Arabian Computer News' Site Diary 2000

ACN's exclusive Site Diary reviews all of the major installations and technology developments for the Middle East's major organisations during 2000.

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By  Greg Wilson Published  January 2, 2001

Jan – June 2000|~||~||~|JANUARY 2000
" Gulf Shipchandlers
UAE based Gulf Shipchandlers opted to roll out Insyst’s locally developed Orion ERP package, right at the start of the year. The company expects Orion to help it significantly improve its operational processes, particularly in terms of handling the large amount of inventory that it has to deal with regularly.

“Ship chandelling is a very specific type of business activity,” said Behram Kapadia, executive director, Shipchandlers. “It requires a great deal of versatility and flexibility and it therefore requires certain tailor made programmes to make the system work.”

" Saudia
Saudi Arabian Airlines unveiled its plans to deliver full Arabic support on its Web site by the summer of 2001. The airline has signed a one-year contract with local ISP @net, to develop, host and support the site for SAA. The airline is planning to offer services via the Web such as dynamic flight information, online ticket sales and reservations.

FEBRUARY 2000
" Batelco
Batelco invested heavily at the start of the year to deliver increased bandwidth to Bahrain’s business and domestic users, following the signing of a contract with Marconi Communications.

The synchronous digital hierarchy (SDH) project includes STM4 and STM16 addi-drop multiplexers, additional cross-connects and enhancements to the SDH management system.

" Misrfone
Egyptian GSM operator Misrfone struck a deal for the delivery of a high end solution based around Compaq’s Alpha technologies. The deal meant Compaq provided the telcom company with a ‘Home Location Register (HLR)’ and subscriber database system.

The project combined four clustered high-end Compaq Non-Stop Alpha 4100 servers with vertical software developed by Compaq and mobile phone giant, Vodafone. The servers were equipped with high capacity storage devices and a main memory subsystem to ensure maximum uptime and performance.

MARCH 2000
" Arab Bank
As part of an extensive business process re-engineering project, Arab Bank chose NCR to implement a new networking infrastructure based on Cisco technology in order to respond to changes in the bank’s growing global business.

As part of the $600,000 contract, NCR implemented the new global network for Arab Bank to improve connectivity between its worldwide branches. It also supported the rapid change in multimedia and data exchange requirements.

" Dubai Investments
To cope with a planned expansion of its consumer business, Dubai Investments deployed Baan’s suite of enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications in two of its subsidiary companies; United Sales Partners (USP) and Marmum Dairy Farm.

The company adopted a ‘big bang’ approach for the financials/sales marketing modules. The project was scheduled for completion in April.

" EMKE Group
EMKE Group deployed Netware 5, Novell Directory Services (NDS) and Z.E.N. Works to keep pace with the company’s rapid growth and enhance the management of its diverse IT environment.

The project brought the company’s logistics nightmare of over 20 Compaq servers and other hardware, applications, a 9000 strong workforce, and over 38 separate local area networks (LANs) throughout the Gulf, Far East and Africa, under control.

“Netware 5 offered us a number of advantages,” said M.S. Madhava Rao, IT manager, EMKE Group. “We could protect our investment in our COBOL/FoxPro applications, we could enhance our network management with NDS…and run our whole network on IP.”

The IP based network enabled EMKE to transparently run Oracle applications across the entire group in real time.

" Etisalat
Etisalat revealed plans that it had been working on an electronic customer register of all its customer records. The initial phase had basically been a huge document scanning job, which began in February 1998, and conducted in six service bureaus throughout the UAE.

The massive task of scanning the PTT’s massive volume of documentation marked the first step towards a comprehensive knowledge management solution for the whole Etisalat customer base.

Between February ‘98 and March, a 172-man team had scanned and converted 2,815,006 files to a duplex tiff format.

To cope with such a high volume of work, Etisalat turned to ForeFront Technologies, which delivered 20 Fujitsu 3097 and 3099 scanners. The solution ran on a collection of Compaq hardware, and was put together by ITQAN.

" Lebanese Embassy
The Embassy of Lebanon in Abu Dhabi implemented a workgroup solution to automate its business processes. The system, based on Compaq hardware is designed to increase both the speed and accuracy of the embassy’s work.

