One of Canada’s largest real estate management companies has hired a network infrastructure specialist to handle telecommunications at a downtown Halifax office complex.

Netricom, a division of Calgary-based Axia NetMedia

Corp., is going to manage the network infrastructure at the three building office complex called Purdy’s Wharf, owned by O&Y Enterprise. The project is part of a pilot that will study the feasibility of introducing this type of network management to O&Y Enterprise buildings Canada-wide, executives say.

O&Y Enterprise had been struggling with managing the network infrastructure in their multi-tenant properties, says O&Y Enterprise national telecommunications manager Eric Yapp, largely due to the deregulation in the telecom industry.

“”The introduction of facility-based competition had an enormous effect on building owners,”” says Yapp. “”In a regulated market you just had the incumbent phone company managing the network. Now you had several companies all wanting to keep their equipment in the buildings. They also wanted to pull lots of wires through our buildings. And of course everyone wanted access to our hydro rooms or existing telephone rooms. Trying to keep on top of all of the work that was going on in these rooms became a logistical nightmare.””

The competition creates challenges, agrees Purdy’s Wharf chief building engineer Bill MacNeil.

“”You typically end up in a situation where they will pull a new cable rather than trying to figure out if there may be wires available in an already existing cable,”” he says. “”If you let these companies go at it themselves they will very rapidly use up the space you have available in your risers in a manner that perhaps makes sense for that particular company but does not make sense for the building as a whole.””

Sorting out the riser-room mess can become a real headache for real estate companies, says IDC Canada senior research analyst Lawrence Surtees, especially since they’re generally dealing with an area they don’t have much knowledge about.

O&Y Enterprise wanted help managing the network infrastructure, says Purdy’s Wharf general manager Amber Cox, but wanted to ensure that the company they employed was not a telecom service provider.

“”It was important to us to provide our tenants with equal access to any competitor for any telecommunications requirement that they might have,”” she says. “”Netricom became an obvious choice for us because they are vendor neutral. We did not want to get into an agreement with a company who would look after their own interest ahead of our tenants.””

The decision to be vendor-neural meant it didn’t matter whether the project leaders were hanging telephone systems or computer systems off its cables, says Jim Commeford, vice-president of Netricom. “”We installed a very clean system that has the same installation protocol on every floor,”” he says.

The move to outsourcing network infrastructure management makes financial sense, says Commeford, because enterprises should quickly start noticing savings coming from the reduction of cabling and installation waste.

“”You’re looking at savings that could be up to 50 per cent, depending on what they’re spending on horizontal wiring and moves, adds and changes,”” he says. “”But you’re also saving yourself a lot of headaches. We’ve all worked in a company where our desk moves and we move three days before our phone and computer got to our new spot. Well, if you’ve got a good structure in place that would be a lot smoother.

Not all office building tenants might welcome a third party network manager, even a vendor neutral one, says Surtees.

“”Where you might in the future right into trouble is where you have a tenant who is a very sophisticated business, like Toronto-based Noranda, who have their own networks and want to run it themselves. What do you do in a situation where three or four of your floors are taken up by someone who doesn’t want you to touch their cables?””

So far O&Y Enterprise has not run into any such problems, says Cox.

“”It’s been a very smooth transition. The experience so far has been fantastic.””


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