(L-R) Tarek Jundi, MD, McAfee, Middle East and Turkey and Eng. Ulaiyan Al Wetaid, CEO, VIVA Bahrain (L-R) Tarek Jundi, MD, McAfee, Middle East and Turkey and Eng. Ulaiyan Al Wetaid, CEO, VIVA Bahrain

With an initial investment of over $2 million towards building an advanced cyber security centre, the first of its kind in Bahrain, VIVA Bahrain is making a bold move.

Telcos worldwide are a critical force for economic growth, and innovation within the industry has become essential as people and businesses connect in ever evolving ways. This dynamic change has set operators to focus on diversifying their revenue streams leading them into creating dedicated business units to handle enterprise and SME business by investing heavily into this market segment.

In line with this, VIVA Bahrain launched its enterprise division in 2012.  Recently, it has expanded its services by joining forces with McAfee to establish Bahrain’s first world-class cyber security centre (CSC) as a step to enhance the cyber security capabilities for enterprise and SME customers in Bahrain.  The addition of managed security services (MSS) to VIVA’s cloud services portfolio is aimed at providing Bahrain's enterprises a one-stop-shop for all communication and data security requirements.  The telco has invested over $2million for the initial phase alone, and is projecting that the centre will increase VIVA’s enterprise revenue by 20% over the coming three years.

Needless to say, most people lead an e-life today– connected, shared and exposed. Data is one of the most preserved commodities – equally critical for small business, banking and finance, industry, government or even personal.  Securing the information is a major concern to businesses today. “VIVA realised the need of businesses in securing their information and embarked on an expedition to be the first in introducing the cyber security centre,” says Eng. Ulaiyan Al Wetaid, CEO, VIVA Bahrain.  “The CSC will be focused to provide a complete range of solutions and services to ensure information is secured, managed and monitored in a cost-effective model,” he adds.

“In early 2015 when VIVA Bahrain decided to step into ICT solutions and services, the information security topped the list as the area with most growth potential due to forecasted demand and shortage of resources. Thus, we conducted a comprehensive study including the regional and global offer benchmarking with other operators offering MSS,” says Al Wetaid. The VIVA  CSC will be a complete solution and services centre for information security services. The establishment for the complete scope is planned for three different phases, which will span over 12 months’ time, according to the operator’s estimates. The first phase is targeted to be completed within H1, 2017 and services shall be offered to the customer in Q3, 2017. (As CommsMEA went to press, the phase-1 deployment had been completed and the final user acceptance and integration with VIVA sub systems was underway.)

Al Wetaid tells CommsMEA that VIVA has invested over $2million for the initial phase with information security monitoring and reporting with McAfee. “The scope will expand with further investments in human capital to bring in and develop information security expertise to ensure the overall security service offering,” he adds.

In terms of RoI, it might be still too early to characterise the project in terms of the effects it will have on reducing costs or increasing revenues. However, given the fact that data and information security is a key concern of any organisation today, VIVA sees the MSS offering as a key driver for the telecom and ICT solutions that it currently offers and will introduce in future. “The planned information security services will play an important part in positioning VIVA as a trusted service provider witha new portfolio of services  enhancing customer loyalty and complementing VIVA’s business offering,” says Al Wetaid.

Information security is not a “one size fits all” – hence it cannot be covered with one single vendor. Each security vendor is specialised in its own niche. Taking that into consideration, VIVA plans to bring the best of all in a single offering. There are other partners that will work with VIVA in extending the services on top of the monitoring and reporting infrastructure being setup with McAfee.  McAfee will remain the prime partner for end-point and security information and event management (SIEM) solutions and services for VIVA Bahrain.

It’s been evidenced by several reports that there’s a severe shortage of cyber security talent; so it’s worth being curious about how the workforce for the VIVA CSC will be organised. Al Wetaid says that VIVA is equipped with skilled resources in-house, the staff who are in charge of managing the telco’s network and host-based security. However, he doesn’t rule out the fact that as the offering is taken to market, a lot more expertise will be required to address market demand.  The plan is that McAfee will help VIVA to build this expertise, nurture local talent with the right skillsets and enable VIVA and Bahraini talent to excel in the realm of cyber security services.

“We shall provide on-site resident engineers who will run the platform, and the SOC for a certain time; in the meanwhile, we will transfer the knowledge, train the VIVA staff, and then we can hand it over to them,” says Tarek Jundi, MD, McAfee, Middle East and Turkey. He adds: “We also have support organisations on the backend that would help in configuration, integration, putting in order some use case scenarios, to make sure that the promise made to the enterprises and SMEs is effectively delivered.”  In terms of customer servicing, VIVA enterprise support will remain the single point of support escalation for all VIVA customers.  For managed security services, the VIVA SOC will be proactively monitoring the services and reporting to customers of any potential cyber threat.

Thwarting our concerns that in such scenarios, there’s the chance of the service provider becoming a bottleneck in the customer’s business by being the single point of failure, Al Wetaid says: “VIVA ensures that all business-critical services are designed to be inherently highly available. The same methodology is being used for our CSC offering, with high available service core and different on-premises deployment options to suit customer requirements.”