No more trial and error

INet's deployment of an automated change and confirmation management solution has given the Saudi Arabian managed service provider greater visibility of its network and put it in a position to look at expanding its service offerings. Colin Edwards reports.

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By  Colin Edwards Published  August 31, 2006

Integrated Networks (iNet) the Saudi Arabian managed services provider, has ditched its ad hoc, trial and error approach to tracking and resolving any problems with the thousands of devices it controls on its network and deployed an automated change and confirmation management solution that has improved operational efficiencies by some 70%.

This improvement has been achieved by being able to cut, for example, outages caused by unauthorised infrastructure changes.

The deployment also ensures iNet achieves global compliancy standards in network control and change management.

The roll-out of the Voyence solution about six months ago has also given the service provider the control it needs to expand its IPbased network services on a solid footing especially in the areas of vertical and value-added solutions.

Prior to the Voyence installation, "it was all done through trial and error. In some cases, it would take several hours to isolate the problem.

The engineer would have to access our knowledge base and look for similarities and common problem issues in order to find the root cause of a configuration malfunction," says Zakir Nasser, technology operations manager at iNet.

iNet integrated VoyenceControl NG into its existing EMC Smarts management platform giving its engineers the ability to identity the root cause of faulty switches and routers with EMC Smarts, then peer deep into the device's configuration with VoyenceControl NG to correct flawed configurations or reconcile non-compliant changes.

"The catalyst to implementing Voyence was the launch of our managed service suite whereby, in addition to managing our own network, we also manage customers' environments. In order to deliver on that properly we had to manage and control our infrastructure," says Waseem Bashiti, director of business development and operations at iNet.

One of those customers is the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA), with iNet authorised to operate its Electronic Funds Transfer network. This contract made IT compliancy a pre-requisite for iNet, which is licensed by KSA’s Communication and Information Technology Commission to offer network operation centre managed services and internet services.

"Standards compliancy had been on our radar screen for a while, but our appointment by SAMA to build, operate, manage and maintain an EFT at point of sale network in Saudi Arabia, was a key contributor to the final decision. There is an inherent requirement to comply with stringent VISA, MasterCard and Euromoney standards to run an IP network for the payment industry," says Bashiti.

“Last year more than 44,000 point of sale devices generated nearly 40 million transactions, amounting to 17 billion riyals, so you can imagine how robust and reliable our network needs to be,” he adds.

"Standards compliancy had been on our radar screen for a while, but our appointment to run the SAMA network was the main contributor to the final decision."

But he stresses that it is not the technology per se that delivers on this compliance. It is the processes that are put into place to ensure proper controls are implemented.

"You can deploy VoyenceControl NG, but it's not going to do the job for you on its own. You still need to do some processes around it. So, in parallel with the deployment we did a major exercise of putting in place the processes. It's not just about technology of Voyence. It's about Voyence, the skills and capabilities we have, coupled with the processes that have been drafted.”

Getting the processes right has meant that iNet can now focus on expanding its managed services offerings, the first of which were rolled out in July this year when it started providing customised, valueadded ICT solutions to corporate enterprises and businesses. iNet currently operates 65 points of presence, Kingdom-wide. It is looking to provide more vertical services especially for the financial sector.

"ITIL has become popular as a proven technology method for going about your business. Customers are more comfortable dealing with a provider whose processes are inspired by ITIL. Providers with no policies or approach for implementing device changes or no proper guideline procedures for changing the core infrastructure, is bound to experience problems," says Nasser.

Driving much of the recent high demand for iNet's managed services has been the expansion of KSA’s commercial buildng sector.

Bashiti says there is a growing trend among the business tenants of these new buildings to look for managed services. "Customers are realising the need to focus on core services of their organisation; they are not equipped to manage hundreds of nodes and multi carrier connections," he says.

"Now, they are more inclined to acquire our infrastructure, carrier and provider management services to ensure and improve the availability and reliability of their enterprise systems and communications resources. This is achieved through the ability to inform them ahead of time about adverse data trends and high or irregular traffic patterns, as well as the quick identification of rootcauses of system outages and failures," he adds.

It was to support, monitor and manage their customers' services, that iNet deployed Voyence. "With VoyenceControl NG, we are able to stay on top of things by constantly monitoring our internal infrastructure along with customer on-site networks. This allows us to isolate, identify and mediate faults in a very systematic, fast manner - putting our customers in the comfort zone."

Voyence is marketed and supported by Ejada in Saudi Arabia, and Forbes Logicom and Equinox in Dubai. In June this year it struck an OEM deal with HP whereby the HP OpenView Network Configuration Manager solution integrates Voyence technology to extend change, configuration and release management processes to devices such as routers, hubs and switches - regardless of device manufacturer.

"Voyence is gaining rapid traction for network operations deployments within the service provider and banking verticals in the Middle East thanks to our focus on channel driven business development," says Steve Vaile, vice president,Voyence EMEA and APAC.

"Our systems integration partners and resellers are using the product to generate a significant revenue stream and most importantly our customers are reaping the rewards of reduced operational costs and improved quality of service delivery," he adds.

"iNet is so advanced in its thinking that I view it as one of the companies that will lead the way in delivering new added-value IP communications services in the region," concludes Vaile.

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