The embassy, which is responsible for around 32,000 Lebanese and a further 20,000 Palestinians with Lebanese documents, has now started transferring its paperwork to an electronic format.

The embassy effectively outsourced the entire project to Compaq resellers Mideast Data Systems (MDS).

" Riyad Bank
Riyad Bank rolled out the Systematic deposit and loan system from Alltel, as a key component in the bank’s core banking system upgrade.

The project is part of the 190-branch bank’s ongoing effort to improve its core banking systems through the addition of greater functionality, processing power, as well as system and data management capabilities.

By the tail end of the year, the Saudi bank also signed a contract with Brokat. The Twister project, which has only just begun, will provide the platform for Riyad Bank’s Internet services.

APRIL 2000
" Al Chark
Egypt-based Al Chark Insurance, has been deploying a voice/data network for most of last year, based on Frame Relay technology from Motorola.

The project initially connected 500 users on a cross-country voice/data wide area network (WAN). By the time the project is completed it’s expected to connect a further 2500 users.

“We’re using the network to enhance personal connectivity between our computer centres and branch offices,” said Dr Eng. El Sayed El Sakka, chief executive for IT, Al Chark Insurance.

“By improving connectivity we’re making an impact on the business as a whole. [We’re] cutting expenditure, administration costs and creating availability of online information to serve our customers,” said El Sakka.

Eventually the network will connect all the company’s numerous branches throughout Egypt.

At the heart of the insurance company’s networking project is the deployment of Frame Relay Motorola 6560 routers, Vanguard 3555 DB, Vanguard 24 switches and two 6520 routers at the head office.

" Al Mansoori
Al Mansoori has scrapped its old internally developed software in favour of an integrated solution. The problems and costs generated by their ‘buggy’ software prompted the Abu Dhabi based company to migrate to Sage’s CS/3 to handle its financials and distribution business.

" HSBC
HSBC began installation of its internally developed HSBC Universal Banking Workstation Software (HWS) across eight countries in the region.

The OS/2 based software runs the bank’s ‘customer facing’ transaction systems, such as deposits, withdrawals and other services, all integrated with HSBC’s backend systems. The project is part of a global upgrade project of HSBC’s IT infrastructure.

MAY 2000
" Al Rhaji Bank
Al Rhaji Bank completes its two year rollout of HP hardware across its 360 branches in Saudi Arabia.

The project included the deployment of 360 servers and over 4000 workstations, to run the bank’s core branch banking systems and office automation software.

Al Rhaji’s hardware investment is running Windows NT, at the server and workstation level. The bank was also expected to conduct a major overhaul of its Kingdom-wide WAN.

Al Rhaji Bank decided to standardise on Cisco kit and use HP’s OpenView to manage the network.

" ENCO
ENOC invested heavily during the last 12 months to consolidate its IT infrastructure across its multiple site organisation.

The project has included the implementation of Oracle Financials to streamline the organisations accounting practices across its multiple business divisions.

The Financials applications sit alongside ENOC’s own home grown sales processing system, both of which are supported by a sales analyser, that is designed to enable senior management to view transactions.

" Petrochem
Petrochem Middle East was one of the initial sites in the region to go live with Win 2000 Server Edition.

The OS project enabled the company to centrally run and manage its mission critical POPS – Petrochem Order Processing System – between the company’s two sites in Dubai and Jebel Ali.

The UAE based chemical distribution operation invested in a Pentium III 500 MHz HP LC3 server with 512 Mbytes of RAM, which has resulted in a lower total cost of ownership.

" STC
Saudi Telecommunications Company (STC) outsourced the entire operation and maintenance of its internal IP-based data networks throughout the Kingdom, to Gulf Stars Technology (GST).

The two-year contract covers all of STC’s TEP-6 network infrastructure as well as existing and future non TEP-6 networks. Gulf Stars technical team will be responsible for all aspects of the data network, from the series of Cisco switches and routers, the NT operating system, desktops and even the printers.

GST relies on a combination of Microsoft’s Systems Management Server and HP’s OpenView to bring control to the Kingdom-wide network.

JUNE 2000
" ADCO
The Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Oil Operation (ADCO) gave every employee mission critical information at their fingertips, due to a massive networking project.

