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Big hitters dock at Dubai World

Dubai World has signed deals with some of the biggest names in the IT industry as part of a massive upgrade of its systems infrastructure.

It has partnered with Microsoft, Oracle, HP and Cisco to implement hardware and software platforms that will support its ambitious expansion plans. Dubai World, the holding company of corporations such as Dubai Ports World and Nakheel, is currently in the final stages of the deployment and said it was on course to complete the entire project by the second quarter of next year. The IT overhaul is the most extensive in its history and includes the installation of high-end server and storage units, enterprise database and application software, messaging and e-mail systems, and networking infrastructure.

“Dubai World is going through phenomenal growth in the region and worldwide as well. In order to support that growth we need to make investment in IT systems,” Scott Clegg, director of technology delivery at Dubai World, told IT Weekly.

“Over the past year there have been a number of very large strategic partnerships with what we see as the key vendors in the industry to build a platform the company can then grow on,” Clegg added.

The upgrade is initially in the UAE, but Clegg said the company had plans to upgrade and standardise its global IT operation within the next five years. He did not specify how much money it was pouring into the upgrade, but did say it was a “multi-million dollar” investment.

The IT transformation programme includes the migration of its www.DubaiTrade.ae portal to Oracle’s Database 10g and Oracle Application Server solutions — one of the largest implementations of its kind globally.

Dubai World had used IBM technology to support the portal; however, according to Wassim Hamwi, the company’s chief technology officer, IBM had ceased to provide support for the product, as Dubai World had not kept up with its upgrades.

The portal combines the electronic services for Dubai Ports, Customs and JAFZA, catering for over 13,000 internal and external users from across the myDPA, eMirsal, e-ATA, myJAFZA and DMCC sites.

Previously JAFZA used a Sybase database and Sybase forms while Dubai Ports used the old version of Oracle’s 10g database, Oracle 8i.

Dubai World said it was important to unify the software and IT platforms being used across the ports, free zone and customs business units.

Hamwi said the company had experienced a range of problems running three different

IT infrastructures, including system downtime and high operational costs.

“It’s total cost of ownership, the number of skills that we have to have on board and the complexity when integrating between the different applications and it adds a lot of maintenance and operational costs to maintain the upgrade on all of those systems,” Hamwi told IT Weekly.

Dubai World has also migrated from IBM’s Lotus Notes to a Microsoft platform.

Staff now use Exchange 2003 for e-mail, SharePoint 2003 for intranet portal application and collaboration, and workflow based on Microsoft.Net.

The software and applications run on HP’s new Superdome servers. Dubai World is the first organisation to adopt the servers in the UAE as its core infrastructure.

Two Superdome servers have been deployed in each of the holding company’s two remote data centres and are connected to HP high-end storage.

All of this is managed remotely through the vendor’s enterprise management software OpenView.

Dubai World and Cisco have completed phase one of the holding company’s corporate network transformation project, signifying the deployment of the network core and data centres for the project.

Other phases currently underway include corporate network infrastructure at Nakheel and Emirates Towers.

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