Inside the hub

The Juma Al Majid group finds what it needs for comprehensive centralisation and security in a Citrix solution. Sean Robson reports.

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By  Sean Robson Published  June 9, 2008

The Juma Al Majid group finds what it needs for comprehensive centralisation and security in a Citrix solution. Sean Robson reports.

An organisation spread across 110 locations through out the UAE offering a variety of services as diverse as automotive distribution through to tourism and shipping requires unique solutions that are scalable, reliable and robust.

This was the challenge facing the large Juma Al Majid group when it sought to centralise its vast array of networks.

"In the past, our systems were scattered and distributed across a variety of computer systems, some manual and some semi-automatic," says Jawad Abu Farha, president of information technology at Juma Al Majid.

The IT requirements for an organisation as large and spread out as the Al Majid group can be summed up in three key elements - centralisation, standardisation and information security.

"Centralisation is key given that you cannot give the best possible service to your users with distributed IT because you would need a minimum of six people at each location and that's just not cost effective.

Standardisation and information security come together in that it is impossible to achieve a high level of standardisation in terms of security when you use a distributed network solution," says Abu Farha.

Since taking over the IT department six years back, Abu Farha has taken stringent steps to link IT to business strategy. He found centralisation and standardisation to be features that were necessary for the long term success of the firm.

This thought directed the initial network deployment as well. It began with architecture and design before moving on to the selecting of the hardware and relevant applications, followed by implementation. The final phase took over 16 months as the IT department implemented and rolled out numerous applications in various stages.

"It took us a while to select the right partners and design the architecture as well as select the best products and applications in terms of the hardware and networking that would suit the specific requirements of the organisation," explains Abu Farha.

More recently, Abu Farha and his team felt the need for an integrated solution that would provide for secure access to remote offices and mobile users of the company. After thorough consideration, they chose the Citrix Access Suite.

The Citrix Access Suite includes the Citrix Presentation Server, Citrix Password Manager and the Citrix Access Gate.

Though they looked at other solutions in the market, according to Abu Farha, nothing else came close to Citrix's offering.

"Without Citrix we cannot centralise the environment because there are so many applications that run on the client server, and then need to be distributed across the organisation, for instance e-mail.

In our case, management of hundreds of users is a big challenge and we need to service them fast and well. Citrix has meant that we are able to do this thanks to remote access," says Abu Farha.

With centralisation the Citrix solution has ensured even better security throughout the organisation. Information can now be backed up and stored in one central database on a daily basis. "This means we do not lose information and can control the level of access while preventing misuse," points out Abu Farha.

While they started with two Citrix servers, the firm now has 14 Citrix servers with 460 concurrent licenses. The Citrix users currently work on Intel servers connected via frame relay LANs, and leased lines at the head office.

The entire organisations applications are now centralised including the Microsoft Office suite, all e-mail and all business applications including Great Plains, Orion and Oracle related ones.

Centralised apps at Juma Al Majid

• Microsoft Office

• Microsoft Outlook

• Orion

• Point of sales

• RightFax

• PrimeLine

• Leasing application

• Islamic College application

• Heritage Centre application

• Other local network applications

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