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Microsoft to build duo of UAE data centres

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v sureshCloud. Mobility. Social media. The UAE-based retailer Jumbo Electronics ticks off all these boxes in the technology menu. It also has to its credit many firsts in the region – being one of the early adopters of Microsoft Office 365 solution, and the first customer of IBM’s AS 400 system.

Jumbo currently has 22 store locations across the UAE and two in Oman. It has around 800 active IT users and the most important applications running on the network include ERP, warehouse house management and PoS solution.

The retailer embarked on seven major IT projects in 2012, with a vision to streamline IT operations and lower TCO. This included a major upgrade of the ERP system (JD Edwards), implementation of business intelligence tools and a retail POS based on Oracle.
“Once that was done, we started focusing on our infrastructure, and moved some of our applications to the cloud and implemented a mobility solution for our sales force,” says V Suresh, Head of Management Services Division.

Jumbo was running on a network infrastructure, which was implemented in 2001. But this proved to be inadequate with the company’s expansion of remote locations and surge in bandwidth demands. “We had to rethink the complete data network infrastructure and finally zeroed in on a 10G core switch from Alcatel-Lucent along with 14 POE edge switches. And we use Solarwinds for managing and monitoring our network,” says Suresh.

Implementation of a secure WLAN was the next major project implemented by Suresh’s 20-member IT team. “At our corporate offices, users are provided with notebooks and they were facing problems with connectivity as they moved between floors and locations. We implemented a WiFi solution from Aruba, which also has pre-defined security controls using the Clearpass appliance,” he says.

Along with rolling out wireless to all its locations, Jumbo also migrated from an analogue telephone system to IP-based telephony to improve its communications efficiency. “As part of this, we also implemented an e-fax system which eliminated all the fax machines and dedicated fax lines,” says Suresh.

Jumbo, which is a big user of server virtualisation technologies, is also one of the early adopters of desktop virtualisation. “We are using the desktop virtualisation platform from Citrix, which helped centralise administration, improve efficiency and made data retrieval really easy. We are using Microsoft’s Hyper-V platform for server virtualisation and even our production systems are running on virtualised environments now,” says Suresh.

Another bold step for Suresh was the move to the cloud. Jumbo was running a Microsoft-based email system since 2005 and it was running with MS-Exchange 2003. Both the hardware and software infrastructure for this collaboration and messaging application was coming to end-of-life support and started facing lot of maintenance and support issues. “We started evaluating both options—either onsite Exchange upgrade or a cloud-based solution, and finally implemented the cloud-based Microsoft Office 365 solution.
“After moving to the cloud, we were able to achieve many technical improvements and reduce the total cost of ownership in both maintenance and infrastructure. With this solution, users can now have bigger mail boxes and do unlimited archival. This also paved the way for our corporate Intranet portal and IM using Lync,” says Suresh.

Mobility was another key area tackled by Jumbo’s IT team. The company’s van sales team was having difficulty with manual sales process, which led to backlog of data entry in the system and reconciliation issues. “We selected a third party custom-built solution using PDA devices with integrated printers. With this, sales personnel can carry out sales online and print receipts on the spot. They can also check inventory online, track payments, resulting in huge improvement in efficiencies,” says Suresh.

Jumbo has big plans going ahead, including implementing DR in a hosted location and rolling out a fully blown BYOD solution. “This is our big plan and we are scouting around for a BYOD solution that comprises both MDM and desktop virtualisation,” says Suresh.

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