Case Studies

Geared for battle

Raihan Aamir, IT and systems manager, Ducab

Sathya Mithra Ashok writes on how Ducab uses a wise mix of security solutions to safeguard device and data.

Dubai Cable Company (Pvt) Ltd (Ducab) is a technologically advanced cable manufacturing company that was established in 1979 by the Government of Dubai as a joint venture with BICC Cables. Today, the company is equally owned by the governments of Abu Dhabi and Dubai supplying a range of high quality power cables and accessories to customers across the world in 40 countries.

“We don’t disclose our numbers, but we have an annual turnover of close to a billion dollars. We have around 1000  employees and three manufacturing facilities in as many locations. We recently have formed a joint venture with  ADWEA and DEWA to manufacture extra high voltage cables and a plant for this is coming up right next to our headquarters here,” says Raihan Aamir, IT and systems manager at Ducab.

To support all the new initiatives, Ducab has put together a robust IT infrastructure over the years.

“We were one of the first in the manufacturing environment to implement ERP. We did that way back in 1998. Since  then we have implemented several add-ons like plant maintenance, warehouse management, quality software, HRMS,  risk management and other standard apps. On the infrastructure side, even if we don’t have the latest, we have fairly mature technologies. We use handhelds, bar codes and tracking elements on the shop f loor,” says Aamir.

He adds, “We have one primary data centre and a disaster recovery facility in the same campus. At the backend we have a mixed environment of both Unix and Windows. Totally our servers would number around 30.”

Need for security
According to Aamir, Ducab saw exponential growth over the last six years, and the IT infrastructure had to grow  accordingly from just about 6 servers to the strength that it is currently. The company also changed its previous ATM  network to an IPVPN one to prevent linkup dropages, and to reduce management and operational cost.

As growth occurred and Ducab grew in prominence, the 12-member IT team had to pay more attention to the requirements of security.

“We used to be a McAfee house. However, a few years back there was a virus outbreak and the vendor was unable to get through a solution immediately. At that point, we migrated to a competitor who was offering a solution and this was Sophos. Two years into our Sophos implementation, the company that was supporting us with the solution said that they were no longer in partnership with the vendor and we would have to look for a different agency for procuring  support,” says Aamir.

Uncomfortable with this change, the company decided to look for another solution that fit its needs. After considering  the major vendors,  Ducab zeroed down on a Trend Micro solution, largely due to its usability and ease of management.

“We implemented the Trend Micro NeatSuite Advanced solution. This comes along with web security services,  messaging, server components, Windows client components and then there is the anti-spam and anti-malware components as well among others. We got the whole suite,” says Aamir.

Trend Micro’s solution was implemented across the organisation, covering all of its 400+ PCs and mobile devices. While the solution gave it everything they required – protection, manageability and ease of use – the company made a  conscious decision about a year back to use a different security vendor for its growing number of mobile devices.

“For our laptops and other mobile devices – including smartphones and PDAs – we implemented a Kaspersky solution  just less than a year ago. We made the decision to pick another vendor because this will ensure that we are not left  vulnerable if there is an outbreak and if a vendor is slow to come out with a patch,” adds Aamir.

He states that while both security solutions do not talk to each other, they manage to co-exist in Ducab’s systems.  According to him, this was one of the major reasons that they are able to have this particular mix of vendors in security, since many of the other major vendors are unable to provide this capacity to function together.

Up ahead
While 2010 was a slow year in terms of investments, 2011 will see Ducab put in place a brand new IP telephony solution. It will also continue to invest in virtualising its servers to gain more productivity and utilisation out of them.

“We are looking at virtualisation to simplify and consolidate our systems. The number of servers we hold has grown  over the years and we have seen a proliferation of systems, for either business solutions or custom solutions that were  built inhouse. Maintaining servers thus becomes a problem. We ran an audit on these servers sometime back and  realised that they weren’t  running at good capacity utilisation. This is the reason we are looking at virtualisation,” says Aamir.

Ducab has chosen Microsoft’s HyperV as its virtualisation platform for two reasons – one, their virtualistion workload  will remain limited in the short term and two, the cost effectiveness of the solution. The company also did a POC (proof- ofconcept) to ensure that the solution is the right choice for them.

When asked about the challenges that virtualisation could bring to the table, Aamir says, “We are handling virtualisation in a phased manner. We are moving non-critical, largely Windows based apps to the virtualised servers, such that we minimise initial issues. We will virtualise just about six to eight servers to begin with and each of them will have no more than four virtual machines. Our core ERP will still stay in a Unix environment and we are not looking to  get everything virtual in  a short time frame. This will minimise the troubles we could face and also give us time to getused to and manage the changing environment better.”

With a budget-planning process that works like a well-oiled machine – from the business need, to the evaluation and costing, to the relevant approvals and the implementation process – Ducab will continue to grow and invest wisely in a field that grows more competitive the world over.

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