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from Wired to Wireless
major, Ranbaxy, has recently deployed a wireless LAN infrastructure
solution to enable top executives the power of seamless
access to data.
the forefront in latest-technology usage, Ranbaxy Laboratories
Ltd., headquartered in New Delhi, is deploying a full-fledged
wireless local area network within the organization. Since
the early seventies, the pharmaceutical major has been a
heavy investor in new and latest technology. Today, it boasts
of a heterogeneous network that spans across the globe.
to new technology has been part of the agenda of coping
with the ever increasing competition in the pharmaceutical
industry. After establishing itself as a manufacturer of
bulk drugs and formulations, Ranbaxy has now established
itself as a research oriented organization. Over the last
fiscal its R&D spending has gone up by 24.5 per cent
to Rs 54.9 crore. The company has posted a turnover of Rs
1,741 crore in the fiscal 2000, ending December.
the last few years Ranbaxy has been working on various collaborative
research projects to bring out better drugs. Helping the
company in its move towards a better growth path, is information
technology. It has been an early adapter to the computer
the company spends more than 1.5 per cent of its annual
turnover in enhancing its IT infrastructure. When the company
started its operations, it built a strong IT infrastructure
using mini computers, very popular then. Mini computers
were primarily used for drug research and development activities
that Ranbaxy was involved in.
90s saw Ranbaxy adopting the concept of networking, when
it was being popularized as the business tool for the next
generation. The IT team built Ethernet LANs running SCO
Unix in each and every branch office and R&D centers
within the country. But the headquarters in New Delhi had
to be integrated. So the IT department decided to set up
a 1000 node campus wide network to connect four buildings
in Nehru Place, a commercial complex in the city. They used
UTP Cat 5 cabling for the 10 Mbps Ethernet network.
1994, the company planned to link all the factories through
VSATs. The then IT manager decided to use RABMN (remote
area business management network), the first VSAT scheme
promoted by the BSNL (erstwhile DoT) for business houses
to connect their offices in Chennai, Mumbai, and Hyderabad.
Later the company took six TDMA VSATs from Hughes Escorts
Communication Ltd. to connect the factories to the head
the applications being run on the network also evolved.
From just running financial and accounting packages developed
inhouse, it also became the platform for Lotus Notes GroupWare
that made collaborative computing a reality within the
years ago the company decided to combine the two functions
of strategic planning and information services. It invested
around Rs 400 million to implement an ERP solution SAP R/3.
This also meant beefing up the network. So the company invested
in PAMA VSATs from Bharti BT to increase the bandwidth.
Meanwhile the IT team also installed fiber optic cables
for faster data access. The company migrated from 10Mbps
to 100Mbps switched Ethernet. Along with that the IT manager
also changed the OS platform from Novell NetWare to Windows
NT. Over the last one year, Ranbaxy has also added a VPN
to its network design. It has availed Sify's VPN solution.
the company's network evolved, so did the requirements increase.
The latest in line is the deployment of wireless LANs to
empower the senior level executives in the organization.
The IT team started with an evaluation plan for the feasibility
of deploying WLANs in the organization. It appointed Delhi-based
system integrator, Infotec Network Systems to carry out
the pilot project.
Vivek Mahajan, director, Infotec Network, "In the pilot
project we decided to set up four access points in their
Nehru Place office and provided as many PCMCIA cards that
allow the user equipment to connect to the access points,
which in turn are wired to the network switches within the
opted for Lucent's WaveLAN products that include Wavepoint
II access point and Orinaco PCMCIA cards to create a WLAN.
For the pilot project the company spent about Rs 200,000.
Explaining the network design for wireless, Vijay Sethi,
manager business solutions, Ranbaxy, says, "We installed
the access points across the building and one was specifically
put in the conference room. This was done with the view
to test the efficiency of wireless networking for corporate
usage. The other accesses were mostly given to senior executives
who had laptops and were on the move most of the time."
The current set-up covered nearly 120 meters within the
premise in Nehru Place.
WLAN was able to run all the mission critical applications
that included indigenously developed application, SAP, and
regular applications being run on the wired network. The
WLAN was able to handle the collaborative computing environment
that existed in Ranbaxy's network. After the success of
the pilot project, Sethi now plans to extend the wireless
network. He plans to invest in buying nearly 40 Access Points
to connect more users within organizations. He also plans
to extend the network to their Gurgaon plant.
so far the technology has not created any major hassles,
Sethi and his team had trouble aligning the end user wireless
equipment to the end user wireline equipment. Says Sethi,
"While we were able to connect the laptops, which are
IBM ThinkPad 770, we were not able to connect the desktops
to the access points. We are trying to find desktops with
this hasn't deterred Sethi from planning for future investments
in WLAN infrastructure.
time, access to WLAN will not be limited to the senior management.
"We will use the WLAN infrastructure to give connectivity
to the new employees and extend the network to newer premises
in Delhi. The reason is that it is easier to configure,
and we are able to avoid the extra cost incurred for laying
cables." He plans to stick to WaveLAN products to expand
his LAN and WLAN.
Ranbaxy expands its line of business and areas of research
and development, so does it continue to expand its network
to increase efficiency. With more and more investment in
latest technologies like WLAN, it aims to translate its
network into a robust and dependable computing backbone
across the enterprise that deploys an integrated suite of
applications that cut across functions and covers all areas
of Ranbaxy's business and operations. NM
Bhattacharya can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org