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Issue of July 2002 
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LAN Traffic Management
Adding color to LAN traffic management
The Company
Goodlass Nerolac Paints Limited is one of India's premier paint companies with a turnover exceeding Rs 750 Crore. It's the market leader in industrial/automotive segment and manages over 90 percent of the OEM requirements. The network has a robust ERP, Data Warehousing, and 750-odd users nationwide.
The Need
The HO (Head Office) LAN runs a mission-critical ERP, a Data Warehousing suite, 300 nodes, and connectivity to the nationwide WAN. The LAN traffic needed to be smooth and error-free with no scope for bottlenecks and bandwidth throttle to ensure trouble-free performance.
The Solution
The company decided to concentrate on its LAN switching infrastructure to ensure trouble-free LAN performance. After evaluation it deployed a Cabletron SSR 8600 and a stack of three Enterasys Matrix E5 switches.
The Benefits
The HO LAN's switching architecture is efficiently designed to ensure minimal downtime and efficient traffic management. There hasn't been any downtime in the HO LAN for over 18 months, since the network upgradation. And the company has deployed VLANs for better network management.

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GNPL (Goodlass Nerolac Paints Limited) runs mission-critical ERP, Data Warehousing applications, a LAN of 300-odd nodes, and a WAN of 450-odd desktops from its Head Office. And the entire LAN is managed with a minimal switching infrastructure. A look at how the paint company's LAN switching infrastructure addresses its technology needs. by Soutiman Das Gupta

GNPL's data center at its Mumbai HO (Head Office) houses a number of important components of its technical infrastructure. It's where the server infrastructure for its ERP and Data Warehousing applications, VSAT communications equipment, and desktop workstations for 300-odd users are kept. The data center is also connected to Comsat Max in order to provide seamless integration with the service provider's VSAT and VPN infrastructure.

This allows free flow of data between the ERP servers and the company's various factories, depots, and regional offices scattered nationwide. "Our data center is very critical to our business as it is the heart of the organization. It's from here that we distribute ERP data and maintain communication links to our 70 locations nationwide. It's extremely important that data traffic in this location is absolutely smooth and error-free," explained J.S. Gonsalves, Senior Manager, IT.

K.V. Ranganathan, Senior Manager, IT adds, "Since a lot of data traffic flows between the VSAT locations, ERP servers, and users in the HO, it's important that the LAN is well structured. The switch is the gateway between the servers and the rest of the users. So there should be no scope for bottlenecks and bandwidth throttle."

The company felt that a good way to ensure efficient data flow was to focus on the LAN switching infrastructure. After considering aspects like performance, cost, design, manageability, and other benefits, the company chose to use Enterasys' Matrix E5 switches and SSR (SmartSwitch Router) 8600 and ELS 100s. "Our LAN has been operating on these switching devices for over 18 months and we have never had any downtime," said Gonsalves.

Phased growth
GNPL's IT Initiatives were built in four phases. The first phase of computerization began in the early 60s, the punch card era. "We had a team of data entry operators and data was fed into a central repository. The information was then collated and used to generate reports for various departments in the organization," explained Ranganathan.

The second phase of computerization began in 1985. The company began to automate some of the applications in the HO and depots. There was a mix of manual and automated data entry operations.

In 1990, due to rapid business growth, the company felt it was unreliable to depend on a mixed breed of data from online and offline sources. The data had to keyed in and verified, a process, which took a few months to ensure that the information was accurate. This lead to the third phase of computerization.

As a part of the third phase, the company using Unix and Cobol as the development platform built applications for various processes like manufacturing, sales, and accounting. These applications were rolled out in 1991.

In 1997 the first WAN connectivity was established between the HO and the company's manufacturing plant in Kanpur through VSAT. Microsoft Mail was deployed to take care of the mail requirements.

The fourth phase
The company's first LAN was deployed in 1993 using hubs and coaxial cables in the HO and served a group of 25 users. The LAN was then upgraded in 1996 to handle additional traffic. Subsequently in 1998 the company went for a total revamp of its LAN across the HO and factories based on a switching architecture.

In 2000 the company went live with SAP R/3. This was the fourth phase of IT initiatives. In this phase the HO LAN was further upgraded, the factories had fiber backbones installed, and all the depots adopted LANs. The ERP setup was thus connected to 70 locations nationwide and served 750-odd network users.

Depot locations connect to the data center via TDM/TDMA VSATs through the Comsat Max hub center over a 2 Mbps leased line link to the HO and the ERP servers. The link is backed up with a 128 K ISDN link as well as a 128 K DAMA link. The factories connect to the HO through PAMA VSATs directly. In addition, each depot has a redundant VPN link to the data center.

In the LAN
The ERP setup comprises a range of Sun servers for application configuration, testing, and production. The Sun StorEdge A5100 disk array and a StorEdge L400 tape library are attached to the SAP database servers for data storage and backup respectively. Wipro NetPower servers power areas like SAP data archiving, employee portal (Knowledge Management and Workflows), and Web. A Compaq ProLiant server runs SAS data warehousing applications, and a HP Netserver runs MS Exchange.

The data archiving server runs the IXOS archiving software that moves inactive SAP data from active storage to passive storage. This frees up storage resources on the main storage A5100 boxes. The archived data is kept on a HP Jukebox 220 and is always available for query.

"The 750-odd users who are online can query the ERP servers anytime. The users make requests for various queries, reports, and data throughout the day. This generates high traffic density and the switch has to have the capability that complements the performance of the other equipment like servers and routers to handle very high volumes of data and ensure good performance," explained Gonsalves.

The SSR 8600 is the backbone LAN switch on which all the mission critical servers converge and is the gateway to all users on the LAN and WAN via the router. The switch is layer 4-capable and has features like policy management, security, and QoS.

The 300-odd desktops in the HO LAN access various ERP and warehouse applications from different areas in the LAN. Three Enterasys Matrix E5 switches handle data access. "Each switch is configured and used like a layer 2 device. These also have the capability to be upgraded to layer 3 or 4 to support more business-critical applications. The switches can also be managed remotely," said Ranganathan. The eScan and MailScan Antivirus Suite of products protect the desktops. The HO desktop antivirus signature database is automatically updated through the LAN.

A Checkpoint VPN-1/FireWall-1 software on a Nokia IP330 device protects the HO from any malicious intruders.

LAN switching and management
"The superior features and design of the switching solution and the fact that it was future proof made us opt for the technology," said Gonsalves.

"I like the switching solution because it is simple for the administrator, elegant in design, and only four switches meet the requirement of the entire organization over a campus-wide network. It also provides 100 percent redundancy in the network," claimed Ranganathan.

GNP has implemented VLANs in order to reduce network broadcasts, improve response time for applications to HO users, allow better manageability, and provide differential access to applications. VLANs have also helped to save administration time and offers increased security and dynamic IP addressing on the LAN.

The factories at various cities use Cabletron ELS 100 switches as the core switches over a fiber backbone. A few 3Com switches from the earlier phase of LAN implementation are used in locations where there isn't much data traffic. Network Solutions has been given the responsibility of managing the LAN infrastructure at various locations of GNPL. Comsat Max manages the WAN infrastructure.

Future
The company plans to deploy storage consolidation and disaster recovery solutions. "Our robust LAN infrastructure gives confidence to introduce new applications without worry of LAN performance issues. We will continue to work closely with our vendors and look at them as our partners. As we pay for the solutions now, the solutions pay back in the long run." said Gonsalves.

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

 
     
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