KNPC aims for the Cloud with VMware

KNPC’s IT manager breaks down the recent VMware’s implementation and explains why going virtual and to the cloud was the right call

Tags: Cloud StorageCloud computingKuwaitKuwait National Petroleum CompanyKuwait Petroleum Corporation
  • E-Mail
KNPC aims for the Cloud with VMware Abdulaziz A. Al-Duaij manager of Information Technology Department in KNPC.
By  Alexander Sophoclis Pieri Published  June 26, 2017

As one of six subsidiaries under the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation, Kuwait National Petroleum Company (KNPC) is one of the largest oil & gas companies active in the Gulf.

With a workforce numbering over 10,000, along with over 70,000 contractors, KNPC today operates two main refineries and is currently in the process of constructing what is expected to become one of the largest refineries in the world.

Widely known as a ‘forward-looking’ organisation within the Gulf’s oil & gas sector, KNPC has long been an early adopter of the latest technologies.

Over the last few years however, the company’s back-end IT infrastructure has struggled to keep up with the demands of the market and their customers. It became imperative for the firm to distance itself away from server virtualisation and move to the private cloud, as well as to deliver IT-as-a-Service (ITaaS) to its ever-expanding portfolio of customers.

With goals to accelerate service delivery and IT efficiency, as well as deliver an enhanced experience to the customer, KNPC’s long-term vision aims to deliver a community cloud offering Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), along with Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), and Database-as-a-Service (DaaS), to developers at the company and its sister firms.

To realise this vision, KNPC selected cloud infrastructure and business mobility specialist VMware, to deploy its VMware NSX network virtualisation and VMware vRealize Suite, to deliver ITaaS through a multi-site private cloud.

“The key motivation was for us was to provide better support to our customers and enhance IT operations,” comments Abdulaziz A. Al-Duaij, manager of Information Technology Department in KNPC.

“We wanted to accelerate the service delivery, improve IT efficiency and deliver a better customer experience. This is what drove us for this project … in addition to that, we wanted to provide the Cloud for our community — our business users.”

Deployed over a six month period through the diligent work of Kuwait-based implementation partner, Enhanced Engineering & Multi Technologies Company (EEMC), the deployment of both VMware vRealize Suite and VMware NSX introduced a number of operational benefits to KNPC.

Firstly, the vRealize Operations module of the VMware vRealize Suite, provided KNPC the tools to better oversee its IT infrastructure, while also enhancing predictions related to capacity requirements and improved faster time to resolution through proactive monitoring.

Additionally, the vRealize Automation module introduced IT automation capabilities that has since helped streamline processes and minimise the overall security risk.

Prior to the adoption of VMware NSX, KNPC’s network strained to roll out new or updated services in a timely fashion. For example, the IT manager explains that it previously would have taken weeks to configure and deliver 10 servers to their customers.

With the VMware NSX, the deployment of servers can accomplished within mere minutes.

Thanks to VMware NSX’s micro-segmentation, KNPC’s IT will also have better control over application security, assigning access to different users, as well as gaining the ability to construct a secure and robust SDDC.

Additionally, the platform also gives KNPC the ability to migrate VMs from site to site with no application downtime, and will also combine compute resources from the company’s three physical data centres. This will enable KNPC to operate from a single Cloud, forming the foundation of its private, community Cloud.

“VMware NSX really give us so many options. This includes network virtualisation and enhanced performance in our operations. In addition to that, enhanced security zones and also multi-tenancy and detailed monitoring and performance reporting. For all services,” explains Al-Duaij.

The IT manager went on to add that after the project went live in August 2016, the team at KNPC has seen substantial improvement in the speed of their service delivery by roughly 60 – 70%. Al-Duaij also highlighted the significant amount of space gained back following the downsizing of the physical servers.

This of course also saved on power, environmental controls, and even maintenance costs, which coupled with increased levels of automation and the implementation of hardware vendor agnostic infrastructure, drove down costs significantly.

“If we go back to when we had physical servers, and the time we spent for monitoring, doing backup, and support maintenance, I think we saved about 70% of our day-to-day,” adds Al-Duaij.

“Just consider that once we had something like 800 physical servers with 800 processors, fans, CPUs, etc. Now I am not dealing at all with this. I only have two to three black boxes. Very easy to maintain and consumes much less power. Even for monitoring, it is quite automated.”

To help facilitate the smooth deployment of both VMware vRealize Suite and VMware NSX, KNPC worked closely with VMware, who helped familiarise staff with the new systems. Without a similar project of the same scale in Kuwait or the wider region, the oil & gas company didn’t have a reference point from which to work from.

“When we started our project, there were no similar big implementations of VMware in the region. We were the first to experience the new challenges and endured many technical issues. Thankfully, we were able to resolve it in coordination with VMware’s support team,” comments Al-Duaij.

To help ensure the implementation’s success, VMware’s team from Dubai provided onsite training and even offered certification examinations for their platforms. To date, eight of KNPC’s staff have been certified on VMware.

“We conducted a visibility study at the start of the project. We looked at the market, but we didn’t really rush ourselves,” explains Al-Duaij on the selection of vendor.

“When we selected VMware it was really a proven solution in the market - commercially accepted. We were also being guided by third parties like Gartner … the most important thing, if you have a new solution, is the availability and skills of technical account managers in the region. Their presence gave us great support.”

When pressed on other areas of technology currently being explored by KNPC, Al-Duaij shares that the oil & gas firm is currently looking into opportunities surrounding Big Data and business intelligence (BI), as well as technologies such as containers and dockers.

KNPC is looking into introducing a mobility solution into its IT infrastructure that would enable decision-makers to monitor refinery status and take critical decision while on the go. Additionally, the company hopes to introduce novel avenues for communication between KNPC and its sister companies through the use of social media.

Like many other companies active within the sector, KNPC has begun to introduce Internet-of-Things (IoT) solutions across their facilities. In particular, the company’s Clean Fuels Project (CFP), which saw the modernisation of equipment at both the Mina Abdulla (MAB) and Mina Al Ahmadi (MAA) refineries was largely IoT-focused.

“Ninety percent of all our equipment in those refiners are IoT-ready. But what we are approaching now is to have our own private wireless network — LTE network — that we are going to seek from the Ministry. Then we are going to build our Big Data and work on our analytics for decision making and dashboards,” comments Al-Duaij.

“I think everybody is looking for a way to have fast decision making, everyone is looking for dashboards, where they can consolidate much of data and take decisions. So dashboards is very important for executives,” he adds.

KNPC’s IT manager also briefly delved into the company’s disaster recovery process, though this part of the daily IT operation was well-established prior to the more recent VMware implementation.

The company maintains two active backup sites and a third site for disaster recovery that is only utilised when both backups fail. Sharing that the backup process at the first two sites once operated in an ‘active/passive’ setup, the new process operates on an ‘active/active’ state. This has dramatically lessened the length in downtime.

The IT manager is quick to point however, an often overlooked but critical component within the IT infrastructure is IT security. It is an area that KNPC works closely with Symantec in order to keep its systems secure.

“The most important thing we found out about cybersecurity was how you secure your whole infrastructure. Whatever growth you are achieving, it can open up other way for hackers to get in and cause damage. In Kuwait we had many threats coming at us. Even recent ones,” explains Al-Duaij.

“The threat is growing. This is why we are not so fast in building these big projects. We are very careful. Anything we introduce, it has be safe in terms of security.”

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code