Riverbed Technology announced that Zain Iraq, a mobile phone operator in Iraq managed by the Zain group, has purchased and deployed Riverbed Steelhead appliances at 75 sites throughout Iraq and in other Middle East locations to accelerate, consolidate and expand its operations.
Zain Iraq is committed to contributing to the economic prosperity of Iraq by creating employment and business opportunities for Iraqi citizens. Zain Iraq currently has nearly 8 million customers who rely on the company to provide them with secure, affordable, always-on cellular service. Zain Iraq was formed in January 2008 after Zain Group purchased Iraqna, and merged it with its existing Iraqi operator MTC Atheer. Iraqna and MTC Atheer have been providing to customers a wide range of mobile telephony and data services since December 2003.
Zain Iraq’s parent company, Zain Group, has set a goal to become one of the top ten leading telecom companies by 2011, with a goal of 150 million customers. As part of that effort, the company has launched its ACE (Accelerate, Consolidate, Expand) initiative. ACE seeks to extract superior value from existing assets through three main thrusts: accelerating growth in Africa; consolidating existing assets; and expanding into adjacent markets. Zain’s acquisition of Iraqna is part of that effort.
To meet the ACE goal of consolidating existing assets, Zain Iraq has been re-architected to minimize operational expense, consolidating certain activities and services to improve data security, reduce IT overhead and improve overall back-end operations. Consolidated
activities include disaster recovery, revenue assurance, fraud monitoring and access to Exchange servers. As Zain Iraq consolidated these operations with its recent acquisition of Iraqna, the company recognized that reliable and fast transfer of data and voice between branches, data centers, call centers and regional customer care offices would be critical for the success of the project.
Prior to the acquisition, Zain had been using a fiber link to transfer billing and other data to its data center for processing. However, according to Riad Mounir, IT director at Zain Iraq, “We had difficulty sending information. The security situation prevented us from expanding the fiber network, but to ensure timely billing and security of our data, we needed to replicate customer usage info on an hourly basis. Our existing fiber link couldn’t handle the load so we shifted all data to our satellite and microwave links. Latency and limited bandwidth were both constraints.”
Zain Iraq worked with its partner, FutureTech, a Kuwait-based solutions provider, to identify and implement a WDS solution that would ensure fast response times for applications and data in this consolidated and bandwidth-constrained environment.
When asked about the selection process, Mounir confirmed that, “Working closely with FutureTech, we considered offerings from Cisco, Juniper, and Riverbed. We chose Riverbed over the competition because of its proven leadership in the marketplace combined with its ability to deliver superior acceleration and bandwidth optimization.”
Riverbed has enabled Zain Iraq to realize its goals of centralization of assets, while providing field employees with real-time access to secure applications and data. Zain Iraq is now able to meet its business goal of replicating billing data hourly, while response times for applications such as Exchange and databases have improved by 20X.
The Steelhead appliances have also increased the capacity of the network by 3-4X, depending on the location. For example, the link between Basra and Baghdad is now able to carry four times the traffic that it could prior to the installation of the Steelhead
appliances. This capacity increase has improved quality assurance for voice and video conferencing by allowing Zain Iraq to dedicate bandwidth for these critical applications.
According to Mounir, the increased capacity delivered by the Steelhead appliances has also resulted in significant cost savings for Zain Iraq. “Without Riverbed, we would have had to make a substantial investment in bandwidth. I estimate that we are saving an average of USD 144,000 per month by working with Riverbed. We’ve seen a return on investment of seven months.”
“We continue to see demand for Riverbed solutions from customers in the Middle East, with telecommunications providers choosing Riverbed to accelerate their applications and data,” said Mohammed Anwar Karzazi, regional director at Riverbed. “Our strong market presence and technology leadership, coupled with our ability to deliver 24X7 follow-the-sun customer support, are particularly attractive to customers who demand best-of-breed solutions and always-on performance.”