Ramaswamy, CIO, MIRC Electronics, has made sure
that his network is 'always on' and a user at every
location has multiple connectivity options. Multiple
redundancies make a network dependable and the CIO,
a proud owner. by Soutiman Das Gupta
Electronics Limited (MEL), the maker of the Onida brand
of TVs has grown a number of connectivity options in
its backyard. There are VSAT links, leased lines, VPN
links, ISDN links, RF (Radio Frequency) links, and dialup
links. The company is now able to share its SAP R/3
data among 140 users across 38 locations nationwide
without the fear of losing valuable transaction and
operations data in a communications breakdown.
Since MEL runs an ERP which demands data be available
all the time and has users sprinkled in multiple locations
nationwide, it had to ensure multiple connectivity options.
And the initiative has paid off very well.
multiple options provide us near 100 percent uptime
and availability. This is very vital because our factory,
head office, branch offices, and depots are scattered
all over the country. And since we use an ERP to consolidate
operations, a loss of connectivity for a few minutes
can result in significant losses," said Ramaswamy.
MEL was founded in 1981 and began computerization five
years ago by deploying LANs at various locations with
CAT 5 structured cabling. RF links were deployed in
a couple of years between its offices in Mumbai and
Thane to share information.
The RF links connect the HO (Head Office) to two locations
in Mumbai, the Mumbai branch office and the Onida Infotech
building. Bandwidth on the RF links is 1.5 Mbps and
they are backed up with dialup links. The RF equipment
includes wireless transceivers and wireless modems from
is a very reliable means of connectivity because it
offers five nines (99.999 percent) availability making
it almost zero-defective. Ever since we have used RF,
there has hardly been any downtime. Leased lines between
such short distances would have been much more expensive,"
In April 1999, SAP R/3 was introduced to facilitate
operations and the company felt that it had to ensure
an 'always on' environment. This initiative drove the
company to connect all its locations with reliable and
scalable links which provide room for redundancy and
on image for larger view
VSAT option was definitely driven by the ERP's need
to be always connected. Our manufacturing unit is at
Wada in Thane (near Mumbai). And there are no reliable
land line connectivity routes to the location since
it's rather remote," said Ramaswamy. MEL has connected
the HO with its manufacturing plant and its service
center at Vasai in Thane district, on the outskirts
of Mumbai. The manufacturing plant uses 32 Kbps PAMA
(Permanent Assigned Multiple Access) and the service
center uses 8 Kbps TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access)
technologies. HCL Comnet is the VSAT service provider.
A 64K ISDN backup links the HO with the service center.
we got down to consider whether to use a VPN or a VSAT,
we had ruled out VSAT because it was almost twice as
costly as the VPN route. But now the cost of VSAT connectivity
has reduced dramatically and is almost the same as managed
VPNs. So we decided upon the choice according to the
one which best serves the business and technology needs,
A VPNet VSU 100R at the HO connects to the Internet
through a 256 Kbps port and a backup port of 128 Kbps.
The VPNet VSU (VPN Service Unit) is a hardware gateway
which allows remote users to connect to the enterprise
network securely. This helps to connect the company's
20 branches and 21 depots nationwide and any remote
user who might like to access the company's servers.
The depots have 56K modems at its end and use dialup
links. Remote users use laptops and dialup links. The
VPN uses hardware from Avaya and has been implemented
by ADINO Telecom Ltd., an MEL group company. "Our
VPN project is probably the largest site-to-site leased
line-based implementation in India," claimed Ramaswamy.
MEL uses HCL Infinet's network to support a 64 Mbps
leased line which connects to 20 branch offices nationwide.
Each link is backed up with 128K ISDN links. The company
also uses the service provider's VPN for security. A
firewall sits between the mail server at the HO and
the Internet. A 128K DSL and a backup 64K DSL link help
make the connection.
The company earlier had a PAMA link between the HO and
the New Delhi office. It has recently migrated the link
to a VPN. The bandwidth is 32 Kbps and will soon be
doubled due to expected higher data traffic.
have married pre-SAP legacy networking connectivity
needs like RF into post-SAP methodology like VSATs and
leased lines. By doing so, we have built the most reliable
options to meet connectivity needs," claimed Ramaswamy.
the company started operations, it did not have a roadmap,
which could tell the number of offices, locations, and
users likely to be supported in future. This made the
task of creating a network design philosophy difficult.
But the difficulty was sufficiently neutralized due
to a number of basic design considerations that were
All company locations were cabled with CAT 5 and later
CAT 6+. "Switches have been preferred over hubs
because whenever multiple users are connected to a hub
there's packet loss. There are filters, firewalls, and
a VPN to address any security breach concerns,"
The various connectivity options are managed with a
suite of network management software. Some of the software
has been developed in-house and some are out-of-the-box
products. The software continuously monitors each network
device at every location for throughput and performance.
In case of a drop in performance levels, the system
issues e-mail and SMS warnings. The portion of the network
outsourced to HCL is managed by HCL's NOC (Network Operations
The next connectivity stage
The various connectivity options have extended the scope
for newer enterprise applications and functions in the
network. In future, the company wants to introduce functionalities
that will use the ERP backbone.
soon we will develop in-house CRM applications to facilitate
our customer base of 680,000. We will use a lot of information
that run EAIs (Enterprise Application Interfaces). And
there will be certain elements of SCM extended to our
vendors. We also plan B2B functions to increase the
pace of the procurement cycle and simplify logistics
and transport management.
MEL has configured its routers and switches to handle
VoIP traffic. Now that VoIP has been legalised, the
company hopes to send voice traffic across its network.
VPN route will perhaps be outdated in the near future
with OFC (Optical fiber Cable) and Broadband technologies
around the corner. A new technology may possibly emerge
which will provide higher bandwidth and push data around
at a more economical rate," said Ramaswamy.
MIRC Electronics was founded in 1981 and manufactures
the popular Onida brand of TV sets. The company has
140 users across 38 locations nationwide and runs SAP
ERP application needs to have the factory, head office,
and other key locations to be 'always on' in order to
share data. The company does not want to lose valuable
transaction and operations data in a communications
careful consideration the company has deployed multiple
connectivity options in its network. There are VSAT
links, leased lines, VPN links, ISDN links, RF (Radio
Frequency) links, and dialup links.
location enjoys uninterrupted connectivity and each
link is adequately backed up for reliability. The company
can go ahead with its future plan of deploying CRM,
SCM, and VoIP without worrying about connectivity.
Soutiman Das Gupta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org