When you build a resort hotel with the convention market in mind, building connectivity into the design creates a huge advantage. Proof of this can be seen at Gaylord Palms, the new 1,406-room convention resort hotel in Kissimmee, Fla., which isn't the perfect venue for meetings with heavy connectivity requirements. But it's close.

Like its sibling, Gaylord's Opryland in Nashville, it features vast, glass-enclosed theme areas. But there the obvious similarities end. When it comes to providing voice, data, and video networking and connection to the Internet, Gaylord Palms leaves comparable venues in the dust. When Cisco Systems came to plan a couple of upcoming events, they told Tim Fielding, technology solutions manager at Gaylord Palms, that for the first time they'd be able to leave all their back-end equipment at home — the resort's network would be sufficient. (Gaylord Palms is, as Fielding is quick to point out, “100 percent Cisco-powered.”)

There are about 400 miles of copper and fiber cable at the hotel — enough to reach from Kissimmee to Atlanta — capable of handling up to 4,000 individual circuits. Fielding, a veteran of Lucent's Network Consulting business, has introduced the “standard footprint.” This is an outlet box that is placed on 30-foot centers in the 178,000-square-foot exhibition hall, and about every 10 feet in the hallways and breakout rooms of the 400,000-square-foot convention center. The box has two Category 3 connections for standard phone service, two Category 5e connections for such high-capacity applications as fast Ethernet or VoIP (voice over Internet protocol), and two “ultra” multimode fiber connections that will work as well as single mode does for video, within certain distance limitations. Those preferring wireless connections can be accommodated via the quick installation of 802.11b (“Wi-Fi”) wireless access points. The boxes are positioned in the 61 meeting rooms so that, in most cases, three of four walls can be used as the “front.”

The upshot is that the only limit on the number of computers and peripherals that can be networked are space and the limits of the electrical power grid.

Make Friends with BellSouth

Gaylord Palms has a T3 line on standby, which feeds into the BellSouth network, which in turn hands off to Qwest, the local ISP. And Gaylord Palms is proud of its relationship with BellSouth. While every convention center IS manager has learned the importance of such relationships, Gaylord Palms has formalized them, holding regular meetings with BellSouth engineers. This means that, for example, additional DS-3 (phone or data equivalent to T3) service can be arranged in as little as three weeks.

All 45 Mbps of the hotel's T3 line are allocatable, so groups don't compete for bandwidth with other events — or the hotel's administrative system, which is on a completely separate network.

The Price Is Right

Gaylord Palms also has the ability to build intranets to link the exhibition hall, meeting rooms, and guest rooms. There's no need to worry about overflow at a breakout session — latecomers can watch from their rooms. And the price of network service is definitely right. The hotel charges a flat fee, not a daily fee.

One last surprise: a 362-room, high-end, hotel-within-the-hotel called Emerald Bay. Guest rooms include a free Ethernet connection to the Internet. Be sure you and your attendees bring network cards and RJ45 connectors!

Where's the imperfection? By the time you read this, it may be gone. A strip of floor in the pre-function area of the convention center doesn't have standard footprint boxes. Fielding assures one and all that connectivity will be there ASAP.