Optimising Investment

Dubai Investments turns to WAN optimisation to link key sites and overcome bandwidth hurdles

Tags: Blue Coat Systems IncorporatedDubai Investments CompanyNetwork optimisationUnited Arab Emirates
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Optimising Investment The WAN optimization solution gives much greater control and visibility into network traffic, says Manoharan K, IT Advisor, Dubai Investments
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By  Mark Sutton Published  February 3, 2010

Dubai Investments is the largest investment company publicly traded on the Dubai stock market. The Group consists of 46 subsidiary companies most of which are located in the United Arab Emirates and the rest across the GCC.

With around 2,000 PC users, a key objective was to create an effective shared services centre. In 2007, a scaleable, secure and high performance data centre was set up with the intention of subsequently connecting all the subsidiaries. For those remote sites which could not be connected via the internet (IP or VPN) on account of huge data traffic, it was decided to connect through an MPLS network.

At the start of the project, three major office locations were connected to the MPLS - the Dubai Investments head office, the Festival Tower office and the Marmum Dairy Farm, off Al Ain road.

With MPLS connectivity, application performance took a major hit. The IT team was faced with two options - either increase the WAN link bandwidth or optimise data traffic through WAN optimization.

The IT team at Dubai Investments evaluates all major infrastructure projects based on a guiding principle called ReCAPS. The acronym consists of: Reliability of the solution, based on parameters like fault tolerance levels, disaster recovery etc; Capacity requirement and speed of scaling up; Accounting by an IT Governance Committee which looks at the cost-benefit and total cost of ownership (TCO); and finally Performance and Security of the solution.

After a thorough study through ReCAPS, it was decided to select WAN optimisation. One of the key deciding factors was the benefit of having more control over security. Security was a major concern, as previously Windows and anti-virus updates, backups and group policies were managed locally by each subsidiary, which made control difficult. WAN optimisation made it possible to schedule all these tasks centrally.

“The Wan Optimisation solution offered by Blue Coat was easily integrated with the existing WebFilter solution at a marginal cost, enabling diversion of traffic with a high degree of security.”

In line with Dubai Investments' policy, several vendors including Blue Coat, Cisco, Juniper and Riverbed were evaluated for their ADN infrastructure solutions. The first criteria included product related aspects like compression, optimisation algorithm, caching engine, security etc, and whether the vendor's technical capabilities matched the client requirement. The second was a corporate assessment in terms of customer references, financial stability etc and the third was the cost.

Manoharan K, IT Advisor of Dubai Investments explained: "Blue Coat was a clear winner on all three fronts, especially pricing which was way better than the other vendors."

Following on from the ReCAPS process, Dubai Investments carried out Proof of Concept (POC) with a few of the vendor solutions. Manoharan said that the level and quality of support extended by Blue Coat was another factor that tipped the scales in the company's favour.

"From the time of initiating discussions, Blue Coat's response time was very quick, the information supplied was comprehensive and the interaction was very pleasant. Blue Coat was one step ahead of competition."

Before the WAN optimisation project, Dubai Investments had already installed Blue Coat WebFilter in its data centre, by which the company was able to control and secure Web traffic.

"It is the best solution available and we are very happy. Be it https or B2B traffic, media streaming or VOIP, we have complete and granular control and the reports generated are excellent," said Manoharan. "The WAN Optimisation solution offered by Blue Coat was easily integrated with the existing WebFilter solution at a marginal cost, enabling diversion of traffic with a high degree of security."

The WAN optimisation project was completed by Blue Coat within one month. After project completion, Blue Coat trained the IT staff at Dubai Investments, to provide knowledge transfer. Manoharan is confident that the IT team is now capable of configuring appliances themselves should the need arise of adding additional links.

Although ROI cannot be calculated in an objective manner on a cost-revenue model, as is typical with most IT infrastructure projects, Manoharan explained that there are plenty of intangible benefits that have arisen from the Blue Coat implementation. The data and network is highly safe and secure resulting in peace of mind for the IT staff. The application performance has improved drastically. Time taken to complete online transactions has shortened resulting in increased productivity and reduced frustration. Better application performance has also encouraged the IT team to implement more business applications like Sharepoint for budgeting and consolidation. One of the big advantages was also being able to create two policies for mobile clients by installing WebFilter on roaming laptops - one for home use, allowing users flexibility to listen to music, watch movies etc and another for office use when he/ she connects to the corporate network.

Dubai Investment's technology road map has also been influenced through the WAN optimization project. The plan in terms of IT infrastructure now is to connect many more subsidiaries including the disaster recovery site and implement WAN optimisation in all these newly connected sites. The company also intends implementing Blue Coat PacketShaper with the objective of reserving bandwidth for mission critical real-time applications like video conferencing which the company has plans of introducing in the future.

Around eight months ago, Dubai Investments started work on introducing the concept of cloud computing. The vision is to create a utility computing platform - a pool of IT resources where each business head is given a control panel which will allow self provisioning, thin provisioning and automatic configuration. This ambitious project to connect all 46 subsidiaries is expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2010.

Dubai Investments is also preparing itself for ISO 27001 and is targeting the first quarter of 2010 for acquiring certification, with a number of the risks which are specified under the connectivity area of the risk assessment framework already being addressed through the projects based on Blue Coat's solutions.

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