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Sun 29 Jun 2008 04:00 AM

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The missing pieces

Bonyan International Investment Group nearly had its ambitious infrastructure project derailed when construction of its datacentre was delayed. Imthishan Giado reports.

Bonyan International Investment Group nearly had its ambitious infrastructure project derailed when construction of its datacentre was delayed. Imthishan Giado reports.

For many enterprises, it's a challenge to complete projects in a timely fashion.

Successful implementations depend on a number of cogs meshing together: the right equipment arriving at the right time so that the integrating partner can begin work at the client location to meet the deadline for delivery.

It’s been a very challenging project. We had many obstacles, not from our side or the Raqmiyat side, but from the physical location readiness.

Unfortunately for UAE-based Bonyan International Investment Group, which was constructing infrastructure to support its new consolidated, centralised datacentre, things didn't proceed as smoothly.

When integrating partner Raqmiyat arrived at Bonyan's office to complete the infrastructure installation, it found that that the floor housing the datacentre hadn't even been completed yet - and worked round the clock to meet Bonyan's deadline.

Suhail Sawalhi, Bonyan's CIO and IT manager explained how Raqmiyat dealt with the situation: "These guys worked with us late hours and came in on weekends. I have to give it to them - our schedule was tied up with the contractor here and our datacentre on the 32nd floor wasn't even ready.

When we met with Raqmiyat's staff, we told them that we were facing several challenges in the readiness of the datacentre. They expressed readiness to work with us - and they did. In many areas Raqmiyat committed two complete teams."

He joined the organisation in April 2007, and immediately set out an ambitious plan for the group.

"The mission was to start the IT services and solutions for Bonyan International Investment Group as the starting point for Bonyan Holdings.

With that target in mind, we decided to have a strong scalable and robust IT datacentre and went with infrastructure, systems, servers, storage, backup and disaster recovery from Raqmiyat," he says.

Sawalhi administers 60 users - a number of whom are mobile - from his Dubai head office with the help of his seven-strong IT team. The project to install Bonyan's new infrastructure began in June 2007.

"We contacted several vendors and Raqmiyat seemed to be ahead in its area of expertise. We then received equipment in late September - but the site was not ready because there were some delays from the contractor side, pushing our plans back.

We tried to convey our status to Raqmiyat's team - they were very helpful in their work with us," he says.

Sawalhi notes Bonyan's shift to its new offices as the key driver behind the infrastructure project, which originated in his department: "We felt that with the move to the new offices, it was our goal to start foundations for Bonyan Holdings as an organisation.

We decided we needed something that could be clean from the beginning, and meet Microsoft as well as HP standards. So we took the business process to drive the IT infrastructure, with the support of the CEO, chairman and their financial commitment."

He notes that parameters for the implementation, such as the timeframe, were largely determined by the concurrent ERP and CRM projects underway: "We had deadlines to make sure that our business areas were met on target

Infrastructure was supposed to be ready for that area to be deployed; that's why we worked with Raqmiyat to make sure our infrastructure and application platform was ready and optimised for the ERP application.

Bonyan has stated that the implementation cost US$462,000, although that figure is expected to increase with future orders in the pipeline for Raqmiyat. Though he has put measures into place to estimate ROI, Sawalhi doesn't expect returns until next year."We are looking at optimising production for the users. We're looking for service level agreements and tools to make people more productive and efficient in their business functions. This is where we are putting the infrastructure as a part of the overall IT equation," he states.

When choosing the vendors for the project, Sawalhi relied upon his seven years of UAE experience: "Even though we're not going through a tendering process, I invited several vendors, including Microsoft. Raqmiyat showed us the commitment and experience to meet our challenges.

During the course of the selection, Sawalhi found that his emphasis on a cost-effective solution drew a range of varying responses from vendors. Some over-quoted or over-proposed for the requirements he put forward, while others were found to be under-quoting.

These guys worked with us late hours and came in on weekends. I have to give it to them – our schedule was tied up with the contractor here and our datacentre on the 32nd floor wasn’t even ready.

He explains that Raqmiyat won the final contract based on the professionalism of its sales, technical and management team, as well its reputation for successful implementations within the Middle East market.

For the project, Bonyan had 13 servers which had to be allocated to a range of functions within the group, including four specifically tasked for e-mail. Raqmiyat was tasked with deploying the Microsoft systems related to Active Directory, as well as setting up Bonyan's complete e-mail system.

Sawalhi also worked with Raqmiyat on other aspects of the infrastructure, including installing UPSs and HP storage and backup systems.

The project went live in late March this year, less than a year after the project was first mooted to management. Sawalhi commended Raqmiyat's commitment to meeting the stated deadline, despite the various delays that occurred.

Post-implementation, Sawalhi feels that the new infrastructure has significant potential, which he credits with flexibility in the initial design stage: "At the beginning we had an agreed design which was modified - you could say that it was diverted about 5%-10% - and Raqmiyat worked with us very closely to make sure that our newly modified business requirements were met.

"It's been a very challenging project. We had many obstacles, not from our side or the Raqmiyat side, but from the physical location readiness. That's why we had to align our activities accordingly and we feel comfortable that Raqmiyat is a good partner to work with on future projects," he concludes.

BONYAN: BackgroundEnd-user:Bonyan International Investment Group

Established:2002

Desks:60

IT team: 7

Implementation:Systems, servers, storage, e-mail, infrastructure

Project duration:June 2007-March 2008

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