Foundry kits out Kuwaiti car company

Fouad Al Ghanim & Sons, a large, diversified private enterprise consisting of more than 25 companies, has implemented a networking solution from Foundry Networks for its automotive division’s new setup in Kuwait City. The solution, implemented in March, was installed from scratch and comprises both wired and wireless elements.

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By  Simon Duddy Published  June 29, 2004

|~|car_m.jpg|~||~|Fouad Al Ghanim & Sons, a large, diversified private enterprise consisting of more than 25 companies, has implemented a networking solution from Foundry Networks for its automotive division’s new setup in Kuwait City. The solution, implemented in March, was installed from scratch and comprises both wired and wireless elements. The network has been implemented in the Kuwaiti company’s facility, which includes a showroom, company offices, body repair shop and service garage. The infrastructure setup consists of six Foundry FastIron Edge FES2402 switches and seven Foundry IronPoint 200 wireless access points. The focal point of the implementation is the wireless access aspect, which allows visitors to use notebooks to surf the internet while they wait for a new car or have their car serviced. The wireless internet access is available in three areas - the showroom, workshop and fast services area, which takes care of oil changes and other ‘while you wait’ jobs. “The service is customer driven,” says James R MacKenzie du Lieu, managing director, Fouad Al Ghanim Automotive, Kuwait. “We did a survey of what people would like to see while they wait in the showroom or in the service areas and a lot of people said they would like wireless internet access,” he adds. Fouad Al Ghanim consists of more than 25 companies, but the automotive branch is new and the company is keen to differentiate itself in the market. The wireless technology is a tool, alongside more traditional fare such as courteous staff and tidy offices, that Fouad Al Ghanim hopes will boost customer loyalty. Questions remain as to whether the business model will prove to be a successful one. The service is free so will not generate income by itself. The company is relying on the service to help retain a high percentage of customers. “Satisfied customers will supply Return On Investment (ROI) but this is difficult to quantify. The proof of the pudding is in retaining customers, but it’s hard to pin down what part the wireless service will play in this, as it is only one part of the service package we provide to customers,” says MacKenzie. The company has reported positive feedback in the months since the solution was implemented. Fouad Al Ghanim outsourced the IT implementation to Computer Data Networks (CDN), which was responsible for commissioning and installing the network. The implementation covered both wired and wireless aspects of the network, as well as back-end equipment and PCs for Fouad Al Ghanim staff. CDN installed EMC Clarion SAN Switches, Brocade private channel switches and two IBM xSeries servers. These operate on a Linux operating system and run Oracle applications. The network is based on Foundry switches and wireless access points and at the front end there are 75 IBM Netvista PCs, which are used by the sales force, back office staff and in the garage. As the three Fouad Al Ghanim automotive division buildings were still under construction when the decision to implement a new network was taken, CDN laid the cabling infrastructure and then kitted the company out with hardware and software once construction was completed. CDN has provided Fouad Al Ghanim with three staff on the car company’s premises on a full time basis, with the ability to deploy more as needed. This agreement is set to last for three years. “The implementation was a challenging one as any new company takes time to settle,” says Dejan Nikolin, marketing manager, CDN. “Everything was being finalised at the same time, a totally new workforce had been hired and we had to implement the IT side,” he adds. One of the most important strengths of the Foundry solution, according to CDN, is the easy integration it provides between wired and wireless aspects of the network. This is important because the wireless part of the network is not exclusively used by customers. It incorporates a VPN function so that Fouad Al Ghanim workers can access the wired network. The system also connects to Fouad Al Ghanim’s partner company, Volkswagen. “This means that we needed to put a very robust security solution in place,” says Nikolin. “We have a firewall from Checkpoint, an IDS system and we enabled the bulk of the 50 plus security features embedded in the Foundry FastIron switches,” he adds. These include a rich DoS feature set, broadcast protection and SNMP traps and alerts. Another advantage of the Foundry solution was that it met the Fouad Al Ghanim stipulation that the network should support all wireless standards (802.11a/b/g). The company wanted the service to be available to users regardless of the wireless standard used by their notebook. In sourcing the wireless access points, CDN looked closely at how good the product was in terms of power output, antennas and chipsets. These can have a significant impact on the performance of wireless access points, creating varying performance on devices that use the same standard and have the same theoretical top speed. The Foundry IronPoint 200 access points have a powerful central processor, dual radios, and a modular design to make them field upgradeable. In terms of network management, CDN has gone for the Foundry software that comes with the FastIron switches. Foundry Networks IronView and IronView (wireless edition) includes a VLAN manager and a web-based control interface. CDN also deployed a number of other tools, such as McAfee Sniffer to assess how applications are behaving and identify trends in traffic flow. CDN has an on-going role at the automotive division and hopes to use this foothold to extend its professional services, and hopes to sell more of its Foundry network solutions to other arms of the Fouad Al Ghanim business. “This is our first wireless implementation in Kuwait and it has helped us tremendously,” says Farook Majeed, regional director, Foundry Networks Middle East. “Foundry understands and fills the need for fast robust networking infrastructure to run mission critical business applications. With the addition of a wireless solution to our product portfolio we will now be able to provide leading edge wireless and wired service allowing customers to integrate wireless technology into their wired network with the utmost confidence,” he adds.||**||

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