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UAE EXCHANGE CONSOLIDATES DATACENTERS TO AID GLOBAL EXPANSION

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UAE-Exchange-head-Office-AU

SOFTWARE AND SERVICES

  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux
  • Red Hat Satellite
  • Red Hat Consulting

HARDWARE

  • HP ProLiant blade servers
  • NetApp storage arrays
  • HP servers

OVERVIEW

As UAE Exchange expanded its reach across 30 countries, it needed to consolidate its IT environment on a scalable, secure, robust and high-performance platform. Using Red Hat® Satellite, with help from Red Hat Consulting, the organization performed a seamless migration to Red Hat Enterprise Linux®. The platform and management system have enabled the company’s IT team to effortlessly support the ever-increasing server load from new branches and the rapidly multiplying customer base.

FAST FACTS:

Industry: Financial services

Size (employees and/or offices): Over 600 branches in 30 countries

Customer since: 2007

Benefits:

  • High performance and availability for up to to 90,000 simultaneous users
  • Simplified web-based IT service implementation
  • A highly secure, consolidated system that made achieving the ISO 27001 certification possible
  • Full in-house control over the new Red Hat Enterprise Linux environment with Red Hat Satellite

The need for consolidated infrastructure

UAE Exchange

Over the last three decades, UAE Exchange has grown from an organization with a main focus on global remittance and foreign currency exchange to one that prides itself on being “a complete financial supermarket.” Today, in addition to its two core activities, the company specializes in payments for credit cards, utility bills, subscriptions, and airline tickets as well as many more services.

With over 600 branches across 30 countries, UAE Exchange has a large and quickly growing customer base. The company had always successfully relied on its IT infrastructure when adding new services in line with market needs. However, rapid expansion caused the distributed systems, which consisted of servers running various versions of NCR UNIX and Solaris, to raise performance and availability concerns.

As it diversified its business with new service offerings, UAE Exchange began a program of continuously deploying new Java™ and Enterprise JavaBean applications at lightning pace. Within its diverse computing environment, however, scaling these applications was proving to be a formidable challenge.

“Running a 24×7 operation that serves customers across different time zones required a platform that can perform consistently and reliably. Our applications are all web-based, and as the majority of these mission-critical applications are customer-facing, there is no room for performance gaps or downtime,” said Sarath Chandra, CIO, UAE Exchange.

“It was fast becoming clear that if we hoped to maintain our exceptional level of service and our reputation as a technology-driven business, we would need to standardize our systems on a platform that could offer flexibility for innovation while guaranteeing performance, availability, and scalability,” said Sarath.

Consulting services make platform migration easy

Sarath Chandra

Sarath Chandra

UAE Exchange’s large in-house development team was well-versed with a variety of frameworks and technologies. “We already had NCR UNIX, Sun Solaris, Microsoft Windows, and even SUSE Linux running on our servers which gave our team broad exposure. The hands-on experience they gained working with these disparate systems also gave them a keen understanding of the shortcomings of each,” said Sarath.

UAE Exchange’s IT decision makers were already aware of Red Hat’s position as the global leader in open source solutions, and they were solidly convinced by the vendor’s impressive customer base. The team was backed by the world-class services and assistance provided by the Red Hat Consulting team. Knowing exactly what it expected of the new environment, UAE Exchange began its consolidation by deploying Red Hat Enterprise Linux. To streamline this deployment, the company used management platform Red Hat Satellite, coupled with the Smart Management Add-On for Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

“This completely eliminated the challenges we could have faced during provisioning and enabled us to rapidly roll out Red Hat Enterprise Linux onto our servers,” said Sarath.

In one week, Red Hat consultants managed to install Red Hat Satellite, configure and roll out the servers, and provide a knowledge transfer to UAE Exchange’s operations team.

“The value of Red Hat’s consulting services lies in the team’s ability to expertly aid the implementation while conveying best practices,” said Sarath. “Despite our own team being very technically proficient, their exposure was limited to working within our environment. So the additional knowledge provided by Red Hat’s industry experts helped us in a number of areas such as configuration, fine tuning, performance management and security. It was also a pride point for us, as we could then match our systems to global benchmarks.”

