Aligning with growth: Gulftainer upgrades its wireless network

Gulftainer deploys an Aruba wireless solution that meets the performance needs of its new, 11-floor office space

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Aligning with growth: Gulftainer upgrades its wireless network Sharma: Diafferent members of the IT team manager various parts of the deployment.
By  Tom Paye Published  June 25, 2015

Established in 1976, Gulftainer is the largest privately owned, independent port management and logistics company based in the UAE. For the past 38 years, the company has focused on providing the best port management services to its local customers, though in the past five years, it has expanded aggressively across global markets. The company’s UAE operations include the Khorfakkan Container Terminal (KCT) and the Sharjah Container Terminal (SCT), but Gulftainer has recently ramped up its international presence with projects in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Brazil and the USA, to name a few.

Gulftainer’s portfolio covers activities at Umm Qasr Port in Iraq, Recife Port in Brazil, Tripoli Port in Lebanon and in Saudi Arabia, where it manages container terminals in Jeddah and Jubail. The company recently signed a 35-year concession with the Canaveral Port Authority in Florida marking Gulftainer’s first venture in the United States, and the first time that a UAE ports management company had gained a US container terminal.

Gulftainer is also assessing several potential new ventures in line with the company’s commercial strategy and growth. It has a vision of becoming one of the world’s top six container terminal operators within the next 10 years. In line with this, Gulftainer launched Momentum Logistics in 2008. The company is a fully integrated logistics provider, and is currently ranked as a superbrand in its industry.

To accommodate this fast-paced growth, Gultainer last year moved to a new headquarters in Sharjah. These new offices occupy the top 11 floors of the building in which they’re situated. And as new office space was required to align with the company’s growth plans, so too was a new way of delivering IT services to employees.

Business challenge

Moving from the company’s old headquarters to a new office spanning 11 floors threw up all kinds of challenges related to the IT infrastructure. However, one of the most pressing challenges came in the form of wireless connectivity for staff. While Gulftainer’s management has not yet given the go-ahead for a BYOD policy, the company still relies heavily on Wi-Fi, given employees’ desires to work with laptops, tablets and smartphones.

Unfortunately, the old distributed wireless infrastructure struggled even in the old office, and would not be fit for purpose in the new building, particularly with employees travelling across different floors for meetings. This fragmented solution also required regular manual configuring of access points and troubleshooting on the part of the IT team.

“Wireless communication is very, very important. Mobility is something that everybody is talking about. And when it comes to its delivery altogether we need to see that you invest in the right infrastructure so that you have a seamless experience to meet the business requirements. Everyone is coming with tablets, everyone is having laptops. Wired networks are still there as your core, but again, when you move within 11 offices, from one floor to another floor, we do need wireless,” explains Vinay Sharma, group IT manager at Gulftainer.

“Before, we had a very heterogeneous environment. There were multiple products, and as the business went, we would bolt devices on. It was not unified. Earlier, there was one kind of access point having an issue, another access point having a different issue. Within the team, the expertise was very difficult to manage.”

The management of a secure guest access to the wireless network had also become a concern for Sharma and his team as over 50 guests might visit the Gulftainer headquarters in a single day. These are made up of a mix of one-time and returning visitors, and in each instance, an IT resource was needed to grant wireless access to the user.

Essentially, Gulftainer needed a centralised Wi-Fi solution that could cater for all of its employees, as well as provide seamless connectivity as they moved around the 11 floors of the office block. On top of that, Gulftainer wanted an easier and more secure way to manage its corporate Wi-Fi users, and so it required a solution with robust sign-on capabilities that would help the company better manage access and policies.

The solution

Gulftainer carried out research on the leading players in the wireless networking business, assessing their products and services against the company’s needs. According to Sharma, finding the right hardware wasn’t much of a problem — it was the integration with a coherent access system that could help Gultainer manage users. Eventually, the company focused on Aruba Networks’ offerings — in particular the vendor’s ClearPass Access Management System, which would be integrated with an Aruba 7030 Cloud Services Controller, and more than 45 Aruba access points.

“We found that Aruba could meet our business requirements. And most important was the guest management. The ClearPass from Aruba has given us that extra edge, where we are managing our guest network, and it’s quite simplified. But the other side is security. When you have the Wi-Fi network, your security is known to be very important. We were able to implement a MAC solution so that our network is quite controlled internally, so misuse cannot be done,” explains Sharma.

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