The ATM network was installed with Marconi switches by Alpha Data. ADCO decided that it needed a scalable network infrastructure to deploy Windows NT client/server applications, Web browsing, e-mail and videoconferencing to the desktop.

Another aim was to connect its headquarters in Abu Dhabi with remote oil fields in the desert via ATM over E1 WAN links.

“We are now at the tail end of our migration from mainframe to client/server,” said Harold Grayson, head of IT planning and strategy. “We will be taking on a series of new business process improvements such as; improved document management: where we can consolidate index managed documents and move away from paper based [processes].”

" IPA
Saudi’s Institute of Administration (IPA) has migrated its 11-year-old mainframe towards a client/server environment, dramatically reducing its total cost of ownership.

The migration is part of the agency’s five-year plan to enhance the institute’s computing environment. Many users needed greater computing power than they were getting from the previous ‘green-screen’ dumb terminal environment.

“It was going to cost too much to keep the mainframe and [users] were keen to have PCs in their offices,” said Ahmad Al Ruwaisan, director general of computer centre, IPA.
||**||July – Dec 2000|~||~||~|JULY 2000
" Al Fransi Bank
Saudi financial giant, Al Bank Al Saudi Al Fransi struck a deal with System Access for the implementation of NetSymbols, a core banking application suite.

The bank deployed the package primarily to consolidate information from its different departments.

The initial phase of the project delived a cash accounts management system, including modules to address customer information, deposits management, Nostro Vostro accounting, limit management, and a general ledger.

A key factor in the decision to go with NetSymbols was that the package could run across multiple platforms using various languages, databases and protocols.

" Dubai Municipality
Dubai Municipality took another step towards HH Sheikh Mohammed’s vision of complete Internet-enabled government, with the launch of an online service for healthcard applications. The e-Clinic system allows fully automated applications for healthcards over the Internet.

The municipality anticipates this will improve the speed, quality and efficiency of the application process.

" Hyatt Regency
The Dubai Hyatt Regency turned to Novell to aid the management and security of its network.

The hotel has deployed Novell Directory Services (NDS), ZENworks and BorderManager 3.5 to set up a login on their business centre PCs to restrict what services guests can use on the PCs. The move also eases the security issues the Hyatt faced where the business centre was on a public access environment.

" NBD
National Bank of Dubai (NBD) unveiled National Bank Paynet, a new service based around Comtrust technology, which is available to all merchants in the UAE.

The solution allows merchants to set up an Internet presence and to process credit card payments online. Towards the end of the year, NBD also developed and rolled out Web enabled customer terminals.

AUGUST 2000
" Al Juffali.com
Al Juffali deployed IBM’s WebSphere software platform to help build the company’s electronic mall.

Working with Saudi Business Machines (SBM), both on the technical side and as the mall’s ISP, the Saudi-based retailing organisation began reengineering its business processes for the Web.

“We’ve discovered that 50% of building an e-commerce site was on the content management and provision side. The other 50% involved business re-engineering issues,” said Jamil Al Emad, IT manager for Al Juffali.com.

“The WebSphere environment helped us build a single framework, which we can use to launch new businesses on the Web with minimum effort.” Al Jufali’s site is based on IBM’s DB2.

" DIB
Dubai Islamic Bank struck a deal with Compaq to upgrade the bank’s core backend servers and ultimately enable online banking services this year.

The bank turned to International Turnkey Solutions (ITS) to implement the project. The first part of the project will be the migration of the banks systems to Compaq NonStop Himalaya S7000 servers.

" NSGB
National Societe Generale Bank (NSGB) expanded its short messaging service (SMS) mobile banking services at the end of last year.

In May, the Egyptian bank launched it’s Porta Bank SMS banking service, enabling customers to request account balance information, closing Cairo Stock Exchange rates, and recent account transactions.

The bank has further plans to introduce WAP services.

" YCC
Yanbu Cement Company (YCC) enhanced the management and security of its IT infrastructure, with the deployment of Windows 2000 at both the server and the desktop.

The company's beta environment proved to be a vital training ground, enabling YCC's technical staff to get clued up on W2K.

The company also sent several people for training on the system's more advanced management and security features. YCC also needed to upgrade the memory of their desktops to get the best out of W2K Professional Edition.

