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Huawei partners with Dubai Airports to build a smart airport

Dec 12, 2017

The giant along the maritime Silk Road

A cargo vessel loaded with commodities manufactured in China departed from Shenzhen for Dubai, a city on the southeast coast of the Arabian Gulf and an important stop on the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. The commodities were mainly sci-tech products like computers and mobile phones, rather than the silk, chinaware, and tea exported to countries and regions along the ancient Silk Road centuries ago. There were also several containers with the Huawei logo loaded on the vessel. They carried Huawei's prefabricated modular data center inside. After a six-week voyage, the vessel arrived at Jebel Ali Port in Dubai, the world's seventh largest container port. Very early the next morning, the cargo and containers were unloaded and shipped to the final destination — the data center construction site near Dubai International (DXB) Terminal 2. Technicians and engineers from Dubai Airports, Huawei, and Huawei's partner ALEC, had long been expecting the prefabricated modular data center and had been making preparations over the past four months. 

This was, in fact, a very challenging data center project. Driven by rapid business growth, the eternal pursuit of a better passenger experience, and increasing requirements on green solutions and energy conservation, data centers emerged as an important part of Dubai Airports' digital transformation. Dubai Airports had several data centers from different vendors, complicated management, and limited cooling capacity. A new data center, therefore, needed to be built to further expand airport services and consolidate the services of the legacy data centers. The new data center was designed to have 100 service cabinets, with up to 10 kW/rack in a single cabinet. To ensure high reliability, Dubai Airports expected to build the world's first Modular Data Center Complex (MDCC) within a year, which will be certified by the Uptime Institute to Tier III for design and construction. The 10 kW/rack power density requirement plus the extremely high temperatures in Dubai created great challenges with respect to heat dissipation; however, an appropriate building to house such a large MDCC wasn’t readily available. After thoroughly considering quick deployment, easy capacity expansion, energy conservation, and other important features, Dubai Airports chose Huawei's prefabricated modular data center solution.

Prefabricated modular data center

Huawei's FusionModule1000B prefabricated modular data center solution was adopted to build the new data center for Dubai Airports. The solution consists of 23 container-sized prefabricated modules, equipped with in-row precision air conditioners and highly efficient modular UPS products. The total power reaches 1 MW. To obtain full Tier III certificates from the Uptime Institute for both design and construction, the data center must ensure an availability of 99.98 percent and an annual downtime within 1.6 hours. The project was estimated to be completed in 10 months, meeting Dubai Airports' requirements for quick delivery and addressing the problem of a lack of space for building a traditional data center. The modular data center solution can be built in half the time and at half the cost of a traditional facility. 

Huawei FusionModule1000B adopts a wide range of cutting-edge data center technologies to improve energy efficiency. The variable-frequency in-row air conditioner, highly efficient modular UPS, and aisle containment can reduce the designed power usage effectiveness (PUE) to less than 1.6, which is 30 percent lower than that of a traditional data center. The design is also more adaptable to the intensely hot weather of the Middle East. In addition, Huawei equipped the new data center with the NetEco intelligent management system to simplify O&M and reduce management costs. The size of the prefabricated modules complies with ISO standards. Therefore, the capacity can be easily expanded by adding modules. Compared with traditional data centers, this implements flexible expansion and reduces both engineering costs and the required floor area.

Huawei and Dubai Airports provide a critical infrastructure solution

DXB Plus program

Dubai Airports has planned well to build such a large-scale data center. Since 1960, DXB has grown into the world's number one airport for international passenger traffic and the one of world's largest logistics transfer hub. However, with Expo Dubai 2020 approaching, the airport faces increasing pressure to perform more efficient and smooth operations. The annual passenger traffic of the airport is estimated to increase from 83.6 million in 2016 to 118 million in 2025. To meet rising customer expectations and accommodate ongoing growth in traffic, Dubai Airports has launched the DXB Plus program, which aims to use innovation and technology to increase the hub’s capacity. 

