Roughly a quarter of restaurant operators (24%) are planning to upgrade or change their network suppliers in 2019, according to findings from Hospitality Technology's 2019 Restaurant Technology Study. In this exclusive Executive Insight, Jeff Bradbury, the senior marketing director, North America for Hughes Network Systems, offers some key features and functionalities that all hospitality operators should keep in mind before making any network upgrades or changes.
How has the proliferation of cloud services in hospitality had an impact on restaurant and hotel networks?
JEFF BRADBURY: Cloud services add to the number and complexity of applications in the hotel and restaurant technology portfolio and impact WAN architecture, requiring networks to go directly from the hotel/restaurant to multiple cloud service providers for best performance. That results in essentially two times the network traffic, as each new application requires a roundtrip to execute an application function: a trip to the cloud and the response back. In addition, these cloud services will run on guest and employee mobile devices – resulting in many more users and devices on the network. Today’s networks must be aware of application performance and be able to adjust, prioritizing critical applications over other network uses to ensure a good end-user experience.
How does this approach help hospitality operators to future-proof networks?
BRADBURY: Bandwidth, agility and security are the cornerstones of a future-proof network. A software-defined approach allows a network to be updated and improved via new software components, allowing for a longer and more robust development path for the network technology. Automation allows the network to adjust to and optimize for changing network capacities, applications and traffic flows.
How do networks need to change to accommodate this increased complexity?
BRADBURY: Networks must deliver consistently available bandwidth. Bandwidth growth has been going up by double-digit annual rates for years and that trend will continue. Networks must also be agile. One of the great benefits of cloud apps is the ability to add new applications or switch to a different application provider very quickly and easily. In combination with the modern “test and fail fast” paradigm, this results in unprecedented pace of change in retail IT. A reliable network should support fast adoption and turnover of applications without the need to reconfigure or rewrite policies for the network for every change.
The proliferation of cloud apps and guest WiFi means Internet access, which creates risk. Hospitality networks require security built in from the ground up, with integrated and centralized policy management and the ability to identify and react to the emergence of a threat, whether originating from the Internet or from a user on the local network.
1. SD-WAN. This offers the ability to apply path control to multiple circuits, routing traffic across the best performing path based on application and session attributes. More than just a back-up circuit, SD-WAN features two circuits operating in conjunction with one another – achieving superior network availability and throughput at a lower cost compared to traditional failover network designs.
2. Application Assurance. While path control is important, equally critical is the ability to measure available bandwidth in real-time and to classify higher and lower priority traffic. Knowing the available bandwidth and the priority of each packet allows the network to apply traffic shaping, fitting the maximum amount of traffic into each pathway possible. The final element of Application Assurance is replication, which duplicates critical traffic and, bandwidth permitting, sends it over both paths to ensure application performance.
3. Security. A Next Gen Firewall (NGFW) and Unified Threat Management (UTM) secure the network edge and sense both internal and external traffic, identifying and addressing every serious threat that could mean a breach, protecting both business and customer data.
4. Zero Touch Configuration (ZTC). This simplifies the deployment, operation and maintenance of the network, getting new locations up and running faster; minimizing the impact to business operations during installation of new technology. A network isn’t truly efficient if a business has to spend enormous time and effort manually creating, maintaining or reworking the network and its policies.