Altron has announced a restructuring of its executive committee to create a leaner group structure that is aligned to its ICT ambitions. Altron CEO Mteto Nyati said their priorities are to drive cost efficiencies; recruit, develop, and retain top talent; build a trusted ICT brand; and accelerate growth. “The new structure reflects these priorities while setting the tone across the group on cost focus,” said Nyati.
Executives leading human capital, shared services, marketing, and the Altech Netstar operation will be members of the Altron Exco, said the company. A number of previous Altron Exco positions have been made redundant. These are the group executives for corporate finance, strategy and technology, and corporate affairs, and the operations executive for telecoms, multimedia and electronics, and operations executive for technology.
Following the implementation of the new structure at the end of April, the Altron Exco will consist of:
- Chief Executive Mteto Nyati
- Chief Financial Officer Alex Smith
- Chief Operating Officer Andrew Holden
- Group Executive Human Capital Johan Klein
- Operations Executive Altron Power Neil Kayton
- Managing Director of Altech Netstar Harry Louw
- Group Executive: Shared Services (TBA)
- Group Executive: Marketing (TBA)
Now read: Mteto Nyati leaves MTN for Altron
Jacques Allison, an Altech Enterprise Solutions network engineer, recently became the first Huawei Certified Internetwork Expert (HCIE) in routing and switching in Huawei’s African region. It is another milestone in Altron’s relationship with the leading, global ICT solutions provider. Altech Enterprise Solutions is a dedicated Huawei ICT solutions provider.
Implementing and supporting Huawei solutions is the operation’s sole focus. According to national sales manager Caroline Beswick, Altech Enterprise Solutions’ vision is to be the leading preferred and trusted Huawei partner in South Africa with a reputation for solution design, integration skills and service delivery. “In order to achieve this, we have to be able to design and implement the right solutions for our customers, something we can only do if we have the highest level of skills available,” she says.
For this reason, Altech Enterprise Solutions is busy certifying its teams in all Huawei disciplines, from sales through to technical pre-sales and engineering in IP, IT, UC&C to network energy and data centres. It is as part of this process that Jacques Allison became the first network engineer in Huawei’s African region to achieve HCIE certification in routing and switching. “By the end of this year, around 100 of our sales people and engineers would have been through Huawei certified training of one sort or another,” says Caroline.
She points out that, in addition to the certification, it is extremely important that the engineers gain hands-on experience. “It is this practical, in-the-field experience that really turns them into experts. It’s where they learn the exceptions to the rules and how to interoperate with other technologies.”
Altech Enterprise Solutions believes that training and skills transfer should extend to its customers’ engineers in order to develop the general Huawei skills base in South Africa. As such, the operation invests heavily in developing its customers’ engineers, as well engineers working for some of its SME partners. “Certification means that we have the capability to deliver; it adds credibility to our offering and instills confidence in our customers that we have the expertise, skills and knowledge to deliver on their requirements,” concludes Caroline.
The HCIE process
- Pass the HCIE written exam.
This expert level exam follows the associate and professional level exams, and checks the candidate’s understanding of all the advanced technical topics covered in the next step, which is the practical lab exam.
- Pass the practical lab exam. The candidate has eight hours in which to configure a complex routing and switching network. The pass rate is 80%.
- Pass an hour-long video conference interview with Huawei experts in China.
The panel asks tough questions to ensure the candidate understands the workings of each related protocol, and confirms his or her relevant networking experience.
My certification journey
Jacques Allison is a pre-sales engineer and network architect at Altech Enterprise Solutions. He describes his role as providing pre-sales design support for the Huawei networking, data centre, unified communications and collaboration solutions. In addition, he is the technical lead and architect for new large-scale network designs, which include Huawei products to provide DWDM, MPLS VPN, VoIP/IMS, Internet, public Wi-Fi, and related services.
He is also responsible for the functional and technical elements of requests for information and requests for proposals, and does product and white board presentations to current and prospective customers. You are the first HCIE-certified engineer in the Africa region, and one of only a handful outside of China*. What doors does it open for you?
The certification will benefit my personal and professional relationship with Huawei. For one thing, it will give me more access to the Huawei engineers when it comes to general support on new solution designs. Getting the certification also gives me opportunities to mentor other candidates in preparation for the HCIE lab exam.
My plan is to become a local lab interviewer. *According to Huawei, at the end of 2015 there were 1 064 HCIEs globally; 80% of them in China.
How did you prepare for the certification?
The starting point is on-the-job experience in large-scale networking design and support. In that regard, my career path has prepared me.
As far as the practical lab session is concerned, I used Huawei’s virtual network simulation tool to help me prepare. You have to be very comfortable with command line configuration of a complex network consisting of multiple interconnected routers and switches. Many hours of practice are necessary, as you have to be able to quickly troubleshoot simple problems in the lab environment.
The training material, videos and mock exams on the Huawei website was also most useful.
I found the Huawei product documentation to be essential when it came to finding practical examples of the configurations required in the lab.
The two-week course that Nic Yap, a HCIE trainer from Singapore, presented here in South Africa was key in preparing for the exam.
This article was published in partnership with Altron.
MediSwitch is the number one organisation in the country when it comes to switching electronic transactions between healthcare professionals and medical schemes. Its 12 000 healthcare businesses include all retail pharmacies in South Africa. Given the nature of its business, data security is of paramount importance to MediSwitch, and issues related to it informed the move.
Andrew Brown, managing executive of MediSwitch, says that having the most robust security measures possible is important from a customer perspective and required from a legal one. The latter is particularly important in light of the enforcement of the Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act. “Given that healthcare information is explicitly referenced in the Act, our industry has to do everything possible to ensure that it is compliant and that it takes all reasonable steps to protect critical information,” says Andrew.
“By moving our data centre to one of the most secure facilities in the country, we did exactly that.” The ACS centre is managed and monitored by highly skilled network, security and infrastructure engineers, who provide round-the-clock operational support. It is also ISO 27001 certified, meaning that ACS meets the stringent international requirements for establishing, implementing, maintaining and continually improving the information security management of the data centre.
Another key consideration is uptime. Without reliable computing facilities, a business such as MediSwitch would be unable to deliver services effectively. The ACS facility, with its Tier 4 N+1 fault tolerant rating, meets all the uptime requirements.
“Tier 4 data centres are specifically designed to host mission critical servers and computer systems,” says Andrew. “Furthermore, they offer fully redundant subsystems, in the form of cooling, power, network links and storage, to name a few.” ACS provides MediSwitch with 99.95% guaranteed service availability – a promise it is likely to exceed, given that the Linbro Park centre boasts an impressive track record of zero hours’ downtime in the last five years.
Adding to the data security and redundancy features, is the facility’s physical security features. These include CCTV and biometric access control devices. Back-up power is provided by two generators with enough fuel capacity to run the facility for three weeks non-stop.
Two Internet service providers offer full network redundancy and the centre even has a backup water supply.
MediSwitch has a second data centre, hosted at Continuity SA, that provides levels of security and redundancy similar to the ACS facility.
This article was published in partnership with Altron.