Race for the prize

Yemeni mobile operator Y GSM's deployment of what it says is the Middle East's first virtualized desktop architecture brings increased efficiency and reduced costs

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By  Imthishan Giado Published  July 5, 2008

Y GSM's gamble on virtualizaton for its new infrastructure paid off with increased efficiency and reduced costs - while showing bigger telcos that they aren't the only innovators.

Y GSM, Yemen's third mobile operator is claiming a place in the history books with the completion of what it says is the Middle East's first virtual desktop architecture.

The company was faced with one of the most mundane problems in IT: the need to roll out new desks, both in its head office and at various remote shops and call centres across the country.

But rather than go the traditional route of buying a load of PCs and linking them to the company's datacentre, Y GSM decided to look at the options on offer through virtualisation.

With this new technology, we faced a lot of fights to become a success story. When you purchase any new technology or any different out-of-the-box idea, you have a big fight with your users.

Now, while many IT managers and CIOs have privately expressed strong interest in virtualisation and its potential for efficiency and cost savings, few have publicly announced successful projects using the technology. This didn't deter Y GSM, which decided that this new system would be the perfect showcase for an effective virtualised system.

As a result, the company has completely virtualised its datacentre, with new blade servers from Sun Microsystems at its headquarters serving virtual instances of Windows XP to 400 IT desks across the country.

The desks themselves are Sun Ray thin clients rather than traditional PCs, employing a smart card system which allows users to transfer their sessions seamlessly across clients without any loss of information.

However, Ammar Abu Ghanem, head of the IT core network unit at Y GSM says this groundbreaking achievement was not easily won: "With this new technology, we faced a lot of fights to become a success story. When you purchase any new technology or any different out-of-the-box idea, you have a big fight with your users."

Ghanem believes that a strong start-up concept guided Y GSM through the initial troubled waters: "Our vision when we implemented the IT network was to have the latest virtualisation technology to obtain high performance and high availability for the data. Under this vision, we looked for desktop virtualisation - which actually is not a new concept. When network resources and storage recently became cheaper, a lot of the big, and even medium, companies tried to transfer from normal PCs to desktop virtualisation."

Y GSM first began planning the US$1 million project in 2006, completing it in October the following year. The telco also scheduled four weeks for the implementation itself. Ghanem names himself as one of the key drivers behind the new system.

"I believe that I am one of the people that believed in desktop and data virtualisation and data centralisation. I started trying to explain this idea to our CEO, who asked for a solution. He believed virtualisation would be great for our environment, but warned me that we would go through some fighting with this technology to understand if it only benefits the call centre or the whole company," he says.

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