With nearly two decades in existence, Gulf Business Machines (GBM) has built up a formidable repute as a leading IT service provider in the region. The company has been an IBM partner since 1990 and was formed as a break-away unit from IBM, almost two decades ago, remaining the sole distributor for IBM excluding selected products and services in the GCC excluding Saudi Arabia, where a sister company operates.
Cesare Cardone, CEO – GBM says, “We share a unique relationship that goes back to GBM’s founding in 1990, when it emerged from what was originally IBM’s Middle Eastern operations. While IBM sits on the GBM Board, it does not hold any stakes in the company. “
GBM is today is a diversified group and has several divisions that handle different businesses including systems integration, network integration and IT distribution.
Cardone adds, “As in any structured IT Company the various lines of business, part of the GBM go to market model, require specific focus. Skills, technologies, processes are different and GBM has different executives responsible to address different segments of requirements.”
One of those divisions is GBM Distribution (GBMD) which supplies IBM Intel servers, IBM storage, Lenovo Personal Computers and Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) systems to second tier resellers.
Cardone adds, “As a value-added distributor, GBMD also serves as an authorized service center for IBM and Lenovo offering full testing, warranty and repair facilities. In addition, GBMD has an advanced Configuration Centre, where computer hardware is pre-configured to end-user requirements and tested prior to shipping. This service saves the reseller time and effort, avoids the cost of shipping additional components separately and most importantly, reduces the number of people handling the machines. The result is a highly sophisticated and customer-driven supply service. “
GBM’s distribution business seems primarily focused to serve IBM customer segments in terms of solutions and whatever compliments those requirements. For IBM, it remains one of its largest distributors in the region, if not the largest.
Cardone says, “While GBMD does generate its own business leads, most are developed by brand vendors. GBM Distribution sells its products through its partners and as a result there is no issue with competing with our resellers. “
There are a few business conglomerates in the region that have independent divisions to handle distribution and their systems integration businesses. GBM follows this rule and emphasises the clear demarcation to enable fair play for its channel.
Cardone says, “It is possible that GBMD’s second tier resellers and GBM may sometimes compete for the same business. In order to address this potential issue we have a clear separation between GBMD and GBM branches. We are aware that this is a very delicate matter and are firm about maintaining these separations. And this approach seems to have worked because I have yet to see a reseller complain about unfair treatment over the past nine years.”
The company also has separate system integration and network integration business units. It sees different objectives for the two lines of business. Its network integration unit for instance seems to be dominated by Cisco focused solutions.
Cardone adds, “System Integration and Network Integration business are completely different disciplines which require different skill sets. Nevertheless, the two technologies are integrated together as solutions and IT infrastructure and networks are, at the end, part of one system in the eyes of the end user. GBM is uniquely positioned to provide our customers with all the different components they require and to be responsible in front of our customers of the "whole solution".
Among new technologies being sought by customers here, GBM sees great demand for storage and server consolidation.
Cardone adds, “There is definitely a major drive to consolidation servers and storage. There is also a major interest to secure business continuity (processes, redundancy, security, and safer data centers) and an emerging sensitivity to reduce energy consumption.”
At present, new initiatives from IBM including Smarter Planet and Dynamic Infrastructure are being rolled out in the region and GBM seems to be at the forefront in rolling out these in the marketplace.
Cardone says, “We are leading the rollout of IBM Dynamic Infrastructure (DI) in our market place. DI helps customers to reduce cost, improve services delivery and manage risk through a set of initiatives that we are bringing to customers. GBM helps customers in this transformation journey that goes beyond data center boundaries, through a set of working sessions where IBM and GBM team engage with our customers to define the priorities and work to deliver on them. “
GBM’s clientele includes some leading business groups as well as public sector and educational institutions. One of the recent deployments has been an advanced on-demand infrastructure for e-learning and IT infrastructure management at Dubai Women’s College (DWC). This integrated infrastructure offers a combination of high-speed wired and wireless networking capabilities, enterprise management and security solutions. It is built on IBM e-Server x-Series and Blade-Center servers with IBM Total-Storage technologies and offers high-security capable wireless access across the campus, a network-based access control system and an IP-based phone system including wireless handsets.
GBM is also investing in areas where IBM is broadening its portfolio through acquisitions and otherwise.
Cardone says, “GBM has always sold the complete range of IBM Software portfolio solutions across all the major target industry sectors. The new acquisitions are also part of GBM’s portfolio and we invested a lot on new skills and delivery capabilities. We see a huge potential for these new products to be adopted by our customers.”
One of its other recent executions is proof of its versatility as an IT solutions provider. GBM implemented arguably the largest payroll system in the region for Abu Dhabi based Al Jaber Group, a leading regional conglomerate and the UAE’s largest private sector employer. As part of the project, the company implemented the Human Resources and Payroll modules of Oracle JD Edwards EnterpriseOne Release 8.11 for Al Jaber Group.
GBM is a Cisco Gold partner in addition to its strong association with IBM. The Networking and Site Services Division of GBM is a leading Network Integrator in the region offering end-to-end networking solutions and full life-cycle support including design consultancy, implementation services and post-installation maintenance and support services.
In the current year, Gulf Business Machines (GBM) has also achieved the Cisco Authorized Technology Provider (ATP) – Cisco TelePresence Partner in the Gulf as well as the Video Surveillance (VS) Advanced Technology Provider (ATP) status from Cisco in the region. This designation acknowledges GBM of having fulfilled the training requirements and programme prerequisites to design, resell, install, and maintain a full range of telepresence and video surveillance solutions.
Last year, Cisco recognised GBM’s efforts in enhancing the levels of service offered to customers throughout the region by giving away an award. But does the entry of Cisco into the blade server business impact GBM’s go to market strategies or its alignment with its principal partners? Cardone adds the impact has to be understood better before any decisions are taken.
Cardone quips, “The entry of Cisco on the blade centre area needs to be better understood by GBM and by the market in terms of what it means in the long term and what the various phases of the roll out will be. The eventual overlap between IBM and Cisco on the same Intel technology needs also to be experienced before taking any directions. Nevertheless, the GBM alignment with IBM is for sure not under discussion and I’m sure that the excellent relationship we enjoy with Cisco will allow us to continue to cooperate successfully.”
For the moment business continues as usual for GBM which has been negotiating the slowdown relatively comfortably despite admitting a slowdown in demand. Taking technologies such as IBM dynamic infrastructure to the market, the SI hopes they will be able to tap into more opportunities.
Gulf Business Machines has a formidable track record in its various lines of business including distribution, systems integration, network integration and consultancy