And the winner is...

The region’s best networking vendors and end users were in Dubai last month for the Network Middle East Innovation Awards. The list of winners included Etisalat, Foundry and Saudi Aramco.

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By  Stuart Wilson Published  July 1, 2006

|~|awards1.jpg|~||~|The NME Awards, now in their second year, were held alongside the BICSI conference at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Dubai. The BICSI delegates, along with a host of other networking notables, sat down to enjoy dinner and the unveiling of the 20 prestigious awards. “Each and every one of you has played a vital role in helping organisations realise the benefits of improvement to their network infrastructure,” compère Steve Marney told the audience. “Your vision and ability to turn concepts into realities should not go unrewarded.” Highlights of the evening were the reader-voted awards, chosen online at ITP.net from a judges’ shortlist. A brace of end user awards went to Saudi Aramco, as most influential networking end user in the Middle East, and Derek Holland of Emirates Media, as Network Professional Of the Year. Holland has long been a trailblazer, winning the NME Award for best fixed network implementation last year for Emirates Media. This year NME readers recognised his achievements on re-engineering many of Emirates Media’s internal IT processes, at the same time as implementing new systems. Despite these challenges, Holland has been able to declare: “There are no IT projects any more, only business projects.” Saudi Aramco’s award came as little surprise; the largest oil producer in the world, Aramco’s networks have to contend with the worst the harsh Arabian environment can throw at them. At the same time peers, vendors and analysts alike are full of praise for its world-class IT systems. ||**|||~|awards2.jpg|~|Network Professional of the Year - Derek Holland, Emirates Media |~|With major supercomputing facilities, remote workers and the largest SAP implementation in the world, Saudi Aramco’s need to use cutting-edge network technologies, capable of handling the incredible amounts of data that the company contends with, have been the main driving forces behind the emergence of a truly influential end-user organisation in a regional context. For the reader-voted vendor awards, Gulf Business Machines (GBM) and Cisco Systems walked away with the trophies, for best systems integrator and best network vendor respectively, for the second year running. With Cisco garnering 55% of the vote, and GBM 45%, NME readers were decisive in their support for two of the biggest players in the regional networking market. Cisco has recently pledged to invest US$265 million in Saudi Arabia, in addition to setting up networking academies in Iraq, while GBM has carved out an immense reputation as an integrator capable of delivering cutting edge networking projects. As a Cisco gold partner, GBM continues to lead the way in the integration space. Other notable winners from the evening included Sphere Networks for best newcomer, Emirates Bank for best converged network implementation, and East Meets West, which picked up the award for best fixed network implementation for its work at the Burj Al Arab. Sphere Networks released its first product, Arena Network Manager 1.0, in December, and it has already attracted attention from as far afield as Japan, Singapore and Germany. In the pipeline is version 2, which will add fault management functionality and a network traffic analyser.||**|||~|awards3.jpg|~|Most influential end-user in Middle East Networking - Aramco|~|Taking advantage of voice over IP technology, Emirates Bank was recognised for its excellence in converged networks, which has seen the company succeed in marrying voice and data services over one network.Using Avaya technology for the contact centre, and Nortel and Cisco for the network, the bank is able to take advantage of the cost and efficiency benefits of a converged communications system. East Meets West implemented the network solution at the Burj Al Arab as part of a major network standardisation project covering all the hotels in the Jumeirah Group. The Burj Al Arab opted for a Foundry Networks-based local area network infrastructure to replace its original solutions. Meanwhile Etisalat, Mashreqbank and Knowledge Village took home the vertical sector awards for best use of networking in telecoms, banking and academia respectively. As always, these were hotly contested categories with multiple nominations received for each vertical award. With many educational establishments now looking at the benefits of remote learning and sharing information across multiple sites, the network has become a critical tool in the education sector. ||**|||~|awards4.jpg|~|Best Network in Academia - Knowledge Village|~|Dubai Knowledge Village stood out for its ability to provide its tenants with the most advanced infrastructure and state-of-the-art technologies including telephony, hosting services, local area networking and wireless networking. Mashreqbank, ably assisted by its IT services arm Mindscape, has implemented a variety of technical and networking solutions to ensure that it has robust, stable and secure systems in place. The recent deployment of SonicWall devices is just one of a list of recent projects carried out by the financial services trend setter. With telecoms companies investing heavily in next generation networks, selecting a winner in this vertical presented a tough challenge. However, Etisalat’s ability to continually reinvent itself and establish itself as a pioneer in the introduction of 3G was enough to secure the UAE telecoms operator this coveted networking prize.||**|||~|awards5.jpg|~|Best Network in the Telecoms Sector - Etisalat|~|Oman Mobile was rewarded for its wireless network implementation efforts, which has helped the operator flourish in the face of new competition by introducing new services and applications. du, the UAE’s new second operator, picked up the prize for most innovative use of network technology. With no legacy baggage to contend with, du seems determined to leapfrog its regional rivals in the deployment of next generation network infrastructure. In the award for outstanding innovation in cabling, two vendors proved impossible to separate: Siemon and Nexans. Siemon introduced a new end-to-end augmented category 6 cabling solution in late 2005. The 10G 6A F/UTP Siemon product offering meets or exceeds all performance requirements under 10Gbit/s standards, including alien crosstalk. Siemon also signed a distribution agreement with Mart Network Solution, ensuring that customers across the GCC have access to a healthy supply of stock. Nexans has played a leading role in the advent of high-tech homes in the region and is actively pursuing this emerging opportunity with project developers in Abu Dhabi, as triple play services become a ‘must have’ technology for new residential developments in the Gulf. ||**|||~|awards6.jpg|~|Best Networking Technology in Banking - Mashreqbank|~|3Com picked up the award for outstanding innovation in security in recognition of the vendor’s success with its recently acquired TippingPoint intrusion prevention devices. 3Com’s client wins for TippingPoint in the Middle East already include Emirates Group, which chose the solution because it believed that it delivered the most comprehensive security solution available without compromising network performance. The award for outstanding innovation in wireless networking was jointly awarded to US Robotics and Intel in recognition of their regional efforts with MaxG and WiMAX respectively. US Robotics has successfully deployed Wi-Fi solutions in hotels through integration partner Primesys, while Intel continues to drive ahead with its innovative plans for low-cost broadband internet access through WiMAX networks. Foundry Networks and Juniper Networks were also joint winners, sharing the accolade for outstanding innovation in wide area networking. Foundry’s NetIron family of products goes from strength to strength while Juniper continues to make huge advances in the area of wide area networking acceleration.||**|||~|awards7.jpg|~|Best Wireless Network Implementation - Oman Telecom|~|Linksys picked up the SMB networking award for its efforts with Linksys One — a purpose-built line of products and services for small businesses — while Avaya bagged the convergence prize by virtue of the strength and satisfaction levels of its Middle East customer base. HP ProCurve picked up the network pioneer award in recognition of its ability to outstrip overall market growth rates and its acute understanding of customer needs. Fluke Networks’ success in the emerging networking technology vendor category came as no surprise. Fluke has carved out an impressive reputation for innovative solutions that allow the testing, monitoring and analysis of enterprise and telecommunications networks. While this year’s winners undoubtedly went home happy, next year’s event promises to be even more competitive as more vendors flock to the Middle East region, lured in by impressive growth rates. Network Middle East is ready to track the progress of all the networking players in the Middle East during 2007 to identify the best vendors, integrators and end-users for next year’s NME Innovation Awards ceremony.||**||

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