Peter R. Moore, Director of Development (Design) at Dubai Airports commented, "With little room for any further major infrastructure on the airport, Dubai Airports is joining forces with its key stakeholders to design product innovation and operating improvements that will deliver on the sector's ambition and ensure ongoing contributions to Dubai's economy. The focus of DXB Plus is to integrate the sector's efforts to meet airline demand and ensure a world-class customer experience from 'cloud to curb' – vital for delivering unconstrained sector growth."

The MDCC at DXB represents an innovative masterpiece jointly created by Dubai Airports, Huawei, and other players in the ecosystem. The MDCC meets the information infrastructure requirements specified DXB Plus, helping Dubai Airports to achieve stable and efficient operations, as well as digital and cloud-based business over the next ten years. 

Customer experience matters most

As one of the world's most popular airports, it provides upgraded hardware infrastructure and an optimal customer experience. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) conducted a worldwide survey in 2016 to provide suggestions for airports. The survey results show that 64 percent of the respondents prefer to board aircraft using electronic boarding passes on their mobile phones, 39 percent prefer electronic bag tags, and 61 percent expect to track their baggage throughout their journey, similar to the way courier companies allow them to track parcels. Also, 47 percent of the respondents hope the time for baggage drop-off can be limited to between one and three minutes, and 52 percent said their acceptable queuing time at immigration is between 5 and 10 minutes. 

Dubai Airports puts customer experience first with a three-pronged approach: products, operations, and airport infrastructure. In terms of products, based on a deep insight into future trends, behaviors, and expectations of customers, Dubai Airports integrates products and services to deliver a consistent customer experience, and lead the innovation of future products and services that enhance hospitality and meaningful connections. As for operations, Dubai Airports aims to enhance the reliability of airport operations, ensure the cost effective use of existing assets, provide a reliable, resilient, and streamlined process for each customer touch point, and ensure a stress free journey for different customer types. Dubai Airports plans to design and develop its infrastructure and ecosystem based on a customer-first approach, providing sufficient capacity to accommodate sustained airline and operator growth while maintaining the integrity of existing infrastructure.

Dubai Airports is proactively continuing to optimize customer experience in a wide range of aspects, including customer service and processing, baggage and cargo processing, operations, airspace and runways, stands, and infrastructure. Great efforts have been made to provide features such as free Wi-Fi, Smart Gates, data collection and sharing, airport apps, requirement forecasts, asset management and maintenance, and flight punctuality rate management.

Smart Gates are deployed at DXB to speed up passport control procedures, facilitating smooth and swift entry and exit at the airport. A passenger holding an Emirates ID card or a biometric passport can bypass long queues and complete immigration process within seconds. The Smart Gate service saves passengers' time and helps the airport maintain smoother passenger flow. 

New ICT helps build a smart airport 

According to the Societe Internationale de Telecommunications Aeronautiques (SITA), cutting-edge technologies are needed to optimize ICT systems to building a dynamic, efficient, collaborative, and innovative smart airport to accommodate future needs. How can we use new ICT technologies to support smart airport construction? For example, cloud computing and big data make airports more intelligent. Advanced network technologies ensure ubiquitous connections. LTE technologies help provide network coverage over the airports' airspace. IoT supports interconnected and intelligent devices. With these new ICT technologies, all businesses will become digitalized while service levels rise. These goals are inseparable from data storage, transmission, and computing. And they all need data centers. 

After being officially rolled out, the MDCC constructed by Huawei at DXB will carry services that cover almost every aspect of the airport, including flight information and airport operations, passenger transportation and baggage services, connectivity and Internet services, video surveillance, enterprise business operations, and maintenance. Featuring resilience, quick deployment, reliability, energy-conservation, easy maintenance, and cost effectiveness, the MDCC provides powerful support to carry out highly efficient business operations in Dubai Airports. 

Dubai Airports’ CIO said "Technology is key to enhancing our ability to grow, innovate and ultimately enhance the customer experience. At the same time we will improve system reliability across both airports and cut operational costs. "

With all these efforts, Dubai Airports will deliver an optimal customer experience and the highest levels of mobility, sustainability, and opportunities to visitors coming from around the globe to the Expo Dubai 2020, and show them what the world's best smart airport can offer.