service kiosks to personalised services based on stored preferences and historical data. Everything is geared toward making the guest feel welcome.
Many guest-oriented services place huge demands on the host organization’s networking infrastructure. Things like digital conferencing, including audio, video, data connectivity, voice over Internet protocol (VoIP), and Internet protocol television (IPTV) and real-time location services (RTLS) are just a few examples.
Internally there are plenty of ways the network is under pressure. For instance, companies are migrating many of their back office and guest management systems applications to the cloud. Hospitality organisations also now use Internet-connected devices to control heating, lighting and other facilities. There’s no doubt, the network is the nervous system of today’s hyper connected hospitality experience.
Yesterday’s Network Can’t Keep Up With The Technology Demands of Today
While the new technology trends are creating exciting guest experiences, they are also creating challenges for the IT network infrastructure. And these challenges come in a number of forms – whether it’s supporting increased customer engagement with in-venue technologies that have high bandwidth demands, to ensuring high performance and quality-of-service for real-time applications such as voice, video and unified communications, all the time while being PCI-DSS compliant, alongside other relevant regulations.
What all of these types of challenges have in common is that they must be done across hundreds and even thousands of locations spanning vast geographical regions. Yet the connective element that brings everything together for the hospitality industry – the wide area network (WAN) – is now too complex, too expensive, and frankly, too outdated to support the challenges and opportunities that come from digital transformation.
The fact is, the network of the past two decades won’t take these businesses into the future. A new approach to the WAN in hospitality environments is required – a virtualised cloud-based approach.
The Power of SD-WAN and the Virtual Cloud Network
As hospitality organisations are embarking on digital transformation to create better experiences for guests, partners, and employees, and drive better business outcomes. Building a Virtual Cloud Network will enable organisations to connect, secure, and optimise the delivery of applications and data in an era when a majority of workloads exist outside the data centre. With a Virtual Cloud Network, hospitality organisations can create an end-to-end software-based network architecture delivers services to applications and data wherever they are located at global scale from edge to edge, with consistent, pervasive connectivity and security
Software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) technology is key to creating a Virtual Cloud Network by greatly simplifying the networking infrastructure that is essential to today’s hospitality enterprise. SD-WAN is an overlay network that runs on top of an enterprise’s existing infrastructure. While there are various types of SD-WAN solutions, cloud delivered SD-WAN provides the most benefits for the industry including:
- More bandwidth, lower cost – eliminate over dependence on expensive multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) private lines in favour of other, more efficient transport methods, including high-speed broadband and cellular long-term evolution (LTE). Any combination of transport methods can be utilised, giving hospitality locations the flexibility to add more bandwidth to support more applications at a lower cost.
- Connected in minutes – zero-touch deployments involve shipping an edge device to the location and simply plugging it in. The device retrieves and self-installs configurations from a central orchestrator and is up and running almost instantly. This brings the entire venue onto the network with the capabilities defined by a pre-determined central policy—with no visit required from an IT expert.
- Outcome Driven – assures application performance regardless of the transport mechanism by monitoring for conditions like brownout, packet loss, or jitter and steering traffic dynamically across the available connections to optimize an application’s performance—even for voice and video.
- Cloud-Optimized – provides a direct on ramp to the cloud from all locations, eliminating need to backhaul traffic to a central data centre before going to cloud applications. Cloud-based gateways ensure reliability, performance, and security for all cloud-bound traffic, regardless of where it originates, ensuring prompt and secure access to POS and other software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications in the cloud.
- Secure transactions – isolates traffic from the branch all the way into the data centre according to policies, such as keeping all payment transactions completely separate from other traffic, as PCI requires. Additional security like next-generation firewalls and advanced threat detection can be added as cloud-based network functions when needed.
- Time saving operations – managed and monitored enterprise-wide from a central location through a cloud-based orchestrator, providing deep visibility and control over what is happening at the local stores without having to position IT specialists in those locations.
Networking for the Next 20 Years of Hospitality
The future of networking is software, and the network of the future is the Virtual Cloud Network. SD-WAN and the Virtual Cloud will enable organisations in the hospitality industry to create a digital business fabric for connecting and securing applications, data, and users across the entire network in a hyper-distributed world. By deploying and implementing cloud-delivered SD-WAN, organisations can simplify networking and WAN management, optimise cloud access from all locations, assure high performance for even the most demanding applications, and enforce security and compliance across the network. Ultimately this will lead to the type of business outcomes that sit at the heart of digital transformation in the hospitality industry.