Voice of Experience: Air Supply

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David Lauderdale, chief technical officer of travel services company Worldspan, says an upgrade of his wireless infrastructure let him reduce the number of access points by 75%.

David Lauderdale
Chief Technical Officer
Atlanta, Ga.

MANAGER'S PROFILE: In charge of data center and network operations for the 2,500-employee travel services company, which reported $944 million in revenue last year.

HIS PROJECT: Over the past two years, Lauderdale has overseen the rollout of wireless access points from Cisco Systems. Today, about 50 Cisco Aironet 1200 units cover 20 floors of Worldspan's five major offices in the U.S. The network lets employees access the Internet, Lotus Notes e-mail, instant messaging and other applications from Worldspan's conference and training rooms and other common areas.

STRONGER STUFF: Worldspan recently upgraded the code in its access points to communicate using the wireless industry's 802.11g specification, letting the equipment transmit data about five times faster than with the older 802.11b standard. The enhanced access points also generate a more powerful signal, Lauderdale says—and that has allowed his team to provide the same level of coverage with 75% fewer units.

UNWIRED RESULTS: Lauderdale says it's tough to quantify the dollar benefits of the project. But he believes the wireless network boosts productivity by extending the reach of applications on the wired network. "We didn't build this based on a return-on-investment model," he says. "We built it based on convenience. The feedback we get from employees is that there's a ton of value from the wireless network."

LETTING OUTSIDERS IN: Initially, Lauderdale and his team assumed that only Worldspan's employees would be using the wireless network. Soon enough, though, suppliers and partners who came in for meetings requested access as well. To maintain security, Lauderdale established two physically separate wireless networks: an internal one, which uses strong wireless encryption standards to keep employees' data private, and an open one for accessing the Internet. "You have to provide a public wireless network for vendors and other visitors," he says. "We learned that as an afterthought."

This article was originally published on 2005-06-10
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