Scalability enables unrestricted expansion

Achieving ISO 27001

With its fully consolidated computing platform now in place, UAE Exchange was confident that it could secure an ISO 27001 certification, the highest attainable credibility ranking and internationally recognized standard for information security management. The security benchmarking and hardening of the operating system conducted by Red Hat consultants ensured that UAE Exchange could easily meet the stringent requirements and standards.

“We had the range of services and were recognized by our customers as having the best vision. With the ISO 27001, we also deliver unparalleled trust,” said Sarath.

Scaling with stability

UAE-Exchange-head-Office-AU“In our experience, the stability of the operating system is remarkable,” said Sarath. “At any given time, we have 80,000 to 90,000 users connecting globally through our many web-based applications. All these applications are served by our datacenters here in the UAE, and despite the staggering load, the systems have never dropped their performance.”

And the challenges previously arising out of varying loads no longer exist. “During peak times such as festivals, we see a sudden spike in the utilization of our remittance services. But because the Red Hat platform is so robust and scalable, even these peaks and troughs cause no degradation in service quality.”

Simplifying maintenance and expansion

UAE Exchange also commended the platform’s ease of maintenance. “It is highly predictable and easily meets our expectations. Thanks to Red Hat Satellite, the troubles that could arise out of configuration are no longer an issue,” said Sarath. Red Hat Satellite, alongside the Red Hat Enterprise Linux Smart Management Add-On, has given that UAE Exchange’s in-house team full control over its new environment. This simplifies provisioning and configuration while automating routine tasks such as patch management.

The company is now expanding its operations at an even faster pace because IT challenges no longer feature in the long list of complexities that relate to the opening of each new branch. The IT team is no longer inhibited by the inflexibility of its old distributed systems. And because all mission-critical services and applications are web-based, the new customer touch points simply plug in their IT services to get them up and running.

Moving forward with Red Hat

To keep its aggressive growth and expansion on track, the company is looking to build a new datacenter outside of the UAE and using virtualization to increase resource utilization. Having successfully used the community version of the Red Hat’s application platform, the company now intends to use Red Hat JBoss Middleware to help it build, test, and deploy applications faster.

Commenting on the the road ahead, Sarath said, “we are a Linux company. Our belief and commitment to open source will mean that Red Hat will continue to enjoy its position as the UAE Exchange’s technology vendor of choice!”

Business

Battling Covid collateral damage, Renault says 2021 will be volatile

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Battling Covid collateral damage, Renault says 2021 will be volatile 1

By Gilles Guillaume

PARIS (Reuters) – Renault said on Friday it is still fighting the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including a shortage of semiconductor chips, that could make for another rough year for the French carmaker.

Renault reported an 8 billion euro ($9.7 billion) loss for 2020 which, combined with gloomy take on the market, sent its shares down more than 5% in late morning trading.

“We are in the midst of a battle to try to manage a difficult year in terms of supply chains, of components,” Chief Executive Luca de Meo told reporters. “This is all the collateral damage of the Covid pandemic… we will have a fairly volatile year.”

De Meo, who took over last July, is looking at ways to boost profitability and sales at Renault while pushing ahead with cost cuts. There were early signs of improving momentum as margins inched up in the second half of 2020.

The group gave no financial guidance for this year, although it said it might reach a target of achieving 2 billion euros in costs cuts by 2023 ahead of time, possibly by December.

Executives said they were confident the carmaker could be profitable in the second half of 2021, but that they lacked sufficient market visibility to provide a forecast.

Renault struck a cautious note, saying it was focused on its recovery but warned orders had faltered in early 2021 as pandemic restrictions continued in some countries.

The group is facing new challenges as the European Union tightens emissions regulations and after rivals PSA and Fiat Chrysler joined forces to create Stellantis, the world’s fourth-biggest automaker.

The auto industry endured a tough 2020 but a swift rebound in premium car sales in China helped companies such as Volkswagen and Daimler to weather the storm.

Auto companies globally have since been hit by a shortage of semiconductors that has forced production cuts worldwide.

“The beginning of the year has shown some signs of weakness,” De Meo told analysts, but added the chip shortage should be resolved by the second half of 2021. “We have taken the necessary measures to anticipate and overcome challenges.”

Renault estimated the chip shortage could reduce its production by about 100,000 vehicles this year.

SHARP HIT

The group was already loss-making in 2019, but took a sharp hit in 2020 during lockdowns to fight the pandemic, which also hurt its Japanese partner Nissan.

