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Company Profile: A Future Constructed Around Technology

As foreign competition grows, Gilbane uses IT to drive customer value

Gilbane's core customer base is the public sector, where some of its biggest jobs currently are managing the construction of the George R. Brown Convention Center expansion and hotel in Houston, a $54 million classroom and apartment building at George Washington University, and the underground Visitor Center at the U.S. Capitol Building.

As recently as Sept. 10, Gilbane won a contract to manage the $40 million Westerly, R.I., Vision 2020 school-building project, which includes a new middle school, building renovations, and a redesign of the high school. Gilbane's cut of that job will come in at 2% of the overall construction costs--or about $650,000.

Other IT projects at Gilbane have focused on saving money. Gilbane's move to converge data and voice over IP was completed in March. Its move to what Authelet calls "everything over IP" has reduced operational expenses, helping the company save $500,000 since the end of last year. It also has improved the company's ability to deploy advanced multimedia applications to job sites and regional offices. As part of the project, the company built an IP infrastructure that delivers IP-trunked voice service, which lets employees call each other from any of its offices using a four-digit phone number.

"The art of this was to take telephony standards that are vendor-based and integrate them into a common single backbone," says Steve Everett, Gilbane's director of engineering. Gilbane worked closely with Verizon Communications Inc. and Qwest Communications International Inc. to implement these standards. The company has also tied together voice and E-mail and integrated Nortel Networks Ltd.'s CallPilot into its Microsoft Exchange messaging environment.

Gilbane also took the opportunity this year to renovate its primary data center. The data-center project cost $1.5 million and more than tripled the facility's space, from 1,200 to 3,800 square feet. Redesigning the data center also afforded Gilbane the opportunity to review its IT setup. "This was an opportune time to look at the strategy of how we wanted to grow," Everett says. The new data center features Sonet technology, redundant systems, a backup generator, and centralized uninterruptible power supply.

The company uses network-traffic-shaper technology from Allot Communications Ltd. for packet data communications. "Gilbane uses the network for things such as videoconferencing and distance learning, and this puts a lot of strain on the network," Everett says. Traffic shapers let a company take a shared-network environment and allocate bandwidth to different areas, depending on where demand is greatest. That enables it to meet growing demand, without necessarily having to add capacity.

On the horizon, Authelet and his staff are looking for ways to migrate applications from PCs to PDAs and other wireless devices such as cell phones. Support for wireless technology has already been designed into the portal environment. "Once the industry embraces this, we'll deploy it out," Authelet says. "Our philosophy continues to move away from seeing IT as a commodity and more as a way to drive value to our customers."

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