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Issue of August 2002 
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A network for tomorrow

Considering the pace of growth of Wipro's business in recent years, its network architects had a serious challenge ahead of them, to keep the network growth-proof. The solution was a network that leveraged on the existing IP infrastructure to drive data, voice, and video traffic. by Brian Pereira

"Our New World network will be the key to Wipro realizing its potential of being among Top 10 IT Service Providers in the world. This would require us to be among the top 10 companies with best-of-breed IT infrastructure, and certainly number one in India"

The Company
Wipro Technologies, a business unit of Wipro Limited, provides on-site, off-site and offshore software development services. With over 9,000 software professionals spread across 21 development centers across the globe, the company's software services business has grown on the foundation of continued focus on customer satisfaction and quality.

The Need
The company needed a high-performance network that could scale up with growing business. Since Wipro wanted to offer its employees anywhere, anytime access, the network was expected to maintain a balance between Security and Internet Access. Further, it needed to be future-ready for the deployment of new technologies like voice and video over IP.

The Solution
A comprehensive 'New World,' IP-based network that leverages on the existing IP infrastructure to drive converged data, voice and video traffic.

The Benefits
The new converged network has already started delivering sizeable cost and resource benefits. Because the network is future-proof it will be possible to implement next generation services such as unified messaging and IP-based contact centers in a short span of time. Moreover, the efficient use of bandwidth allows for easier network management, since the solution is end-to-end and reduces internal support requirements.

Wipro Technologies, a division of Wipro Limited, is in the business of providing on-site, off-site and offshore development services. Its core business is IT solutions and services for the enterprise and technology markets. Hence its business model relies on the offshore model of software development, and its intranet was designed to inter-connect all of the Off-shore Development Centers (ODCs).

Since Wipro's business grew rapidly, it needed a high-performance, growth-proof network that was future-ready for deployment of new technologies. It wanted to give its employees anytime, anywhere access, so it needed to draw a balance between Network Security and Internet access. Since the company deploys new technologies every now and then, its network needed to be future-ready and keep pace with rapid technology changes.

Designing a new network from scratch was out of question, since Wipro had already invested heavily in its traditional network. So Wipro planned an initiative called 'Convergence@Wipro,' wherein it leveraged on the existing IP infrastructure to drive data, voice, and video traffic. The 'New World' network also needed to be based on a new generation of IP-specific technologies to make the Convergence@Wipro initiative a reality.

Traditional Network
Wipro's standard network comprises of a converged data/voice/ video communication link connecting every remote client location to the ODC LAN of one of the development centers in India. Every development center is connected to the primary and secondary WAN hubs on 2 Mbps lines. The interoffice links were designed for high availability using alternate paths and auto routing network protocols. Policy-based networking & Quality of Service rules were defined and configured to ensure the highest priority for business critical applications. The IT infrastructure at the Wipro Technologies' office was network-ready for easy access with 10/100 Mbps bandwidth to the desktop and Gigabit backbone.

Wipro's network architecture has three dimensions to it to cater to its business specific requirements. Sudip Banerjee, Chief Executive-Operations & Staffing at Wipro Technologies, says the company intranet, extranet and the Internet form "the 3D network of Wipro Technologies." All employees, working from any of the 21 development centers in India and abroad are part of the intranet. The extranet connects the customer locations across the globe and Internet is the common media for anytime, anywhere access to all on-site employees working from customer sites and also for mobile users.

The components of Wipro's traditional network infrastructure can be summarized as:

  • The LAN: Gigabit cabling infrastructure, Ethernet, 10/100 Mbps to desktop, Gigabit with trunking on the backbone. Campus networking, layer 3 virtual LANs.
  • The WAN: Redundant E1 links across locations, HDLC protocol, OSPF protocol, TCP/IP protocol.
  • Bandwidth: 80+Mbps of domestic bandwidth, 15+Mbps of international bandwidth and nearly 15 Mbps of Internet bandwidth.
  • Operating systems: Windows 95, 98, NT and 2000; Solaris 2.x and HP UX 10.x.
  • Primary protocol and applications: SAP, HTTP, SMTP, LDAP, POP, IMAP, Netbios, CRM, Computer based training (CBT).
  • Desktop applications: Office 2000, McAfee Antivirus, Outlook 2000, Netscape and Internet Explorer browser.

Requirement
In spite of having a scalable network with redundant links, the intranet still had limitations such as:

  • Lack of reliable Network Performance/Quality of service.
  • Inability to scale up to demand for more bandwidth.
  • Lack of scope to maintain the balance between network security & Internet access.
  • Deploying complex technologies.
  • Acquiring new skills and keeping pace with fast technology changes.

Going forward, the key requirements were greater scalability and decrease in time to deploy new technologies. Also, there was requirement for greater reliability and higher time-to-service (high availability). Ensuring anytime, anywhere connectivity to the intranet with adequate network security was also a requirement.

The Challenge
Considering the pace of growth of Wipro's business in recent years, its network architects had a serious challenge ahead of them, to keep the network growth-proof. Not only was the network expected to be able to factor in for future business growth but also have a low level of obsolescence. Therefore, despite having invested heavily in setting up a scalable and redundant network, there was a never ending, always growing demand for bandwidth that seemed to have constrained the network.

"Two key trends were driving the need for change," says Banerjee. "One, the change in work styles, with more employees seeking flexible work hours and work-from-home options. To address this, the network had to maintain a balance between the need for network security and anytime, anywhere access. Secondly, the network had to keep pace with rapid technology changes. Network performance was getting degraded as increasingly complex technologies and applications were hosted on the intranet."

