Hidden strength

Building technology networks that can support the business models of logistics companies, transportation specialists and supply chain service providers is extremely challenging.

  • E-Mail
By  Adrian Bridgwater Published  April 12, 2008

Building technology networks that can support the business models of logistics companies, transportation specialists and supply chain service providers is extremely challenging.

Adrian Bridgwater examines the need for super-strength networks for the Middle East's logistics industries.

By and large, from food or fashion to banking or defence, a company's underpinning technology is of huge importance for its profitable operation. But few industries are as fundamentally 'under fire' on a 24x7 basis as the logistics and transportation industries.

It is essential that service providers ensure that their vendor of choice has a proven track record in deploying networks that cater to real-time business.

There are a number of apparent reasons for this. They are extremely customer facing despite the fact that they perform most of their work behind the scenes. This means they need to be calm on the surface, but paddling away furiously underneath.

They need to be dependable, as their services are often used to support the mission-critical needs of customers. This means that network provisioning for potential system failures must be core to the way they operate.

Technologists are fond of using terms like 'failover' or 'hot swappable' to denote systems that can keep going if one element goes down.

Keeping a 'redundant' extra part of the network fully operational so that it can be called upon as and when it is needed is second nature for the likes of DHL, Aramex and the region's cargo airline companies.

Arabian trade networks

Being globally responsive means that logistics companies need to present a highly professional 'public face' to customers around the world. The Middle East - and the GCC in particular - is viewed as a progressive region with a rich history and reputation for trading.

Ensuring these Arabian IT networks operate effectively is more than just business-essential; some would even argue that it's a matter of pride.

Aramex is a good example of raising the bar for corporate social responsibility in the region. In December last year, the company became the first-ever Middle East-based organisation to release a ‘sustainability report' and be signed up as a member of the UN Global Compact Initiative.

None of what Aramex offers today and intends to in the future is possible without an 'intelligent' network that is able to sustain the highest levels of resilience and throughput.

Middle East providers, like Aramex, are moving these previously peripheral considerations to the centre of their business planning. Of particular concern to the logistics business is the carbon footprint created by the execution of their work.

And they are all too aware that efficiency through clever IT networks are key to reducing environmental problems.

Clever cleaner networks

The term ‘clever' here means a fully ‘connected' IT network - one with top drawer hardware yes, but also one with federated globally relational databases that connect disparate data sources so that meta-level knowledge about the data in hand is available.

A federated database is a kind of meta-database management system that integrates multiple autonomous database systems into a single database. This means that data in Riyadh can be shared and integrated with data in Marrakech, Muscat and Manama.

This could be the difference between a logistics shipment getting directly routed from one location to another, rather than via a stop off point, hence making a greater carbon footprint.

It's relatively easy to talk about what we think we need to do, but bringing that technology to bear in the real world is another matter.

IT vendors in this field address the needs of their Middle Eastern logistics and service provider customers in many ways.

"Cisco's service products and solutions are highly tuned to carrier class requirements. These products are built with redundancy, scalability and security in mind and the network elements are fully redundant and highly scalable.

Manageability is essential in a service provider's network and having full visibility of the network topology, products and functions used in the network is crucial.

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code