Hosting help

Panasonic Middle East turned to eHDF’s managed hosting services to give its IT staff strategic focus and the time to deliver new services to boost the bottom line.

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Hosting help Salem: IT functions needed to operate like clockwork to support the company’s wider expansion plans for the region.
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By  Mark Sutton Published  July 10, 2010

Ridding the IT department of the burden of maintenance and simply keeping systems online is becoming an increasingly popular strategy, enabled by infrastructure automation and developments such as cloud computing, but the idea of letting someone else handle the day-to-day business of IT has been around for some time in the form of outsourcing and managed services.

For companies operating in emerging markets particularly, business can expand rapidly across diverse territories, meaning IT systems and solutions are required to support growth when the company cannot quite provide the operational level of delivery that is necessary. Panasonic Middle East faced just this situation, with growing regional business meaning IT staff time was taken up just with ‘keeping the lights on’, instead of being able to deliver new and innovative services to the organisation, its partners in the market and customers.

Sharjil Salem, senior manager for infrastructure and data centre in the IT department of Panasonic Marketing Middle East FZE, outlines the challenge it faced: “In expanding our regional presence in the Middle East, we needed to ensure that all of our IT operations would operate like clockwork to support our business in the region. A large chunk of time was being consumed by routine day-to-day management of the IT infrastructure by our internal IT team. Rather than dealing with the mundane operational activities of IT, we needed to understand the technology needs of the business and address them such that it would benefit Panasonic’s bottom line. Having little time to innovate and understand the business’ needs made it increasingly challenging to nurture or demonstrate innovation for the business,” says Salem.

In 2007, the company decided to relieve this burden by looking to a hosted solution, and after performing due diligence, launched into a deal with UAE-based eHosting DataFort (eHDF). The initial project saw eHDF hosting Panasonic’s SAP ERP deployment, serving Panasonic’s internal user base across six representative offices in the Middle East, and connecting back to Panasonic Corporation’s global headquarters in Japan.

The relationship included hosting and management of the SAP Business Information Warehouse - the business intelligence and data warehousing component of SAP which provides management reporting relating to sales, procurement, profitability analysis, stock positions and inventories. eHDF helped Panasonic by managing its IT infrastructure right up to the operating system level, with connectivity and operations also handled by eHDF.

The initial project included knowledge transfer between eHDF’s application and service support team and Panasonic’s own IT team, along with the deployment of an online data centre monitoring system, which enables Panasonic’s employees to keep track of all events, activities and service desk calls, giving transparency into the service. Service level agreements governed the terms of the contract, including issues such as the amount of downtime.

Salem comments: “A mutual learning curve between eHDF and Panasonic at the start of the relationship was necessary, and it meant that there was a need for us to adapt and break away from the typical routine jobs we were used to, while eHDF needed to gain an understanding of the way that our business operates.”

The project also included the migration of Panasonic’s storage area network (SAN) to eHDF, which was also then added into eHDF’s standard monitoring model, with the storage infrastructure expanding approximately 20% year-on-year since migration.

Since the initial SAP ERP project, Panasonic has increased its hosted services deal considerably, as the company has looked to launch more services to support the business and its partners, and to hand off the maintenance and management of those to eHDF.

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