Creating Reliable and Secure WAN Connections for More Cohesive Teamwork


WAN Connections are increasingly becoming a focus in airports. But it isn’t just about creating seamless check-in experiences for customers or allowing them to browse the web while at your airport. While that’s important, it’s also critical to think about another group relying on your network: your own team. Your staff require IT infrastructure that will enable their work—not hold them back.

Unfortunately, without the right infrastructure and infrastructure services, airports will never find the reliability they need. Your IT staff with spend their time on maintenance instead of solving real issues. That’s the environment we saw at Aeroporti di Puglia in our Bari-Brindisi-Foggia-Grottaglie sites. As IT Manager, it was my job to fix it. Thankfully, solving big problems is why I entered IT in the first place.

It Started with a Passion

My love of technology started with software development in high school. Software development allows you to solve complex problems using nothing more than your brain. Sometimes, you’re creating something out of nothing. Other times, you’re finding innovative solutions to existing problems. Once I began down that path, I wanted to specialize in development, but soon learned I’d have more career opportunities in IT. 

I went on to study computer science at Università degli Studi di Bari. After school, my first real job was at Aeroporti di Puglia in 2005. I’ve been here ever since. I eventually worked my way up to my current role, IT Manager, in 2008.

Zero Reliability

For a long time at the airport, our WAN network infrastructure was unreliable and not really secure. We simply could not count on our network to stay up when we needed it the most. Our setup was basic routers and switches instead of legitimate IT infrastructure. What we needed was a solid foundation. Our staff deserved better. 

The constant issues with the network meant my team spent a large part of our time simply trying to keep the network up. If it went down, sometime we’d have to locate the router and manually reset it. It felt like the majority our tickets were due to this persisting issue. Our department fought hard to keep the network up and running, but it seemed like a losing battle. 

Our issues affected internal networks at the airport. This meant vital services like passenger check-ins could be slowed, or even halted. This is the opposite of the experience we hoped to cultivate at our airports. Every misstep is a reason for passengers to avoid your airport. Technology should aid in passenger experience—not take away from it. 

On top of the nuisance to passengers, poor network reliability also hindered our internal processes. Without a solid network, it’s difficult for our staff to effectively do their jobs. Our setup was holding back not only innovation, but even the day-to-day operations. 

A Renewed Focus

At this point, our organization realized a change was necessary. But we couldn’t make the same mistake as before—we needed to rebuild our foundation properly. 

Choose one vendor who can do it all to get IT cohesiveness. @CiscoGateway

A new network solution needed to focus on reliability and security. My team couldn’t continue to spend the majority of our time trying to keep the lights on. But more than that, we also needed to prioritize security. The data passing through our networks is too vital to leave to a second-rate solution. As thing stood, we didn’t even have firewalls in place on WAN connections. 

For our switches and routers, we chose the industry leader: Cisco. We relied on a great deal of Cisco products at our other locations, so it made a lot of sense. We also have turned to Cisco Prime and Cisco ISE to more effectively manage and real time monitor our network. On the security side, we knew we wanted to also go with a Cisco product. It was important for us to have cohesiveness within our IT operations. That’s why we selected the solution we viewed as industry-leading: Cisco FirePOWER

A Running Start

With the help of Cisco partner, we implemented our new solutions. Our objective was to match the standards we had set at our sister airports. The implementation process was painless. Thanks to Cisco and their partner Security Architect, we were able to replace our existing infrastructure in two months. By IT standards, that’s incredibly fast. The process was much quicker than we could have imagined. 

Finding the right partners means an IT implementation doesn’t have to be a nightmare. @CiscoGateway

The upgrade included a couple of FirePOWER firewalls at the edge of each Apulia airport. Due to the simplicity of the system, the entire operation is now managed as one connection through Cisco Prime and Cisco ISE integrated with our directory. For my team, this will mean less administration and more automation. We’ve also put in place an automatic managing of different WAN connections (with different technology and providers) and internet connections that can assure us a logic secure network connection without interruption. 

Less Manual, More Freedom

Overall, our transformation means there is almost no human interaction required if our systems go down. If one network link goes down, our system allows time to find and resolve the issue without any interruption in service. The result is that our employees and passengers will never feel the impact of an outage. That’s the ultimate goal of any IT department. 

When given the chance to rebuild your infrastructure, pounce on the opportunity to do it right. @CiscoGateway

All of this together means that operations in the airport are cohesive. Users never have to wait for access their services. But more than just reliability, all of this information is delivered in a secure way. 

With our new setup in place, I next hope to expand disaster recovery and integration between all of our airports. This will allow a consistent experience—and simpler communication—between airports.

This transformation started with a problem, but we turned that into an opportunity. The good news for others is that our situation isn’t unique. Airports across the world face the same challenge we did. With the right solution and the right team, this may be your time to shine.