MSC Cruises sails year round in the Mediterranean and offers a wide range of seasonal voyages in northern Europe, the Atlantic Ocean, the French Antilles and the Caribbean, South America, South Africa, and other popular destinations. In 2014, the 12 ships in its ultramodern fleet carried about 1.7 million travelers. MSC Cruises is privately-owned, employs about 16,500 people around the world, and has a presence in 45 countries.
Every year, MSC Cruises takes more than 1.5 million travelers on cruises to beautiful holiday spots around the world. In the complex and demanding cruise sector, the company must take advantage of every potential market differentiator. This includes providing reliable, fast Internet access to guests on board its ships. Bandwidth availability issues hindered high-quality service to MSC Cruises’ travelers and occasionally impacted communications.
The company’s long trusted IT partners—Digitaria International SA and NGS Srl—suggested Palo Alto Networks® security solutions could control and optimize traffic to enable better service to guests, and enhance network security. MSC Cruises installed the Palo Alto Networks enterprise security platform and gained control over applications and traffic flow to ensure higher bandwidth for guests and staff along with superior security.
Calm Seas & Reliable Connectivity
When carrying guests to exotic locations, MSC Cruises wants nothing more than smooth sailing. Its goal for the performance of its network is the same. The cruise sector is highly competitive, so it’s important that MSC Cruises provides the best experience possible to the guests and crew of its 12 ships for fun-filled vacations. For today’s cruise ship traveler, part of the quality of the experience includes the ability to get online quickly, and reliably. “Improving onboard connectivity service is an important element in our efforts to expand the recognition of our brand,” says Emilio La Scala, General Manager, MSC Cruises Technical Department. “The experience onboard has to be the best for passengers. It’s a market differentiator to provide good quality Internet access.”
Network Latency on the High Seas
Inconsistent bandwidth availability and a burdensome, costly, IT infrastructure occasionally impacted the journey experienced by MSC’s valued guests. “For connectivity on ships, we balance several satellite links,” says Gennaro Russo, Manager, Communications Department, MSC Cruises Technical Department. “The satellite connections are burdensome to manage, expensive, and there’s often high network latency at sea. We wanted to better manage traffic flows, and shape and optimize bandwidth, to provide the best service.”
MSC Cruises also recognized the need to upgrade network security and keep traffic free from harm. “It’s really important to secure end-to-end network communications from ships to headquarters and offices,” says Salvatore Russo, IT Fleet Supervisor, MSC Cruises Technical Department. “We wanted layer 7 security, the visibility to see malware, application ID, and to define policies to control users, content, and applications. At the time, we also didn’t have the tools to see into the network to gather information and take steps to make ourselves safer.”
MSC Cruises always strives for the highest levels of service and security at all times. It felt that its previous infrastructure could no longer deliver what the company needed. “We had proxy servers and all the IT infrastructure was managed manually,” says Russo. “It was cumbersome and resource hungry to manage everything. When we signed a new SLA for bandwidth service with our provider, the time was right to look for a new IT environment that offered more throughput, bandwidth optimization capabilities, and better security and efficiencies.”
Looking for a Safe Harbor
MSC Cruises began looking at security solutions. “Performance, comprehensive capabilities, throughput, bandwidth control, price, and the cost of deployment were key factors,” says Russo. MSC Cruises’ bandwidth provider, Digitaria International SA, and its long-time IT services partners, NGS Srl, suggested Palo Alto Networks. The enterprise security platform from Palo Alto Networks consists of a Next-Generation Firewall, Threat Intelligence Cloud, and Advanced Endpoint Security. The firewall delivers application, user, and content visibility and control, as well as protection against network-based cyberthreats integrated within the firewall through a purpose-built hardware and software architecture. The Threat Intelligence Cloud provides central intelligence capabilities, as well as automation of the delivery of preventative measures against cyberattacks.
Digitaria International is an IT global service company that develops satellite and electronic media technologies. MSC Cruises relies on Digitaria International for bandwidth for its ships. MSC Cruises also depends on NGS SRL, a technology consultancy that provides design and technical support for specialized network and security needs.
On Board With Modern Security Solution
MSC Cruises looked at competitive products, but were impressed by the performance of the Palo Alto Networks enterprise security platform. “It’s the best security technology based on a next-generation firewall paradigm that we tested, and its integration with a satellite network supporting mobile applications is excellent,” says Russo. “Ships are high-bandwidth users, so we really liked the throughput of Palo Alto Networks, the user interface, visibility, and how it works at the application level, not just with IPs.”
MSC Cruises purchased 24 Palo Alto Networks next-generation PA-200 firewalls, which were deployed by NGS in high availability on cruise ships. Two PA-2050 next-generation firewalls were installed at the firm’s datacenter. “The firewalls are connected to the Internet through a couple of multi-beam satellite networks,” says Russo. “The network provides broadband Internet access for passengers and crew, VoIP, and backs up our core information systems.”
To take advantage of Palo Alto Networks latest innovations in network security, MSC Cruises recently swapped out the PA-200 firewalls for 24 PA-500 firewalls, replaced the PA-2050 with two PA-3020 next-generation firewalls with URL filtering and antivirus, and added a Palo Alto Networks M-100 appliance. For additional protection, it added a subscription to Palo Alto Networks Threat Prevention. Panorama, running on the M-100 appliance, provides centralized management and logging capabilities for MSC Cruises to easily manage all security platforms from one location and interface, and quickly deploy uniform polices to all devices.
The work of MSC Cruises’ IT partners was integral to the success of the project. In a teamwork environment, Digitaria International provided the Palo Alto Networks infrastructure, plus satellite bandwidth as a service, maintenance, helpdesk support, and reports. NGS configured the firewalls to balance the bandwidth from the satellite links, to elevate security, and to improve customer satisfaction with Internet access. “Together, they pointed us towards the best solution and did the engineering and deployment to meet our requirements,” says Russo.
Watertight Security & Connectivity at Sea
The enterprise security platform from Palo Alto Networks enabled MSC Cruises to achieve all of its objectives related to bandwidth optimization, security, IT management, and connectivity for guests and crew. “Thanks to Palo Alto Networks, we control traffic flow and optimize bandwidth for crew and guests to meet their needs very effectively,” says Russo. MSC Cruises now enjoys security at layer 7 and newfound visibility into its network. “We can see applications, users, malware—everything,” says Russo. “The visibility, and Panorama’s collection of all data logs from all devices in one central location, lets us see and monitor everything happening on the network. We have full control of all devices, traffic, bandwidth and access—at sea and onshore.”
Palo Alto Networks solutions are also helping to reduce IT administration headaches for MSC Cruises. “Everything is easy to use and saves time. With just one click on Panorama, we can update all our devices wherever they are,” says Russo. As a result of the comprehensive functionality of the Palo Alto Networks enterprise security platform, MSC Cruises has been able to dispense with all other security devices, consolidate its security infrastructure and improve services to guests on its ships.
This Customer Story is available in Italian.