The role of a system integrator has undergone a major change over the years

Channel Post caught up with Hani Nofal, the Executive Director for Gulf and Pakistan – Intelligent Network Solutions at Gulf Business Machines, to understand the role of a system integrator today.

Hani Nofal, the Executive Director for Gulf and Pakistan - Intelligent Network Solutions at Gulf Business Machines.
Hani Nofal, the Executive Director for Gulf and Pakistan – Intelligent Network Solutions at Gulf Business Machines.

Tell us about Gulf Business Machines.
Gulf Business Machines (GBM) was setup in 1990, as an IT solutions provider focusing on regional requirements of IT. Over the years, e have grown to become one of the largest system integrators in the region with a workforce of over 1000 employees and a around 20 partnerships.

We are today the sole distributors of IBM products and services. In addition, we are also the Gold Partner of Cisco, in addition to being the Specialised Learning Partner for Cisco Borderless Network Architecture. We have been Cisco’s partner for over 13 years now.

How has the regional technology market evolved over these years?
About 15-20 years ago, our role as a system integrator was to connect devices together and setup networks. Prior to the year 2000, there were only about 200 million machines connected to the internet. With the age of mobility coming into picture, we eventually saw the number of connected devices grow rapidly.

Today more than 11 billion machines are connected to each other globally through the internet. The way we interact with each other has also changed. The power of computing has shifted from the enterprise workplace to the consumer on the move.

How do you think mobility has changed the way people use computing devices today?
We are starting a new era – the era of expanding the connectivity of mobile devices, to connect things to the internet. These “things” could be anything – a machine in a factory, a robotic arm in the healthcare segment, or a coin-sized chip that is planted into the soil to check the temperature, humidity levels and so on.

Cisco expects that over 20 billion devices will be connected by the year 2020. Meanwhile Gartner reports that around 30 billion devices will be connected to each other by the same time frame.

So our role as a system integrator will completely shift towards providing solutions for such devices to connect and interact with each other.

How has BYOD changed the way we use computing devices today?
Bring Your Own Device is one of the many flavours of the mobility wave. Our demand for new technologies as consumers is catching up in the workplace as well and enterprises nowadays have certain policies in place to allow such devices into the corporate network.

I think it has reached a point wherein enterprises are aware that this should happen and they know that there is no way this can be avoided. But then it is up to the system integrators to help enterprises know how this technology is going to evolve over time and what sort of challenges they might face when it comes to expanding their corporate network to allow new changes in technology.

So this means security issues will also evolve. Do you think the security threat trends are similar everywhere?
Right. In terms of the security risks trends, it is pretty much similar globally. The focus on cybersecurity and the trends of enabling users to bring their own devices, use their own apps, video conferencing and so on – these industry trends are pretty much similar.

The only difference would be the regulations around the use of such technologies and the policies in place related to advanced security threats. The speed of execution also varies from country to country, and company to company.

Hence, we work with our partners to enable our customers to deploy such solutions faster if they don’t have the capability to do so.