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Issue of July 2002 
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High Availability Network
A win-win network

One of the secrets behind Digital GlobalSoft's wins is its highly available infrastructure. The network infrastructure at all its facilities has enough resilience built-in, resulting in high availability. by Mahesh Rathod

Being a key player in the Infrastructure Management services space, Digital GlobalSoft needed to build a tough service delivery infrastructure for its 600 Indian employees and to manage eBusiness platforms for its customer base in India and abroad. This called for an investment in a world-class, multi-service, robust & scalable networking solution at Digital's 25-acre campus in Bangalore. After a painstaking selection procedure, the choice narrowed down to Cisco Systems, who along with Digital's systems integration team designed, implemented and rolled out an end-to-end network.

DRIVERS
Building a robust campus network was crucial. "One of the main factor was that in offshore service delivery, we need to give our clients a high-level of comfort that the infrastructure used from India is highly secure and available," said A. N. Rao, Chief Information Officer, Digital GlobalSoft.

Rao further added that the network infrastructure at Digital's campus needed to have the flexibility to support various forms of connectivity in terms of cost, traffic, security and access, and be able to handle all kinds of communications needs. While implementing the network, care had to be taken that changes in technology should not render the entire effort completely redundant and that the infrastructure should be able to accept new technologies in future.

THE CHOICE
Since the IT implementation was a mission critical one, picking a solution provider was based on various specifications. "The first criterion was how specific technology vendors fitted in our business functionality. Secondly, we looked at the credibility of the vendor in terms of technology, solutions and their capability to integrate voice services to data services," said Rao. Companies like Cisco Systems, Enterasys Networks, Nortel Networks, and a representative of Juniper Networks were called to make their solution presentations. After a thorough technical and commercial evaluation of all the vendors, Cisco Systems was chosen to implement the network.

"Digital has a key role in the infrastructure management services space and as a natural extension is setting up a state-of-the-art Technical Support Contact Center. This mandates the investment in a world-class, robust & scalable networking solution. The Cisco solution is geared to provide just that," said Rao.

FIVE-TIER APPROACH

Click on image for larger view

Digital needed a network infrastructure to provide services to two distinct sets of customers. One was to cater to Digital's own developers at the Digital park campus and at client locations. The other set were Digital's customers in the US and Asia-Pacific.

On the campus, Digital went in for a five-tier switching architecture. Starting at the user end, each set of 100 users are connected to the access switch, and all the access switches land on to a building aggregation switch in two paths. Access switches have a failover controller card with an extra power supply.

All the building aggregation switches are connected with dual home into two independent sets of campus aggregation switches on two different fiber paths. Each fiber path has two strands, if one strand goes down, the other takes over. All the building aggregation switches dual home into two data centers, each housing a campus aggregation switch. The data center provides Internet Hosting Services that manage eBusiness platforms for Digital's customers in India and abroad

Campus switches are connected to server farm switches in a criss-cross fashion. All the servers are on gigabit connectivity and connected to the server farm switch. The other side of the servers are connected to the fiber channel switches on to which the SAN (Storage Area Network) system and the tape-based back-up system are connected.

Digital has adopted various applications to suit its business needs. "We are the first site in India to go live with SAP 4.6. SAP is our transaction backbone, which manages our financial and cost-management, sales operations and HR management. Opportunity management is managed on Digiport a Customer Relationship Management product," said Rao. An intranet acts as the front-end for a range of applications like the Knowledge Management portal and Personal Manager.

Click on image for larger view

ON THE WIDER SIDE
Digital operates out of four facilities in Bangalore and one proximity development center in Houston, USA. The locations in Bangalore are well connected by a robust fiber optic MAN backbone (4/8 Mbps), and are backed up by a radio link (2/4 Mbps) in case of failure. The connectivity to Houston is a 256 Kbps IPLC (international private leased circuit) link, which is backed up by an ISDN connection.

On the wide area side, Digital has direct connectivity to its parent company Compaq. For this purpose there are dual fiber and satellite connections leading to Compaq's network. STPI and AT&T provide the 2 MB satellite connectivity, whereas VSNL and MCI provide the fiber connectivity to Compaq. Digital customers like GE and Unilever are also connected using a dedicated IPLC link and a shared network a hub in Houston and Bangalore has been set up for customers who are willing to share network infrastructure.

COMMUNICATING THE EASY WAY
Multiple modes of communication have been set up to cater to different needs. "Since we have people spread out across faculties, we needed multiple modes of cost effective and convenient communications. For this we decided to introduce IP telephony on our campus," says Rao. Cisco's IP Telephony solution connects Digital Park to the company's head office in Houston, Texas, as well as Digital's other offices around the world. All desks in the campus have IP telephony and videoconferencing facilities. To make messaging easy, MS Exchange has been implemented.

The Company: Digital GlobalSoft is a globally focused software development and services company headquartered in Bangalore, India. Digital is the only listed subsidiary of Compaq Computer Corporation USA that is exclusively focused on software services.

The Need: The company required a service delivery IT infrastructure to provide a range of professional services to its clients in India and abroad.

The Solution: Building a multi-service, scalable and end-to-end network with a comprehensive array of networking solutions including IP Telephony, VPN, Security and Network Management Solutions at the Digital Park Campus.

The Benefits: The network implementation has helped Digital to grow and acquire more customers by leveraging on an available, scalable, reliable and flexible infrastructure.

ON THE SAFER SIDE
With this kind of complex network, various management tools for proactive monitoring have been implemented. Spectrum is used for network and device monitoring, Compaq Insight Manager for hardware health monitoring and sniffers to analyze traffic patterns on the network. A powerful three-tier virus management system is installed to block virus attacks. Cisco's IDS (Intrusion Detection System) and PIX Firewall provides a real-time security system designed to detect, report and terminate unauthorized activity both from within and outside its network.

The core which consists of fiber switches, server farm switches, campus switches and the SAN sits in a physically secure data center, which has multiple access controls, 24x7 surveillance, and is fireproof and seismic proof. "The entire infrastructure is monitored on a 24x7 basis, and if any abnormal event is detected, the communications tool pages cellular phones of members of the infrastructure team, who then take appropriate action," said Rao.

Tape libraries with robotic arms, running Veritas NetBackup are used to take backup on an hourly, nightly, monthly and weekly basis.

RETURNS
Digital has spent crores of rupees on this new infrastructure. But is the cost justified? What about the ROI and benefits?

"After having spent in the range of Rs 20 crore for the end-to-end solution, we are able to boldly solicit customers since we are sure of available, reliable and scalable infrastructure at short notice. One of the secrets behind Digital's wins is its highly available infrastructure. The network infrastructure at all the facilities has enough resilience built-in resulting in high availability. Our customers and Digital employees are happy with the deployment," says Rao. "The infrastructure that we have built along with a carrier-class data center, can easily scale up to 4,500 users. The network will pay up as we use services like voice, broadcast, multicast, streaming video and videoconferencing," added Rao.

Mahesh Rathod can be reached at rathodmp@hotmail.com

 
     
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