Data plays a pivotal role in managing and optimizing the utilization of Nakilat’s expansive fleet, which accounts for an incredible 12% of the total global Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) shipping capacity. “We operate some of the world’s largest and most sophisticated LNG carriers,” said Muhammad Yasir Khan, Head of IT Infrastructure, Nakilat. With each vessel fully equipped with state-of-the-art sensors and technologies, there was tremendous potential for this wealth of data to be utilized to increase operational efficiency, avoid delays, improve planning, enhance security and conduct predictive analysis.
“Nakilat vessels deliver clean energy to over 90 terminals across more than 26 countries worldwide since they began operations. At these terminals too, operators rely on up-to-the-minute data that we provide to track our vessels and make informed decisions regarding terminal allocation and other vital arrangements that streamline operations,” explained Khan.
However, while the importance of data and its availability were abundantly clear to Khan and his team, they faced a pressing challenge. Owing to the bandwidth limitations imposed by VSAT links – the primary means of connectivity for ships at sea – they were unable to rapidly and reliably sync critical data between vessels and their on-premise and cloud data centers. This syncing of data is critical to Nakilat’s business as it is used to track vessel movement and utilization, coordinate with port authorities and optimize the entire logistic operation. “Without the assurance that data from our carriers would be safe, accurate and available, we were unable to utilize it to its full potential,” he said.
This data is the lifeblood of Nakilat’s smooth operations as the company’s C-level executives ‘heavily rely on data to run the show’. “Every second of data is critical to ensure the delivery of our cargo to customers. For example, generating the daily reports and port compliance documentation, and tracking crew movement and requirements all rely heavily on the availability of data which in turn ensures business continuity, “said Khan.
Nakilat has two on-premises data centers in Qatar and a cloud data center, hosted in Microsoft Azure. In addition, the company has 18 small data centers on board its vessels, a number that is set to grow, and over 10 cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications. After careful analysis of this complex, cloud-oriented infrastructure, Nakilat decided to enter a long-term strategic partnership with Veeam owing to the vendor’s proven track record in both on-premise and cloud environments.
Following the deployment of Veeam Availability Suite Enterprise Plus, Nakilat was able to reap benefits from the solution’s industryleading data compression and deduplication abilities that decrease both the traffic going over the network as well as the disk space required for storing backup files and VM replicas. “Even with bandwidth restricted to between just 1 to 4 Mbps by the VSAT links, and the storage limitations of our smaller on-board data centers, Veeam’s solution is still able to capture and back up all data from our LNG fleet and ensure that services are always available,” said Khan. Furthermore, the company has managed to reduce restore time by 70% with Veeam’s instant recovery feature and Khan noted that this has ‘drastically reduced’ service interruptions.
Not only has Veeam given Khan and his team the confidence that critical vessel data is secure, it has enabled them to achieve their desired outcome with better manageability and unified reporting. “Veeam’s solutions are user friendly and offer a major advantage. We have managed to significantly reduce the complexity and workload on our IT team when compared to previous solution,” he added.
Elaborating on the three key benefits he believes Veeam has brought to his IT team, Khan said, “Most importantly, we have been able to consistently achieve our mandated recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO) thanks to this robust solution. Moreover, the “On-Demand Sandbox” restore feature enables us to instantly set up the entire infrastructure in an isolated environment which has proven invaluable to our testing and development efforts. And finally, enabling the successful recovery point and recovery time objectives of our Office 365 mailboxes and SharePoint online libraries has meant we could address one of our main cloud challenges.”
Nakilat has clearly outlined the next steps in its cloud-first strategy. “We are heavily cloud inclined and are looking to move our SAP data to the cloud where its backup and restoration will be managed by Veeam. In the near future, we will extend our Veeam deployment to also manage the backup of our data and applications that are hosted in Microsoft Azure,” said Khan. With their sights also firmly set on internet of things (IoT), Nakilat’s IT team is eager to use Veeam to back up the vast amounts of data generated by the sensors and other Operational Technology (OT) systems into Azure Data Lakes.
Khan and his team remain confident that in Veeam, they have a technology partner that is fully prepared to deliver the world-class solutions and support they need. “We are satisfied with the services provided by Veeam as our partner in enabling constant technological innovation,” he concluded.
Established in 2004, Nakilat is a publicly listed global shipping and maritime company. The company’s LNG shipping fleet is comprised of 69 vessels and is the largest in the world, accounting for about 12% of the total global LNG shipping capacity. In 2019 alone, the company delivered more than 59 million tons of LNG to over 70 terminals, in more than 25 countries.
Managing 18 vessels (14 LNG carriers and 4 LPG carriers) in-house as well as operating an integrated shipping and maritime operation at its shipyard in Ras Laffan through its local joint venture companies, approximately 3,000 personnel have been employed to successfully run the massive operation.
Nakilat faced the challenge to consistently and reliably back up critical data from its LNG fleet owing to bandwidth limitation inherent to the VSAT technology used for connectivity on its offshore vessels. As this data is critical to empowering C-level executives in their decision making, and in ensuring streamlined operations and business continuity, this posed a significant risk to Nakilat’s business.