Striking Gold in Vegas with Homegrown IT Infrastructure

Sale of Golden Nugget casinos and hotels calls for technology handoff as Poster Financial develops its own IT infrastructure for the hotels' and casinos' applications and data.

When Poster Financial Group Inc. bought the famous Golden Nugget casinos and hotels in January, it hit the jackpot. For its $215 million purchase, the company got more than 70,000 square feet of gambling space, more than 2,200 slot machines, about 70 gaming tables, 2,200-plus hotel rooms, 4,000 employees, and various nightclubs and restaurants.

But what it didnt get was an IT infrastructure.

Under Golden Nuggets previous owners, MGM Mirage Inc., all the applications and data from its two locations—in Las Vegas and in Laughlin, Nev.—resided in MGMs data center in Las Vegas. For the deal to go through, a technology handoff was needed.

A transitional services agreement was agreed to, whereby MGM Mirage would continue to act as Golden Nuggets data center for 18 months. In the meantime, Poster Financial would build its own IT infrastructure onto which it would port all of the hotels and casinos applications and data.

Enter Dan Ives, who was hired in December by Poster Financial, of Las Vegas, prior to the closing of the acquisition to orchestrate the IT overhaul and construction. As the newly appointed vice president and CIO of Golden Nugget Group Inc., Ives had a full plate. One thing needed was an IT staff, which he assembled, quickly building an eight-person IT team. Another task was more complicated: to build a data center from scratch while keeping the casinos up and running.

"Its basically changing the wheels on a bus while the bus is still in operation," Ives said. "One of our primary goals is to get everything working and not have it break. Everything has to move cleanly while we keep running."

But Ives wasnt going to have to go it alone. Last fall, while preparing for the final stages of the acquisition, Poster Financial brought in Sirius Computer Solutions Inc., for added technical support.

"The key thing [Poster Financial wanted from a partner] was reliability," said Russ Thompson, senior account executive at Sirius, in Irvine, Calif. "They emphasized this over and over again. They could not afford downtime."

Another advantage in turning to an SI (systems integrator) over the main vendor is typically a cheaper price tag, said Ives. He estimated that the projects cost will be significantly less than what it would have been had Golden Nugget gone directly through IBM or IBMs Global Services group.

SIs also typically offer a depth of expertise. Larger integrators such as Sirius have technicians skilled in every aspect of IBM technology—from its servers to its storage to its software—and can bring in outside help if an issue they cant handle arises, Ives said.

Relying on his past experiences as an IBM sales representative for eight years and as the founder of two systems integration companies, Ives decided to standardize the new infrastructure on IBM technology. And after a series of meetings that included Sirius, Golden Nugget and IBM, a plan of attack was developed, centering on IBM hardware.

Since the completion of the acquisition just more than three months ago, Golden Nugget has been equipped with a number of IBMs Intel Corp.-based xSeries 365 systems and BladeCenter blade servers. The machines will take on the bulk of the companys Web-based work, from running Microsoft Corp.s Active Directory application to the companys Internet, extranet and e-mail functions. It will also run its new slot machine management system, Ives said.

Down the road, Ives plans to bring in more servers from IBM—possibly some iSeries systems.

As the various pieces of the infrastructure are put in place, Golden Nugget will port the applications and data from the MGM data center onto the new systems.

If all goes according to plan, Golden Nugget will have the new infrastructure up and running well before the 18-month deadline, Ives said.

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