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Shifting to high gear

Hero Honda has reworked its server architecture to provide dedicated platforms for storage, mail, backup, and database management

IBM's RS/6000 SP servers are used for most SAP applications. The servers have various hardware and software configurations to provide optimum performance

The Dharuhera plant has an IBM 8274 LAN RouteSwitch that connects to IBM devices for various applications

Hero Honda Motors Limited sells the highest number of motorcycles in India. And to keep pace with the tremendous growth and maintain the competitive edge, it has a network spanning 700 nodes. This includes the HO (Head Office), two manufacturing plants, and 20 marketing offices nationwide.

The company's network has evolved from a slow 10BaseT LAN and shared TDMA-based (Time Division Multiple Access) WAN to a faster and better performing network. Along with migrating to a faster, almost-glitch-free network, Hero Honda has also consolidated disparate applications that once ran on different departmental servers by using an ERP solution procured from SAP. It has also reworked its server architecture to provide dedicated platforms for applications, storage, mail, backup, and database management.

The first move
With ever changing business needs, Hero Honda felt the need to migrate from its slower legacy network, a 10Base2 LAN and a TDMA-based WAN, to a faster network. The company now is connected on a 10/100 Mbps switched network. All critical segments are on a 100 Mbps fiber network. The TDMA based WANs have been shifted to marketing offices in smaller cities. The main locations (HO and the two plants at Gurgaon and Dharuhera) are on secure leased links and radio links.

In order to get a hold over its diverse operations the company felt it necessary to deploy new applications like Oracle and Ingres. These relational databases helped the company consolidate data at one place and make it accessible to an authorized user on the fly.

These new entities demanded higher throughput and better scalability. The legacy LAN had a high failure rate and it was difficult to isolate and rectify a problem that arose, at times, in various segments. Also, the legacy TDMA-based WAN, which was a shared network, had the tendency to choke as new users were added.

To address this issue of running bandwidth-hungry applications efficiently across the LAN, S.R. Balasubramanium, CIO, Hero Honda, decided to strengthen the existing server infrastructure first. The company deployed IBM RS/6000 midrange servers (the H70 and F50 series) for running Ingres and Oracle. Lotus Notes was used to manage mail and messaging and it was run on IBM's Netfinity servers.

Enterprise applications
The next move was to implement ERP in order to consolidate various departmental servers performing diverse functions like accounting, inventory management and so on under a single roof.

SAP R/3 Release 4.6B was implemented to control its operations. The company went live with SAP on February 2001. It uses modules like production planning, materials management, quality management, and sales & distribution. SISL was the implementation partner.

SAP provided numerous benefits. It presented a high-level of data integration and enabled common master sheets that can be used across various functions like transaction, validation, accounting, and reporting. There were improvements in the quality, access, and usage of transactional data. It suitably eliminated multiple entries and there was no need for manual reconciliation.

Operational processes were improved at various stages. Order processing was standardized across all functions. And real-time information on product cost, profitability analysis, dispatch, and production status was available.

Hero Honda was now able to implement better cost control measures. The ERP made it possible to calculate cost of consumables, tool inventory cost, power & fuel costs, and plant overheads. And it also readied the organization for future SCM (Supply Chain Management) and CRM (Customer Relationship Management) implementation.

Servers everywhere
To strengthen the server architecture Balasubramanium decided to stick to a single server vendor in this case IBM for solutions. "This allows us to get a complete range of products and services under one roof. We can communicate with a single point of contact for services and complaints. The vendor treats us as a preferred customer and honors its commitments", said Balasubramanium.

Hero Honda uses separate servers for running applications, databases, mail and messaging, network management, development, testing, and production. IBM's RS/6000 SP servers are used for most SAP applications. The servers have various hardware and software configurations to provide optimum performance. (See details in box.)

"The RS/6000 is a very reliable and scalable system. IBM AIX which is shipped with the boxes also performs very well. We have used IBM's servers in the past and are quite satisfied with them", declared Balasubramanium. The Web servers are outsourced.

The network
Hero Honda's network connects two manufacturing plants in Gurgaon and Dharuhera (Haryana), a Head Office in New Delhi, and 20 marketing offices all over India. A mix of VSAT links, leased lines, Frame Relay links, and dialups interconnect these offices.

"The company's LANs at various locations are now completely structured and switch efficiently. They use 10/100 Mbps Ethernet technology for data transmission and are connected with Cat 5 cables so that it can support bandwidth requirements for the next few years. There are rare instances of network breakdown and we haven't had any major failures in the last three years", said Balasubramanium.