Analysts polled by Refinitiv had expected a 7.4 billion euro loss for 2020. The group posted negative free cash flow for 2020.

The 2018 arrest of Carlos Ghosn, who formerly lead the alliance between Renault and Nissan, plunged the automakers into turmoil.

In a further sign that the companies have been working to repair the alliance, De Meo told journalists that Renault and Nissan will announce new joint products together in the coming weeks or months.

Renault has begun to raise prices on some car models, and group operating profit, which was negative for 2020 as a whole, improved in the last six months of the year, reaching 866 million euros or 3.5% of revenue.

Analysts at Jefferies said the operating performance was better than expected. Sales were still falling in the second half, but less sharply.

Renault is slashing jobs and trimming its range of cars, allowing it to slice spending in areas like research and development as it focuses on redressing its finances. It is also pivoting more towards electric cars as part of its revamp.

It was already struggling more than some rivals with sliding sales before the pandemic, after years of a vast expansion drive it is now trying to rein in, focusing on profitable markets.

De Meo told journalists on Friday that the French carmaker will make three new higher-margin models at its Palencia plant in Spain, where manufacturing costs are lower, between 2022 and 2024.

($1 = 0.8269 euros)

(Reporting by Gilles Guillaume and Sarah White in Paris, Nick Carey in London; Editing by Christopher Cushing, David Evans and Jan Harvey)

 

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Business

UK delays review of business rates tax until autumn

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UK delays review of business rates tax until autumn 2

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s finance ministry said it would delay publication of its review of business rates – a tax paid by companies based on the value of the property they occupy – until the autumn when the economic outlook should be clearer.

Many companies are demanding reductions in their business rates to help them compete with online retailers.

“Due to the ongoing and wide-ranging impacts of the pandemic and economic uncertainty, the government said the review’s final report would be released later in the year when there is more clarity on the long-term state of the economy and the public finances,” the ministry said.

Finance minister Rishi Sunak has granted a temporary business rates exemption to companies in the retail, hospitality, and leisure sectors, costing over 10 billion pounds ($14 billion). Sunak is due to announce his next round of support measures for the economy on March 3.

($1 = 0.7152 pounds)

(Writing by William Schomberg, editing by David Milliken)

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Business

Discounter Pepco has all of Europe in its sights

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Discounter Pepco has all of Europe in its sights 3

By James Davey

LONDON (Reuters) – Pepco Group, which owns British discount retailer Poundland, has targeted 400 store openings across Europe in its 2020-21 financial year as it expands its PEPCO brand beyond central and eastern Europe, its boss said on Friday.

The group opened a net 327 new stores in its 2019-20 year, taking the total to 3,021 in 15 countries. The PEPCO brand entered western Europe for the first time with openings in Italy and it plans its first foray into Spain in April or May.

Chief Executive Andy Bond said its five stores in Italy have traded “super well” so far.

“That’s given us a lot of confidence that we can now start building PEPCO into western Europe and that expands our market opportunity from roughly 100 million people (in central and eastern Europe) to roughly 500 million people,” he told Reuters.

To further illustrate the brand’s potential he noted that the group has more than 1,000 PEPCO shops in Poland, which has a significantly smaller population and gross domestic product than Italy or Spain.

The company, which also owns the Dealz brand in Europe but does not trade online, has already opened more than 100 of the targeted 400 new stores this financial year.

Pepco Group is part of South African conglomerate Steinhoff, which is still battling the fallout of a 2017 accounting scandal.

Since 2019 Steinhoff and its creditors have been evaluating a range of strategic options for Pepco Group, including a potential public listing, private equity sale or trade sale.

That process was delayed by the pandemic, but Steinhoff said last month that it had resumed.

“The business will be up for sale at the right time. It’s a case of when, rather than if,” said Bond, a former boss of British supermarket chain Asda.

Pepco Group on Friday reported a 31% drop in full-year core earnings, citing temporary coronavirus-related store closures.

Underlying earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) were 229 million euros ($277 million) for the year to Sept. 30, against 331 million euros the previous year.

Sales rose 3% to 3.5 billion euros, reflecting new store openings.

($1 = 0.8279 euros)

(Reporting by James Davey; Editing by David Goodman)

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