The Executive Council of Dubai is responsible for supporting implementation of the Government of Dubai’s strategic plans. As a champion of e-government, the council sets the pace for other departments to follow. In 2008, the organisation became the first government body in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to implement unified communications, deploying a highly cost-effective suite of Microsoft® unified communications technology with HP hardware.
The Executive Council of Dubai in the UAE formulates and implements local regulations and laws, prepares development plans, and monitors performance by government departments.
Dr. Aisha Butti Bin Bishr, Director, Corporate Excellence, Executive Council of Dubai, says: “Having adopted Microsoft collaboration technology in 2008, we wanted to enhance communications among our employees because offices are split across different sites. We also wanted to provide modern communications tools to help our mobile workers—especially our project managers who need to be available at all times—and give staff access to their applications from home as if they were in the office. Offering flexible working so employees can adjust their schedules to achieve a better work/life balance will be a major factor in our ability to recruit and retain excellent people.”
||The Executive Council of Dubai is pleased to have a pathfinder role in the whole of the public sector in the Middle East for unified communications.
||Dr. Aisha Butti Bin Bishr
Director, Corporate Excellence,
Executive Council of Dubai
Cutting down on the need to travel for face-to-face meetings was another factor. Dubai is one of the fastest-expanding cities in the world and often experiences traffic congestion, especially at peak periods. Dr. Bin Bishr says: “A motor vehicle journey to our other site is a 15-minute trip off peak, but at rush hour it can take up to an hour even though I can see the other office from my window.”
We all want to get the most out of existing IT investments—especially in hardware.” She expects other Dubai government entities to follow the executive council’s lead in adopting a highly effective solution, which also reduces the cost of data and voice communications.
Working with Microsoft Gold Certified Partner Emitac, the council has already deployed some features of Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007, including unified messaging, instant messaging, presence awareness, voice communication, Live Meeting, and video conferencing. The service runs on HP c7000 Blade servers and HP ProLiant BL460c servers.
Mohannad Sa’aydeh, Public Sector Manager, Emitac, says: “The investment in Office Communications Server 2007 was a logical follow up to the council’s earlier decision to adopt Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007. The ease of integration with other Microsoft desktop applications was another key factor in the choice of technology.”
IDC Middle East, Microsoft Gold Certified Partner and Voice Certified Partner, worked on the integration between the communications environment and the telephony infrastructure. Valerio Capodacqua, Chief Technology Officer, IDC Middle East, says: “The requirement for voice was quite a big challenge. Emitac, Microsoft and another partner NET defined the solution in the correct way.”
It included integrating the Microsoft solution using NET Voice Gateway VX1800, which introduced redundancy and seamless integration with the voice PBX. Nauman Afsar, Regional Manager-Middle East and North Africa, NET, says: "The unique features of the VX series such as Active Directory integration, secure VoIP, and high volume of call throughput brought robustness and redundancy to the solution.”
Following a proof of concept, the implementation went live—on schedule—in May 2009 and has been rolled out to 150 users. With Office Communications Server 2007, Emitac also installed and configured Microsoft SQL Server® 2005 and Microsoft Exchange Server 2007. Emitac also deployed Microsoft virtualisation technologies.
Dr. Bin Bishr says: “The council is focused on concepts such as virtualisation and green IT. Government departments are also encouraged to look at sharing their resources to support the Government of Dubai’s initiatives for improving efficiency in the delivery of public services.”
The deployment of a unified communications solution for senior civil servants at the Executive Council of Dubai is yet another example of its commitment to deploying the latest technologies. After just one month, technicians were at full stretch to keep up with demand from employees for the new tools. Noora Al Suwaidi, IT Executive, Executive Council of Dubai says: “We have a lot of users who travel regularly as part of their jobs and often work from remote locations. This initiative helps them work flexibly and also benefits people wanting to operate from home.”
- Council fulfils leadership role in IT. Dr. Bin Bishr says: “Other government departments will follow our lead and one of them already has a unified communications proof of concept in the pipeline. The Executive Council of Dubai is pleased to have a pathfinder role in the whole of the public sector in the Middle East for unified communications.”
- Solution integrates easily with Microsoft desktop applications. Office Communications Server integrates easily with familiar Microsoft information worker tools, such as the Microsoft Office suite.
- Security features protect government communications. The integrity and security of voice and data communication at the council is protected by Microsoft Forefront™ Security for Exchange Server.
- Partner engagement plays key role in successful deployment. The close collaboration between Emitac, IDC, Microsoft, and NET was an important factor in completing the project within budget. Waleed Al Nokrashy, IT Operations Manager, Executive Council of Dubai, says: “Having one assigned manager engaged with us from Emitac was a huge bonus and helped us to keep our infrastructure stable.”
- Council gains partnership with Microsoft. Dr. Bin Bishr says: “The successful rollout is more evidence of our strategic partnership with Microsoft and the quality of its unified communications tools for better collaborative working.”
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