Advanced networking technologies is the terrain of the solution providers who have rich expertise to offer when it comes to interweaving interoperable technologies sources from multiple vendors into a cohesive solution. APPLICOM, a 3Com Gold partner but also associated with many other vendors, is a medium size network integrator based out of its office in Dubai Internet City and has been in operations for the past 13 years. It was founded by George G. Khouri who now heads the operations as its CEO.
As a long standing player in the regional industry, the company has proven credentials. Add to it that many of the names in its client list are some of the who’s who of the corporate world in the region.
Khoury says, “We are leaders in advanced networking technologies and are almost 13 years old. We were operating earlier out of Jebel Ali and moved here when DIC was formed. We provide end to end solutions from planning, through design, deployment and support.”
The solution provider has specialists in different technologies on its staff. Although it has a modest number of staff, it claims to have end to expertise from networking, systems, security to IP Telephony. Some of the members on its staff have cross stream specializations which helps augment the company’s competence to deliver on time, to the customer’s satisfaction.
Khoury says, “We have 7 technical experts in networking, systems, security and VoIP. Some of them have cross- specialisations in these technologies. This enables us to deploy various technologies and also end to end deployments including cabling although the latter would be not our core expertise.”
He adds, “We cover the entire range from routing to switching and from the edge to the core. We deploy everything from fixed networks to wireless networks and LAN to WAN. We also have the expertise to secure the network with Firewall when hooking up to VPN networks and against other threats such as email threats, intrusion threats, antivirus etc.”
So they do everything from setting up servers, messaging systems, email systems etc to laying out IPT in between. Its IPT engineers also have a good knowledge of servers, particularly Linux servers because many of the messaging servers offered by leading vendors for instance run on Linux.
As a 3Com partner, one of its core strengths has been VoIP deployments and the company claims to have been deploying these technologies since 2000, making it one of the pioneers in the region.
Khoury says, “Since 2000, we have providing VoIP deployments and until date have done so in over 40 customer sites. We have done a project in collaboration with Etisalat as well. Our customers included 3i Infotech, Gulf News etc. We address a broad spectrum of customers from different segments- automotive, trade, Infotech, education, FMCG, Food & Beverages etc with no specific vertical focus because as we see it, everyone needs IT infrastructure. However, we are strong in Oil and Gas sector, probably because of the nature of the region where we operate. ”
He adds, “We are a stable company and have been able to retain our customers. We have some large multinationals as our customers and we provide support to their local branches here. We did an end to end implementation on 3 Com technologies for Honda last year.
The solution provider has built a strong win-win relationship with 3Com, its principal vendor through various deployments in the past. In fact, it has commenced a large deployment for Al Khaleej hospital in Al Ain, which includes an end to end network infrastructure, including wirless.
Khoury says, “Healthcare is one of the highlights of our focus. 3Com is quite strong in the healthcare sector and for us this is a landmark deployment since it requires several technologies to be put together to meet the customer’s needs. We have started end to end implementation with Al Khaleej hospital on 3 com technologies covering the entire spectrum from edge to core, fixed to wireless infrastructure, security, telephony system down to the wiring. “
For AL Khaleej, the general solution consists of core switches with high redundancy fabric, edge switches with dual connections from the edge switches to the core so that there is no single point of failure. The wireless network consists of 124 access points across 6 floors to cover the whole hospital. This utilizes wireless controller technology from 3Com so that each access point can be managed individually from a central location.
Khoury adds, “This wireless network is not only meant for data but also for handheld devices and WiFi phones. Hospital staff can move from floor to floor with seamless connectivity. This is a must when you have voice over wireless. We have edge devices like IP phones connected to the IP server which is 3Com VCX with high availability. Two servers are active with high availability and in case any one goes down which is rare or in case of any update or maintenance work, the telephone system keeps running with the other server running. So there is redundancy in place across the entire network. We provide IPS from Tipping Point to prevent attacks.”
He adds further, “The healthcare city is in its first phase and we have already identified opportunities. Some of them are not as large or in similar areas but we look to tap into the demand in this sector which looks healthy at the moment.”
Real estate is one of the sector that has slowed down but Khoury says it continue to support some of its customers which still needs to keep the core network infrastructure up and running. The solution provider has wide customer base and providing a spectrum of support services to them allows it to sustain stable operations even in a time of uncertainties. Commitment to customer support seems to be one of the key pillars of strength for the solution provider.
Khoury says, “We provide advanced networking technology design and deployment down to different services. We have over 40 SLAs presently and some of these have been in place for many years and some are recent. These entail guaranteed response time, two hours in some cases, technical support, and standby hardware for some critical processes till the system is up and running, over and above the normal warranty support from vendors. “
Working with different vendors, the solution provider has built a reputation of being a reliable supplier that can be easy to work with. It stays close to its customer and understands their requirements before deciding on what specific mix of products and solutions can meet those business needs.
Khoury says, “After being in the market for almost 13 years, we are well known to all vendors in the market. Our approach to the business is as consultants in the early part of the deal we engage with the customer and help decide which vendor’s products will best suit specific applications. For this, you need to be familiar with the latest networking technologies in the market as they keep evolving.”
On the slowdown scenario, he has a different take. He says there is a good pipeline for projects that promise cost benefits. VoIP is one such technology.
Khoury says, “The market is definitely different from last year. There is a lot of demand for technologies which customers see as cost effective. The pipeline for VoIP opportunities has rapidly grown in the past few months, for companies looking to make local as well as regional deployments. If a company has locations across MEA, the costs savings can be enormous and with our long term expertise, we know how to provide the best solutions in line with regulatory laws, such as IP connect from Etisalat, an MPLS service, designed for businesses to use VoIP.”
The adoption of new generation technologies is expected to go up and Khoury says they are ready to tap into those opportunities as they come.
He adds, “These solutions also come with QoS to ensure that the voice quality has priority over data. With voice packets, you cannot afford to scramble it and send whereas sending a data packet, a delay of 5 seconds wouldn’t hurt as much. There is an increased adoption of these technologies across the region. When a customer deploys VoIP for instance, it usefully comes overlaid with voice & video conferencing features. At the same time, companies prefer technologies with open standards. So IPT can be installed as the network infrastructure with other applications such as video conferencing riding on top of that. We do provide these solutions as well to increase our opportunities.”
He claims that they have seen exponential growth over the past few years and is hoping to sustain the heady performance of last year, although market realities are challenging. The company is strong in SMB accounts where the range is from 10-500 users. They also have some larger enterprise accounts. It also treats the regional offices of MNCs operating here as SMB accounts. The company sees its strength in its ability to nurture relationships with customers as well as have the expertise to back it up. This allows the company to offer an upbeat outlook in the face of a very fierce competition from peers of all sizes.
Khoury concludes, “There are companies larger than us as well as smaller than us but the key is to establish contact with customers and be able to deliver what you promise. We have built our credibility over our long years of providing high quality services. Competing against smaller players, obviously they will be able to quote a cheaper price because of lesser overheads but then we compete on our ability to deliver complex technologies.”
Applicom, a network integrator and a 3Com Gold partner has proven credentials in its chosen domains of expertise