Las Vegas' M Resort Wins A Triple Play With A Brocade IP Network

M Resort, one of Las Vegas' newest resorts, has networked everything--slot machines, guest room door locks, mini-bars, VoIP phones, PCs, even a prescription-dispensing robot in the resort's pharmacy--on an all-IP network that consolidates voice, video and data. The triple-play IP network, which consists of IP switches and routers from Brocade, provides M Resort with across-the-board flexibility, says Rob Willis, VP of Information Technology.

December 22, 2009

5 Min Read
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M Resort, one of Las Vegas' newest resorts, has networked everything--slot machines, guest room door locks, mini-bars, VoIP phones, PCs, even a prescription-dispensing robot in the resort's pharmacy--on an all-IP network that consolidates voice, video and data. The triple-play IP network, which consists of IP switches and routers from Brocade, provides M Resort with across-the-board flexibility, says Rob Willis, VP of Information Technology.

The M Resort, which opened its doors last March, is situated on more than 90 acres on the southern end of the Las Vegas Strip. The resort has more than 92,000 square feet of gaming, nine dining outlets, a 23,000 square foot spa, salon and exercise area and more than 60,000 square feet of meeting and conference space. "If you get down to the facts, with an IP network, a network jack becomes ambiguous. Anything can be managed, connected, monitored, once you take out all the layers." That flexibility has enabled the M Resort to network all the locks on its guest doors, using wireless technology. The resort has connected Zigbee controllers to its IP network, used to wirelessly manage all the doors' locks on the property. ZigBee is a wireless communication standard based on the IEEE 802.15.4 wireless for mesh networking. "If a person, or a group of people, needs to get into a conference room, we don't have to send anyone up to that room to unlock it," Willis says.

The IP network also supports more than 5000 IP ports to the gaming and gambling areas, where there are more than 1,900 IP-enabled slot machines. It's here that the high-speed, triple-play network will really be put to use. For now, M Resort can push data over the network and out devices embedded into the gaming machines so guests can check their balances or receive promotional coupons, such as free play. The resort also offers guests networked handheld devices they can use at the table games, slot machines, and to bet on sports and horseracing. In the first quarter, M Resort plans to use the network to "re-skin" the games--to change the games as needed to tailor offerings for specific guests or times. "The slot machines are basically high-end computers, and now we'll actually be able to take that machine and re-skin it to a different type of game, depending on the customers. For example, our mid-week customers are local and more often like card-type games. But the weekend customer wants something more akin to a video game that's highly graphic," says Willis.

Most casinos, even top-of-the-line casinos, still rely on serial connections, according to Willis. Changing out games on all the slot machines would take days via serial connections, but only takes minutes using M Resort's Brocade IP network, he says. The resort even networked more than 75 digital signage monitors around the resort, including digital monitors on the various elevators. Now, they can instantly push messages and more out to the digital signs throughout the property. For the most part, Willis says the guests' response to the high-tech, high-wired resort and casino has been subtle, but that's because the networking capability does what its supposed to do: deliveres top-notch services and features to guests when and where they want it. "The network is so understated, they don't even know its there. And that is fine," Willis says.

The network's foundation consists of Brocade's FastIron GS Series of switches and NetIron MLX Series of routers. The FastIron GS switch supports modular upgradability for speeds of up to 10Gb (gigabit) Ethernet and Power over Ethernet (PoE) capability in a 1.5U high form-factor. It features hot-swappable, load-sharing AC and DC power supply options and a variety of security features and automatic healing in case of link or switch failures. The Brocade NetIron MLX routers are built with a fifth-generation, network-processor-based architecture with up to 3.2 terabits per second (Tbps) data capacity (~2 billion pps) per system and Terabit-scale switch fabrics. It supports advanced Layer 2 switching, IPv4, IPv6, multi-protocol label switching (MPLS), and multi-virtual routing and forwarding (VRF) capabilities. According to Harry Petty, Brocade's director of product marketing for campus networks, M Resort is using two NetIron MLX-8s, each of which have six ports ports of 10Gb Ethernet, and those link to M Resort's computer room. The resort also has 67 FastIron GSes, seven of which are connected to the rack switches, and 60 of which are used for PoE and non-PoE ports.The network implementation has been architected to ensure reliability, as well, and leverages Rapid Spanning Tree (RST) protocol, an industry that allows a network design to include spare (redundant) links to provide automatic backup paths if an active link fails, without the danger of bridge loops, or the need for manual enabling/disabling of these backup links. "We have put a lot of eggs in one basket," admits Willis, "but we have built-in instant failover mechanisms in the physical infrastructure," he says. Basically, there are two network rings, one a 10Gb ring and one a 1Gb ring, that link the wiring closets, and each serves as backup to the other. Petty says the topology is that of six stacked FastIron Gb switches, three of which are looped. The NetIron MLX is linked to the first FastIron on the stack, and the third is linked to another NetIron. There is an interswitch link between the two NetIrons. "So you have core to stack to core, and core A and core B are interconnected," Petty says.

What's most impressive, from Petty's perspective, is that M Resort has a high-tech, high-end network that doesn't take much to maintain. "They have saved a lot of money by having one IP network, one cable with everything on it and it isn't so complicated that they need a big staff," he says. "They've got something like 5,000 devices on this converged voice, data and video network and they have two guys managing it. This is the most exotic converged network example I can think of with the gaming devices, the mini-bars, the slot machines--and they've got two guys managing this. So the management must be dead simple."

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