Tech & Communications

Virtualising Qatar’s Businesses

by  — 6 November 2012

TheEDGE spoke exclusively with Nimer Ghazal, country manager for Brocade Qatar about the virtualisation of business functions, the move to cloud based applications and the challenges for companies in managing their data in a time of information explosion.

What is Brocade? And what services do you provide?

To give you an idea of how critical our infrastructure is, over one third of the world’s Internet traffic relies on Brocade to get from point A to point B everyday. Our hardware and software is currently running in more than 90 percent of the Global top 1000 companies.

Our vision is to be the industry leader in providing reliable, high performance network solutions that will help the world’s leading organisations transition to a virtualised world where applications and information reside anywhere. Since we were founded in 1995 in San Jose, California, United States (US). Brocade has grown to approximately 4000 employees worldwide, serving a wide range of industries and customers in more than 160 countries.

What do you mean when you say businesses are moving towards a virtualised world?

Enterprises are using a combination of their own distributed resources, outsourced providers, and outsourced cloud providers, mobile users. Making businesses run on top of this fully distributed infrastructure is what it is all about. This is the reality of information technology for most enterprises today.

There are a lot of examples from our daily lives. A lot of organisations for example are using outsourced e-mail providers in the cloud. Let us say you are a company that does not want to setup your own e-mail infrastructure because it is costly, so you go to companies like Google or any number of other e-mail providers and tell them, you have a 100 or 200 users and you want them to provide e-mail for your organisation. This is e-mail in the cloud. This is basically what cloud computing is. Collaboration tools, for example SharePoint is another one, a lot of customers have a resources working in remote locations.

You might have a construction company that has offices in Doha, offices in Dubai, offices in the US, so how do you make sure these guys collaborate with each other? They use technologies such as Microsoft SharePoint where they work on a project at the same time and everybody puts their requirements, and they can discuss back and forth. Administrative applications is another, you see some of the companies host their human resource portals on the cloud, so if you want for example to take a vacation you go online fill an application form. These are some of the applications that are running on the cloud. At the same time, similar types of applications are running inside the enterprise infrastructure. However, both sets of applications need to work together to achieve the business goals and objectives.

Are organisations in Qatar also moving towards virtualised business functions?

Yes, For example, a lot of government entities in Qatar today depend on the Hukoomi infrastructure to streamline their work. You can pay your speeding tickets from the Hukoomi online portal. You can renew your residency, renew your health card, register your business, etcetera. This is what we are talking about. Information resides internally and on the cloud. Why is that? Because enterprises realised that users are looking for this comfort plus they can reduce their overheads like staff costs, salaries and buildings, which leads to better profitability and better economics.

So given all of this, the industry has decided that cloud architectures are the answer. The goal of the virtual enterprise is for you to take advantage of any combination of private and public data centre infrastructure to place your computing, storage and applications where is makes the most sense.

What are the most critical objectives for organisations that want to move into a virtualised workspace?

The simplicity factor to overcome today’s complexity is vital. Non-stop networking is required to maximise business uptime. Optimised applications are needed to increase business agility and gain a competitive edge. There is also the investment protection to provide a smooth transition to new technologies, while leveraging existing infrastructure.

How has this changed the role that information technology (IT) services play in an organisation?

The traditional focus of IT and the chief information officers (CIO) has historically been around the hardware infrastructure and applications running on top, and how to provide better connectivity between all users and these applications. However, recently this focus has started to change. CIOs are now more focused on the users, who are the greatest assets to any organisation. These users would need not only to interact with local applications residing inside the data centre but also remote employees, partners, and customers so the system of engagement has changed. What this has done is put a big load on the networks. The demands are high as networks have to be up and running 100 percent of the time with great speeds. It has to be resilient, fast, disaster independent, cost-effective, highly automated, distance independent, multi-vendor, and above all that, it has to be simple in terms of devices and their management.

Has this lead to drastic restructuring of data centre architecture, can you speak a little more about how that has changed?

The culmination of these trends in data growth is resulting in a deconstruction of the traditional hierarchical data centre IT model. In order for data centres to be able to accommodate the rigorous requirements of virtualisation and cloud computing, they must migrate to what is known as a fabric-based solution.

Unlike classic hierarchical architectures, fabric-based networks enable far greater reliability, scalability and utilisation. One of the benefits of our approach is the ability to optimise for the network requirements and behaviours that are unique to the virtualised data centre. Our systems have been optimised for both scalability and latency, two variables that often require trade-offs to be made.

Exponential growth in Internet usage, especially through mobile devices is putting a lot of demand on network traffic, will companies be able to find a balance between costs and providing a high quality service?

While a lot of attention is focused on data centres, traffic patterns in the service provider core are going through major changes. We see exponential traffic growth, which is frequently dominated by highly unpredictable and a rapid transition to IPv6 (the latest Internet Communications Protocol).

As a result, network operators are faced with increasing operational complexity and cost, and they are finding that investment at the current level is not sustainable. Using solutions like Brocade’s SuperCore routing system will enable operators to scale capacity while driving down cost per bit in their
core networks.

How does network analytics play into this?

The increasing importance of network analytics is driven by the growth of mobile networks, cloud computing and virtualisation. Network analytics is complicated by massive real-time and unstructured data, as well as the existence of virtual resources and
hybrid environments.

We believe network analytics is now a critical component of any cloud infrastructure because of its impact on automated orchestration of service delivery. For example our real-time network analytics solution provides a real-time weather map for global networks.

Are companies in Qatar actively looking to integrate these solutions into their firms?

In Qatar we are working with leading customers and enterprises, we are going into large banks and organisations and providing demo trials for these customers because, it seems too good to be true to be frank with you, so they would like to see how our system works and we are eager to help those customers achieve their goals.

The first thing that comes to their mind is can we see it, can you bring us equipment can we try this at our labs? And it is actually exciting to see this kind of interaction with these kinds of customers.

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