SEPTEMBER 2000
" Al Hawani
Al Hawani Brothers completed a company-wide enterprise resource planning (ERP) project in order to cut costs and streamline its business processes over its sprawling operation.

The project was rolled out quickly following IFS’ rapid implementation methodology (RIM).

" Al Ghurair
Al Ghurair City, deployed JD Edwards enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution to maximise their efficiency, bring greater control to their resources and streamline their business processes.

By the end of the year the property management and development company plan to extend the rollout of OneWorld to two of its other sister companies.

" KEMYA
Faced with a rapidly expanding client/server environment Saudi based KEMYA (Al Jubail Petrochemical Company) deployed CA’s Unicentre TNG in just six months.

The SABIC affiliate, had transformed its IT environment to keep pace, with the company’s explosive growth over the last year.

Under the watchful eye of the company’s IT manager, Imad Al Mubaid, KEMYA migrated from its ageing mainframe set-up to a client/server LAN, which then consisted of 600 PCs scattered over multiple sites, resulting in several management headaches for the IT team.

OCTOBER 2000
" Arab Bank
Arab Bank in Jordan took its retail banking services online in order to cut its ‘over the counter,’ transaction charges, increase efficiency and grow its customer base.

The solution was based around Brokat’s Twister middleware platform.

" E-government in Bahrain
As part of Bahrain’s e-country drive, several ministries within the island’s government began or completed extensive ERP projects.

Mid-way through the year, the Ministry of Finance and National Economy (MoFNE) brought to a close its two year implementation of Oracle Financials, which included 30 separate implementations within the government’s ministries.

The project came in on time, and on budget, despite interrupting the rollout to cope with an upgrade to version 10.7.

Towards the later half of the year, Bahrain’s Civil Service Bureau entered the final stages of planning for its rollout of Oracle’s Human Resources Management System.

When completed the system will deal with all enquiries related to human resources, payroll, recruitment and training electronically via the Government Data Network.

" E-government in Qatar
Qatar’s Central Bank and Ministry of the Interior took the work permit renewal process online in Qatar in just 63 days.

In conjunction with Qatar’s ten largest employers, the Immigration Department has created a portal to enable these companies to dial into the Immigration Department and fill out the necessary documentation themselves.

Once the data has been entered on the system, the passport is dispatched to the General Post Office, where the new residence permit is printed on the passport. Under the new project, the turnover time is reduced to just two days.

The project was based on Sun hardware, a database from Oracle and Brokat’s Twister platform.

NOVEMBER 2000
" ABN Amro
ABN Amro Bank announced the introduction of its Smart Visa card through its three branches in the UAE.

The dual-purpose card has both a magnetic strip and an embedded chip, offering enhanced security. Passwords and other details can be stored on the cards, delivering an additional layer of security and reducing the risk of credit card fraud.

" Cellis
Cellis began a major investment in customer services, with its management centre project.

The Lebanese GSM service provider is still in the process of deploying a Genesys CTI call centre together with a project to install a customer relationship management (CRM) solution from Siebel.

“We’re going to be installing both systems at the same time…the project should be finished by the end of [2001],” said Mickael Lefabvre, manager of IT development department of Cellis’ IT division.

" DIC (Dubai Internet City)
To deliver on Sheikh Mohammed’s vision of an e-business hub, the technical team at Dubai Internet City constructed an impressive data centre.

In the space of the last 12 months the DIC team has deployed an open, scalable, future proof infrastructure to deliver services to tenants.

The solution, delivered with help from Siemens Business Services in conjunction with Cisco and Sun Microsystems, has delivered a top-notch voice, video and data network, Internet connectivity and ISP infrastructure.

The solution also has to offer both flexibility and scalability to enable DIC to adapt to any of its tenant’s technology services needs.

Avaya won the contract to cable the entire site.

HP’s OpenView has been deployed to administer the network, which includes over 2000 IP telephones from Cisco. Future plans at DIC include the construction of a mega data centre, which will provide services as the DIC project expands.

" Dubai Ministry of Labour & Social Affairs
The Dubai branch of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs started running a pilot project involving some of the UAE’s largest employers to complete its labour card process via e-mail.

