Enterprise evolution

Al Rostamani Group consolidates IT systems to increase business agility and generate cost savings, turning business challenges into business opportunities.

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By  Sarah Gain Published  October 9, 2005

|~|PHOTO-1---Roundtable-BODY.jpg|~|“By moving to a consolidated infrastructure powered by Intel-based HP blade servers, we have minimised costly, inefficient bottlenecks.” — Abdallah El Khadi, group IT manager, Al Rostamani Group.|~|Through its IT consolidation project the UAE-based Al Rostamani Group has developed a more flexible environment to equip the company to respond more rapidly to shifts in the marketplace and bring competitive advantage. Following HP’s Adaptive Enterprise strategy, Al Rostamani is creating a streamlined infrastructure with reduced complexity, resource requirements and risks. In turn, the technology upgrade, which went live last month, is designed to ease the adoption, use, management and modification of applications and systems across the entire business operation in the future. The Al Rostamani Group is a multi-industry business that spans financial services, automobiles and real estate. Abdallah El Kadi, group IT manager for the company, explains that the entire organisation required a new IT infrastructure that would be dynamic enough to allow for adjustment with market changes. “By moving to a consolidated infrastructure powered by Intel-based HP blade servers, we have streamlined the flow of information and minimised costly, inefficient bottlenecks,” he says. After a thorough and intensive study, the Group has signed a major technology deal with HP and Intel to implement Intel Xeon processor-based HP ProLiant blade servers. Aware of the business benefits of IT consolidation, the Al Rostamani Group is among the first businesses in the region to buy into this emerging trend. El Kadi says he is confident the new systems will provide an agile, yet resilient, infrastructure to better support Al Rostamani’s growing business operations. With a disorganised and incoherent IT infrastructure, each upgrade or integration across Al Rostamani’s entire network had to be repeated for every machine and application instance, at all the Group’s different ventures. Not only did this increased complexity mean IT operational costs escalated, but also a lack of clearly defined accountability meant troubleshooting became convoluted and service levels were inconsistent. Such issues increased the risk to the organisation and compromised its agility. “Our top priority had become making sure that the environment was running smoothly, so there was little time left to focus on other core business needs,” points out El Kadi. “In order to react quickly and effectively to today's dynamic marketplace, an organisation needs to be streamlined so that it can respond to new challenges and opportunities,” adds El Kadi. “A disjointed infrastructure — with the realities of increasing numbers of servers and applications — can lead to varying levels of services, complex security policy management, and the inability to provide users with the fast, easy access to data that their jobs require,” he says. El Khadi explains that Al Rostamani chose to work with HP for this project because of the vendor’s experience and expertise in the field of consolidation. By participating in a live demonstration at the HP Invent Centre and attending presentations about the adaptive enterprise concept, El Kadi and the Al Rostamani team gained a comprehensive understanding of the overall strategy, and of the project ahead. “Visits to several customer sites, where other enterprises with similar business requirements had successfully undertaken consolidation projects, also helped the team to see how the strategy could be adapted to meet our own specific requirements,” explains El Kadi. “There were many technical and clarification sessions and we were treated like a true partner by both HP and Intel throughout the venture. We grew more confident that blade servers and virtual storage arrays would be an ideal foundation for us to build a more adaptive infrastructure,” he adds. In its first phase, the implementation of the new system has automated all core business transactions of two of the Group’s largest companies, Arabian Automobiles Company (AAC) and Thomas Cook Al Rostamani Exchange (TCARE). The cross-functional sharing and validation of data is now possible at both of these operations. “This will provide employees with accurate, timely and business-critical information in order to better control operations and transactions while increasing customer satisfaction,” says El Kadi. By aggregating all infrastructure resources into one system, Al Rostamani has created a universal service delivery model that can allocate resources to any workload, from the backend of the data centre to the desktop. The main advantages the company has seen so far from the new system include large gains in efficiency of personnel and improved processes. In addition, the technology offers dramatic savings in acquisition costs over proprietary systems, and an improved total cost of ownership (TCO). “As a result, we are better able to deliver services efficiently, at lower cost, and with greater agility,” El Kadi summarises. Using the virtualisation capabilities of its blade systems, Al Rostamani has been able to pool and consolidate multiple, under-utilised, special-purpose servers onto a compact and versatile system. As the project adhered to existing industry standards, Al Rostamani has ensured its investment will also be protected into the future. The improvements are beginning to deliver return-on-investment (ROI) and the use of integrated solutions is resulting in greater management efficiency. “This strategy has allowed us to meet the needs of our most sophisticated companies while abiding by the budgets of our smallest companies, all using the same technology and infrastructure components,” El Kadi states. Al Rostamani says the Arabian Automobile division is poised to derive measurable business value from this project as the new system will empower its employees to better understand, manage and address its continuously evolving customer needs. In addition, the financial performance of TCARE is also set to improve as the centralised enterprise resource management (ERP) solution transforms the company’s business critical transaction processes. “By moving from a distributed system architecture to an integrated, online, central system, TCARE will leverage the power of real time information and boost profitability while reducing risk exposure through the automation of control in accordance with regulatory compliance requirements,” states El Kadi. In its first step towards more adaptable operations, the Group’s IT infrastructure has been successfully aligned to the company’s business needs. The fact that all core business transactions carried out by AAC and TCARE will be automated under the new system will allow for the transparent sharing and validation of data and provide employees in the two companies with accurate business information. The more agile IT infrastructure is specifically tailored to offer potential for growth across the Group’s companies, bringing increased cost efficiencies and reduced data centre space. “The new technology enables a fundamental difference over the single server architecture Al Rostamani had in place: it allows all components of the infrastructure to be monitored and controlled,” El Kadi enthuses. “We plan to expand this system to other arms of the business and build on the advantages with future projects.” ||**||

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