The Gurgaon plant has two Cisco 2610 routers that are connected to an IBM 8274 LAN RouteSwitch. A large setup of servers, storage boxes, backup devices, and workstations are connected to the switch. A RS/6000 SP runs SAP applications, an e-server pSeries 620 runs Tivoli, an H70 enterprise server runs Oracle, a Netfinity server handles mail, and a G8BlueBox from G8.NET (appliance designed to provide end-to-end services on the Internet) acts as a mail gateway.

The mail gateway connects to an ISDN modem through a firewall. An ESS F20 storage box connects to the RS/6000 SAP server and an IBM 3583 Tape Library acts as a backup device. A range of switches from IBM and Cisco distributes bandwidth to Netvista and 300GL workstations.

The two Cisco 2610 routers connect to the HO in New Delhi and the plant in Dharuhera. It links with the HO through a 2 Mbps leased line along with a 128 Kbps ISDN dialup link as backup. A 64 Kbps ISDN dialup link serves as a second backup.

The Dharuhera plant connects with the Gurgaon plant through a 768 Kbps RF (Radio Frequency) link. There is also a backup 192 Kbps VSAT PAMA (Permanent Assigned Multiple Access) link provided by Comsat Max.

The HO has a Cisco 1720 router that collapses to a 3Com 3300 switch. This is connected to another 3Com 3300 switch which supports Netvista and 300GL workstations. A range of devices take care of backup, mail, bridging, firewall, modem, RAS (Remote Access Server), and mail gateway functions.

The Dharuhera plant has an IBM 8274 LAN RouteSwitch that connects to a few IBM devices for applications like mail and network management.

Regional offices have a simple setup of routers, hubs, and workstations. They are connected by a mix of VSAT, Frame Relay, and dialup links.

Planning a smooth ride
The company plans to implement the Human Resources and Production Management modules of SAP. It also plans to implement CRM and SCM applications to seamlessly connect and manage its dealers and vendors. Currently Hero Honda is connected to the public network only for mail management applications. So this move calls for more secure networks.

"To address the current security needs we have constructed a basic level of protection using firewalls and point-to-point links. A comprehensive security policy is under evaluation to address the new security concerns that will come up after the CRM and SCM initiative. And we will implement the policy before we connect to the outside world. Although we have allocated sufficient bandwidth for the WAN connectivity across all critical locations, more bandwidth is always useful. Unfortunately public networks today are not very reliable and don't provide adequate bandwidth", Balasubramanium said.

There are also plans to move from the copper leased Lines to optical fiber leased lines. "This will enable us to move towards a faster and more error-free network", said Balasubramanium.

Soutiman Das Gupta can be reached at soutimand@networkmagazineindia.com

Hero Honda's server configuration







Application (SAP)


Power 3 Dual CPU (375 MHz) SP Node

2.5 GB

36 GB

AIX 4.3.3

SAP Database (DB)


Power 3 Quad CPU (375 MHz) SP Node

5 GB

ESS (840 GB)

AIX 4.3.3



Power 3 Dual CPU (375 MHz) SP Node

1.25 GB

SSA 7133 (500 GB)

AIX 4.3.3

Application/DB (Oracle)


Power 3 Dual CPU (375 MHz)

1 GB

SSA Box (36 GB)

AIX 4.3.3

Application (Lotus Notes)


Intel Dual CPU

1.25 GB

36 GB

Win NT 4.0

Application (Ingres)


Power 3 Dual CPU/Intel (332 MHz)

512 MB

SSA Box (36 GB)

AIX 4.3.3/DG UX

Application/DB (Tivoli)


Power 3 Dual CPU / Intel

1 GB

Connected to ESS/ 72 GB

AIX 5 L/Win 2K

The company

Hero Honda Motors Limited is a joint venture between Hero Group, the world's largest bicycle manufacturers and the Honda Motor Company of Japan. It manufactures India's largest selling motorcycle. Its network is spread across 700 nodes and includes two manufacturing plants, a head office, and regional offices nationwide.

The need
As business needs evolved the company had to harden themselves technologically and move from its older applications, servers, and connectivity options to something more reliable and structured.

The solution
The company structured the components and devices in its LANs and WANs nationwide. And it bought a new range of servers to run its databases, applications, and SAP functions.

The benefits
The LANs in different locations are now completely structured and switch efficiently. And the WAN has multiple links through dedicated lines with adequate fall back options. The server setup is able to run all enterprise applications smoothly.

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