ZIIC centralises IT

Instead of looking at IT spend increases of between 40% and 50% Saudi Arabia-headquartered Zamil Industrial Investment Company is looking at increases of just 6% - 7%, thanks to its IT consolidation strategy. Colin Edwards finds out more.

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By  Colin Edwards Published  September 30, 2006

Zaki Sabbagh, chief information officer of Zamil Industrial Investment Company (ZIIC), the global manufacturing and fabricating conglomerate with operations in 55 countries, is confident that consolidation of its IT infrastructure is going to pay massive dividends.

The company is moving off three aging Alpha server environments at its key Saudi steel, air-conditioning, glass, and fibreglass insulation manufacturing entities. Instead it has a single, centralised data centre from which to run the local operations as well as provide the future platform for a web-services-based SOA environment to manage the delivery of applications to global operations.

In addition, the newly upgraded facility, which has been operational for six months, is also being developed into a separate business entity delivering outsourced IT services and facilities management to local companies based on service level agreements.

"We decided to deploy IT on a shared service model. Each business sector (steel, glass, a/c and fibreglass insulation) has multiple business units - 12 in all. IT is supporting them from this one data centre," says Sabbagh.

"One of the reasons we decided to go for a single data centre was that we had three different IT organisations, three different networks and three different Oracle ERP applications running. So, instead of having these three environments, we've opted for one IT organisation and one data centre with all the different pieces connected to each other."

The company initially consolidated its IT environment on the Alpha systems, and then phased them out, basing its new IT infrastructure on HP Integrity servers, based on Intel's 64-bit Itanium processors.

Currently, it has an HP Integrity rx8620-32 installed running its Oracle databases, but once the Oracle ERP systems it uses as its core application suite has been certified for the Itanium 64-bit environment, it will deploy a second machine. In the meantime its core Oracle business applications are running on the old Alphas. Some 25 blade servers handle basic 'house-keeping" applications.

ZIIC is also virtualising its storage and data environments to maximise the use of system resources and effect lower total cost of ownership. HP recently released additional capabilities to its Virtual Server Environment for HP Integrity servers to better enable customers to automatically adjust resources within a pooled server environment. The new version dynamically scales the Integrity server infrastructure when mission-critical Oracle database workloads fluctuate. For example, customers can use the capability to automatically allocate additional server capacity to financial applications during the month-end close.

In addition to the Integrity servers, ZIIC is using HP's Enterprise and Management solution, which is widely used by enterprises worldwide to support mission-critical business operations.

"It's a very challenging environment for CIOs especially when you have multiple department needs and diverse geographical locations. Multiple needs had to be catered for," says Samer Karawi, marketing manager, enterprise and corporate communications, HP Middle East, adding that ZIIC was a pioneer in its use of the technology.

"Today, global market dynamics are reaching Saudi Arabia and futuristic companies like ZIIC realize that business success depends on deploying the latest technologies and aligning them with business strategies to derive maximum value. This has been the IT vision at ZIIC, and the HP solution has been designed and implemented with this in mind," he adds.

ZIIC also implemented the latest storage technology from HP and established a remote online data backup site to ensure rapid data recovery of mission critical data in the event of a disaster. Currently, the organisation is only backing up data and does not have a full replicated disaster site, but having tested the recovery processes, Sabbagh is satisfied that it meets its current business continuity needs.

The storage environment is also based on HP technology. The HP StorageWorks solution was specifically designed to meet ZIIC's critical need for improved storage utilisation and scalability.

"Standardisation was one of our key objectives," says Sabbagh. "It was part of our strategic plans. We didn't want to get into a multiple platform with multiple support and incompatibility issues. We wanted to get the best support possible and HP were able to provide it."

Capital outlay and total cost of ownership were also major concerns as was the need to have a totally scalable environment that would not only accommodate corporate growth but also to be able to support its plans to provide outsourced facilities to Saudi companies. It is already providing such outsourcing services to two Saudi companies.

While the whole project, which included PCs, storage, blade and Itanium servers and management solution was a multi-million dollar project, it was not a 'money-no-object’ implementation. He says: “Manufacturing has a lot of pressure to reduce costs. We cannot compare our spend to that of other industries, such as banking. In order to get the spend we needed we have to provide a detailed return on investment on it. But it was certainly a major investment and I am sure we will get the best out of it," he says adding that issues such as standardisation meant reduced complexity which in turn results in reduced costs.

Sabbagh says that had the company not made the investment and consolidated and centralised its IT, he would be looking at IT operational expenditure increases of around 40% over a four to five year period. Instead, it is more of a 6% increase he is looking at.

On the scalability issue he adds: "Our objective was scalability. This was the most important part of the whole project. HP understands our business requirements and our need to respond to continual market changes and dynamics, and it has delivered a world class solution which provides the high performance technology we require," he says.

With most of ZIIC's factories being located within a 30 km radius of the data centre, access is being provided by fibre optic LAN and WAN as well as via a VPN.

HP was selected over competitors to deliver the enterprise solution based on its previous track record of success with ZIIC and its proven ability to meet and respond to the customer's needs.

"The relationship between HP and Zamil Industrial Investment Co is as old as HP (Compaq) and Zamil," says Karawi.

“We had three different IT organisations, three different networks and three different Oracle ERP applications running."

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