A league of their own

The NME Innovation Awards: 17 categories, 71 finalists, one night. Once again the region’s networking best arrived in Dubai for a tension-filled evening as the winners of the third annual Awards ceremony were finally revealed...

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By  Sathya Mithra Ashok Published  May 10, 2007

|~|01-200.gif|~|Dr Abdulrahman Al-Shenaifi, senior advisor on IT and security to the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Interior, accepts the Ministry’s award for the Most Influential End User in Middle East networking from Sariya’s Mahmoud Al-Kuhaimi.|~|For the third time in as many years, the Middle East’s networking community pushed the boat out in order to offer up the best and brightest of the region’s infrastructure projects and products for scrutiny in the Network Middle East Innovation Awards. This year’s nominations included world-class projects from across the countries of the Middle East, along with the hottest products and systems available. And at a packed awards ceremony at Dubai’s Grosvenor House Hotel, nominees sweated it out to discover who would walk home with the crystal. While awards are a good way to encourage some healthy competition among end users and vendors, much more important is the opportunity they offer to show off the best a community has to offer. In this case, the Awards organisers and judging panel were spoiled for choice, with record competition in a number of categories. Of note were the cabling and security product categories, where unprecedented numbers of entries came in for some of the world’s biggest vendors – as well as more niche players in the region.||**|||~|02-2001.gif|~|Michael Dobe, chief information officer at the UAE University, accepts his award for Networking Professional Of The Year from FVC’s K S Parag.|~|In the Best Cabling Product Range category, market leader Systimax reinforced its position with a clear win, while McAfee picked up the Best Security Product Range for its high-end Foundstone offering. The importance of mobile working came across clearly with the judges’ choice in the Best New Technology category, with Etisalat’s win for introducing the BlackBerry service to the UAE. The meat of the evening’s awards came with the project categories, which set out to honour the best of the Middle East’s infrastructure implementations. First up was the Best WAN Implementation category; this award honoured the most impressive WAN project across the region – an increasingly competitive and critical sector. Wateen Telecom of Pakistan walked away with the award for its nationwide wireless broadband service, based on the WiMax protocol. This network has delivered one of the first operational WiMax services in the world, and an important communications link for Wateen’s customers. ||**|||~|sumit-2001.gif|~|Sumit Kumar, regional sales manager for US Robotics, collects the award for Best SMB Networking Vendor In The Middle East.|~|For a second year in a row, the Burj Al Arab hotel picked up the Best Wireless Network Implementation. This year’s award was for an extension of its high-end VoIP implementation which serves both guests and staff across the entire site. The public vote for this category gave the Burj a very comfortable win, despite stiff competition from other nominees. In one of the most high-profile categories of the night, Dubai Refreshments pulled off a shock win against some of the largest network implementations in the world, let alone the Middle East. The Dubai soft-drinks producer collected the Best Fixed Networking Implementation award against two massive projects in Saudi Arabia and a greenfield government project in the UAE, amply proving that smaller but perfectly formed deployments can go a very long way in impressing the NME judges. Another communications project picked up the Most Innovative Use of New Technology trophy, with Dubai’s Department of Health and Medical Services triumphing in the reader vote with its wired and wireless VoIP project. And just to underline the absolute criticality of converged voice services, the Network Implementation With the Best RoI award went to the Habtoor Grand Resort and Spa’s wireless VoIP deployment. That these services can now offer a real return on investment is indicative of the maturing technology in the sector. ||**|||~|geroges-2001.gif|~|Georges Ferzli, IT services director of Gulf Business Machines, accepts the award for Best Networking Integrator In The Middle East.|~|For many at the ceremony, the most eagerly awaited categories were the individual achievement awards, covering both vendors and end users. The Best SMB Networking Vendor in the Middle East award went to US Robotics, with its increasing range of sophisticated wired and wireless projects across the region, covering everything from schools to gas plants. For the third year in a row, Gulf Business Machines (GBM) took home the Best Networking Integrator in the Middle East trophy – the regional integration giant once again proved too much for the competition, despite a close run for UAE-based East Meets West. The Best Networking Vendor in the Middle East Award had been seen by many as a foregone conclusion, but the public vote demonstrated once again that nothing can be taken for granted. HP ProCurve took the award, upsetting Cisco’s two-year run in one of the most closely-fought votes of the night. The final two categories of the evening honoured the finest representatives of the region’s end user community. ||**|||~|ivan-2001.gif|~|Ivan Kraemer, regional sales and marketing director for HP ProCurve, accepts the award for Best Networking Vendor In The Middle East.|~|The penultimate award saw Michael Dobe, CIO of the UAE University, collect the trophy as the Networking Professional of the Year. Since joining the University in 2004, Dobe has successfully managed a major IT shift, and has changed IT from being a passive part of the organisation to a department that delivers value, insight and control to all business areas. In fact Dobe has enhanced the network to the point that he can tell other departments about problems before they are even aware of them. Finally, the evening closed with the category honouring the Most Influential End User in Middle East Networking – the organisation which has done the most to promote best practices and innovative projects across the region. This year’s winner was the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Interior, for its efforts to promote the importance of combating cybercrime in the Middle East. The MoI has been working hard not only to promote best practices among enterprises, but also to safeguard these same enterprises from the growing number of threats in the electronic world. The Ministry, and one man in particular in the shape of Dr Abdulrahman Al-Shenaifi, who collected the award, has helped to change the status of enterprise security issues from a vague thought to a critical consideration. Planning for next year’s awards is already underway – and to be in with a chance for some of these categories, organisations should also be thinking about which of their projects will impress our judges the most. ||**||Judgement Day|~||~||~|A key part of any awards process is an effective and independent judging panel. As in previous years, the NME Innovation Awards used a combination of reader votes and expert judges to decide on the final winners. While NME readers had to choose the winners of four categories, the five-person judging panel had to select more than a dozen, many of which were hotly contested between up to seven different regional nominees. This year’s judges – Ghazi Atallah, Kandasamy Ganesan, Derek Holland, Todd McGregor and Mohammed Shah – kindly gave up their time and skills to participate in the Awards, and help make the process a resounding success. For each category the judges made a selection individually; if any one entry received three or more votes out of five, it was declared winner. If no clear winner emerged from the first round, the judges submitted second preference votes. For the public-voted categories, NME readers could review nominations on ITP.net, before recording their details and casting votes on the Awards website. ||**||

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