The ministry then started working closely with numerous partners to put its infrastructure together, particularly OliverCom, a specialist networking and storage system integrator.

With the infrastructure in place, the Ministry commenced a series of pilot projects with large family-owned companies in Sharjah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, to enable them to complete the application process by e-mail.

Since almost 50% of applications for labour cards come from these companies, the automation of this process is expected to significantly reduce the workload of the ministry.

With the pilot about to go live, the powers that be are already looking into the possibilities of a payment gateway.

However, in order to totally remove the paper from the system legislation is needed to make electronic signatures legal in the UAE.

Currently, the ministry is required by law to make several copies to store for the government auditor.

" RHS
RHS Logistics, which began business in Jebel Ali Free Zone in January, rolled out a highly flexible technology solution to look after its warehousing facility which provides third party logistics for national and multinational companies.

The company was able to find an off-the-shelf solution that fitted its needs through Exceed from EXE Technologies.

“The system offers a huge range of relevant functionality – we can order assembly by consignment and line number (or SKU – the Stock Keeping Unit code assigned to each product and pick by date of production, or expiry, or even batch code or lot number,” said Andrew Raymant, project development manager, RHS Logistics.

RHS has also deployed an Internet module that links directly to the Exceed module, in addition to EDI connectivity; and a Teklogix Radio Frequency (RF) barcode scanning system supplied by Pinnacle.

" SWCC
The Saline Water Conversion Company (SWCC) started work to improve the flow of information across 16 of its 27 plants in Saudi.

As part of a multi-phase project, the utility company has deployed a Nortel-based Gigabit Ethernet wide area network to support its migration to a client/server environment and a series of cost cutting Oracle packaged applications.

The project’s initial phase will deliver seven local area networks (LANs) at six desalination plants and the Riyadh head office. The sites will then ultimately be connected to a company wide WAN.

The initial phase is scheduled for completion by August 2001 and will connect 3000 users on a company wide WAN.

Phase two of the project will connect a further ten plants to the 128 Gbit/s WAN, bringing another 2000 estimated end users on board.

The deal with Nortel and local partner BTC is worth $3.2 million.

DECEMBER 2000
" Al Futtaim Trading Group
Al Futtaim rolled out SAP R/3 across its sprawling operation.

The project, which was initially signed mid-1998, has included the rolling out of distribution, finance, costing, human resources, service management modules of R/3 to an estimated 17000 users.

The huge SAP installation, thought to be one of the largest live SAP sites in the region, is hosted on stack of RS/6000s from IBM.

Al Futtaim is now planning for a Tivoli rollout that will take up the majority of this year.

" ARENCO
Architectural and engineering consultancy, ARENCO moved its tendering processes online. The company set up a Web site that will handle an estimated $108 million worth of contracts per year.

The site, which was put together with Alpha Data, will be used to host architectural drawings and other related documentation for distribution to approved ARENCO contractors.

The online tendering solution has been put together using AutoCAD 2000, and a Web drawing format (.dwf), which compress the standard AutoCAD drawing file to just a few kilobytes making it suitable to transport over the Web.

" EMAAR
Dubai based property development and management firm, EMAAR signed a deal with Marconi, to deliver a high tech Intelligent City.

The Dubai Marina, Emirates Hills and Emirates Lakes development project will deliver mega bandwidth network connections, and all sorts of Web-based services.

" Haroun Multimedia (HMM)
To deliver an advertising campaign for Dubai’s ‘Summer Surprises Festival,’ Haroun Multimedia had to put together an IT infrastructure to support the intensive animation project.

With just six weeks to complete the project, the company rapidly assembled a cost effective, collaborative work environment.

Working with Intel, HMM put together a E-business Data Centre based around Intel Pentium III Xeon processor servers, networked via Intel’s 510T 100 m/bit switches, running Windows NT.

Seven Pentium III machines using the integrated CA819 chipset completed the set up acting as distributed CPUs providing the computing power for distributed rendering and other tasks.

" UAE Ministry of Education & Youth
Working in conjunction with Gateway and Al Yousuf Computers, the Ministry of Education and Youth began its rollout of Gateway hardware, including 38 servers, 1707 PCs and 236 inkjet printers to more than 150 schools throughout the Emirates.||**||

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