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Microsoft to build duo of UAE data centres

0 66Microsoft has announced plans to build its first Middle East and North Africa data centres in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
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Upping the ante

NWME: Tell us a bit about Burgan Bank?

Burgan Bank, a subsidiary of KIPCO (Kuwait Projects Company), is a regional bank with majority owned subsidiaries in the MENA region. The youngest and most dynamic regional commercial bank, established in 1977, the Bank has acquired a leading role in the retail, corporate and investment banking sector through innovative product offers and technologically advanced delivery channels. Its subsidiaries include Gulf Bank Algeria (Algeria), Bank of Baghdad (Iraq) and Jordan Kuwait Bank (Jordan).

We have continuously improved our performance over the years by applying an expanded revenue structure, good asset quality, diversified funding sources and a strong capital base. The adoption of state-of-the-art services and ground-breaking technology has positioned us as a trendsetter in the domestic market and within the MENA region. At present the Bank enjoys a wide reach through our network of 22 branches and over 100 ATMs.

NWME: You have recently finished a major network upgrade. Did you do this to meet new business requirements?

Different reasons really. The old solution was nearing end of life, and was becoming troublesome to maintain. Looking at the business volumes from the last 5 years and our current projections, we knew we had to upgrade. We wanted to maintain the service levels for the business and service groups, as we have high availability for both network and mission critical applications. When we looked to the market for solutions to upgrade our network, we had almost 20 proposals, most of them unsolicited, and we ended up choosing HP ProCurve.

NWME: What are the mission-critical applications running on the network?

In addition to core banking, we have a suite of mission-critical applications running on the network including online banking, our teller system, anti money laundering, and payment gateway. We have been able to achieve an application and network uptime of very close to 100%.

NWME: What do you do for connectivity?

We depend on leased lines for inter-branch connectivity with a wireless link as backup. We are only currently supporting branches within Kuwait. We don’t have a cross-country network at the moment, but that needs to be in place to connect new locations and we will look at technologies such as MPLS for this group-wide network.

NWME: How about the data centre?

It is located at the headquarters and is relatively new. As a result of the acquisition, we have a few more data centers in our fold. However, we are planning to consolidate onto two locations, one being primary and another for DR, probably outside Kuwait.

We have around 250 servers in the existing DC, and last year we embarked on a server virtualization project and have managed to virtualise more than 55 servers onto five blades using VMware. And when we build our new data centre we will look at the possibility of having a fully virtualized facility. We are not looking to physically move all the existing hardware onto a new location as we are going to phase out and decommission most of them. In terms of core banking, we are planning to migrate one by one, starting with Burgan Bank in another 24-26 months.

NWME: What kind of security architecture do you have in place?

We have IPS, internal and external firewalls, plus a raft of other security mechanisms.

NWME: Will you look at managed services?

We are looking at it from a longer-term perspective. When we build our network and data centre we might realize areas where it would make sense to move to a managed services model. What I would like to see first is for us to put all things in place, get acquainted, learn some lessons before we outsource. You need to know what you are outsourcing.

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