Saudi interior ministry goes for new Sphere system

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of the Interior (MoI) has adopted a new network management system from Dubai startup Sphere Networks, which will cover up to 25,000 nodes.

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By  Eliot Beer Published  December 24, 2006

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of the Interior (MoI) has adopted a new network management system from Dubai startup Sphere Networks, which will cover up to 25,000 nodes. The Ministry has deployed the system to manage the network infrastructure in its public security division, which is responsible for a number of security functions within Saudi Arabia, including the newly-drafted cybercrime laws. It will also be taking on additional forensic operations to tackle electronic crime. “Using Sphere’s software we can monitor all the nodes we’re using – thousands of nodes,” said Dr Abdulrahman Al-Shenaifi, senior advisor on IT and security to the MoI. “It has a command and control system built into it which allows network administrators to really look at all the activities in the network arena. It does this in an advanced way, but a manageable way – because networks are a complex phenomena.” Al-Shenaifi said the system would cover around 10,000 nodes within the next few months, and up to 25,000 nodes within a few years, as the public security division expands. Neither Sphere or the MoI were able to release details of the cost of the project, but Mohamed Hamedi, CEO of Sphere, stated it was in the “hundreds of thousands” of dollars, including training and deployment. “The solution had to be able to handle different vendors – mainly HP ProCurve and Cisco – and it needed to scale, to go over 10,000 nodes,” said Hamedi. “It needed to be flexible; they need to be able to manage other things through the system – they want to deploy security and traffic management – they wanted one single window to manage the network.” Sphere’s partner Saudi Computer Specialists (SCS) implemented the system in mid-November; currently MoI staff are being trained to use the system with trips to Sphere’s Dubai head-quarters. Al-Shenaifi explained why the MoI chose Sphere’s solution: “The software is really dynamic, and it’s a friend to the network administrators – it gives us a ‘fish-eye’ view, looking at the whole networks, because it’s related to nodal analysis.” “When we compare Sphere to other brands, we find it to be very user-friendly. I find it very sophisticated yet simple to manage.” He added that the software allowed IT administrators to do more effective analysis of how the network is functioning. It also allows the organisation to manage a number of remote sites from one central network operations centre (NOC). “The MoI wanted something that was light and fast, and that they could get up to speed quickly – they don’t want to send people away for months of training and have to have a really highly technical staff to manage the system,” commented Hamedi. “The time to functionality had to be very short.” Sphere has built up some success in the region with its network management offering, which it says is more flexible and effective than more established offerings from HP and other major vendors. Sphere CEO Hamedi also hinted the company may be on the verge of a number of larger deals outside the Middle East.

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