The Plan
Wipro therefore had its task cut out. Given the high level of investment already made in setting up the infrastructure, the way ahead was to leverage on the existing IP infrastructure to converge data, voice and video traffic, optimize the resources and bring in significant cost saving, such as to deliver:

  • Convergence to the desktop for video streaming, e-learning and unified messaging.
  • 99.999% availability and 24/7 Global Network Support.
  • Anytime and everywhere secure, easy access.

Very clearly, the need at Wipro Technologies was for a network that is 100 percent available, fully secure and a future-proof network efficiently supported round the clock. Moreover, since this was business critical, the time-to-deploy had to be minimal.

For such requirements, setting up a comprehensive 'New World,' IP-based network seemed to be the only solution. The technological need was to adopt technology inline with growing business needs by leveraging the existing IP infrastructure to drive converged data, voice and video traffic. The network architecture of Wipro Technologies, accordingly, needed to be purely based on new generation IP-specific technologies, to make Convergence@Wipro a reality.

Selection Criteria
Wipro Technologies was very clear about its requirements the top priority was ensuring that employees got what they required, by way of the IT experience, to deliver consistent value to the customer. Care was taken to choose technology that will enable a scalable network design to tie into the business needs of every employee. Given this, the entire LAN/WAN infrastructure were built mostly on Cisco components. But why was Cisco selected?

The Cisco AVVID (Architecture for Voice, Video and Integrated Data) solution for IP Telephony was implemented to leverage the existing Cisco infrastructure with minimal configuration changes, to define quality of service for different applications based on business priorities.

Says Banerjee, "Cisco's AVVID was the clear choice, because it offers an end-to-end networking platform to configure all the solutions we needed. Cisco is the only One-Stop shop which could meet our requirements for an open-standards, converged, IP-based network."

Seeking The Solution
Setting up a comprehensive New World, IP-based network seemed to be the only solution for Wipro. The technological need was to adopt technology inline with growing business needs by leveraging the existing IP infrastructure to drive converged data, voice and video traffic. The network architecture accordingly, needed to be purely based on new generation IP-specific technologies, to make Convergence@Wipro a reality.

Here are the specifics on the technology implementation.

The Campus LAN infrastructure is an hierarchical architecture using Cisco Catalyst 8540, Catalyst 6500 switches for the core/distribution layers. The access switch used is Catalyst 4006. The desktop switches are Catalyst 29xx, Catalyst 35xx, Catalyst 19xx. The backbone infrastructure is based on the Gigabit Ethernet Technology. Features like Gigabit trunking and Layer-3 VLANs are implemented on the LAN infrastructure. The desktop connectivity is on 10/100Mbps.

The WAN Network is used for connecting the various Wipro Technologies offices across the world and also for connectivity to their customer locations. For the WAN Network, Bangalore is the hub location using Cisco 7206 routers. Each remote location has redundant E1 links to the central location. The routers used in the remote locations are Cisco 3600 and Cisco 2600.

ISDN backup connectivity is used for the remote locations to access the central locations in case of the leased line failure. The routed protocol is IP and routing protocol used is OSPF.

The bandwidth allocation is the same as in the traditional network (as discussed earlier).

This entire backend infrastructure was set up to support key front and backend applications, which were expected to deliver the benefits of a Converged Network Ecosystem.

1. Centralized Applications: SAP; CRM Application, Intranet.
2. Distributed Applications: Computer-based training, e-mail, Internet access.
3. Voice and Video Applications: Voice over IP, video conferencing and IP Telephony using Cisco Call Manager.

"The idea was to enable a New World network that would take Convergence to every Wiproite's desktop. The network had to not only improve external communications but also make it possible to use smarter eLearning platforms. While applications such as Unified Messaging would make work management better, technologies such as Video-on-Demand and Video Streaming would make every employee empowered by his/her own training and development," says Banerjee.

This New World Network also consists of Cisco IP-based PBX technology using Cisco Call Manager and Cisco IP phones, and also incorporates Cisco Unity, an IP based Unified Messaging Application. Wipro Technologies has installed about 700 Cisco IP Phones.

In order to offer further productivity enhancement tools, via video conferencing solutions, Wipro has implemented IP-based video conferencing architecture using Cisco IP MCU (Multi Conferencing Unit) and Cisco MCM (Multiconference Manager). To integrate legacy ISDN video conferencing systems, Wipro has provided the facility using Cisco IPVC3520 (H.320 to H.323 gateway), thereby deploying smarter e-learning platforms using Cisco's IPTV solutions.

Banerjee added, "Our New World network will be the key to Wipro realizing its potential of being among the Top 10 IT Service Providers in the world. This would require us to be among the top 10 companies in the world with best-of-breed IT infrastructure, and certainly number one in India."

Implementation
The project to roll out VoIP services was undertaken based on an internal audit of the spending on PSTN voice calls between Wipro offices. A detailed cost benefit analysis was worked out, to clearly define the benefits from moving to VoIP. Based on the usage pattern discerned, the first phase of VoIP implementation was planned with varying technology like FXS and toll bypass technology in three months.

The next stage involved drawing out an exhaustive network design and plan which would connect Wipro offices globally. Says Banerjee, "It was in this phase that we first implemented the IP telephony solutions, as well as tested its interoperability with FXS and voice gateway solutions. However, before that could be done, we had to go through the entire process of designing the network topology, estimating bandwidth sizing, predicting the number of active trunk channels, analyzing infrastructure readiness like voice cabling, space, mounting of PBX and finalizing the actual configuration and testing of all equipment to implement the network."

Since this implementation was the first of its kind in India, it was a learning experience for both Wipro and Cisco engineers. Among the key lessons learnt were:

  • Configuration size increases required on routers.

As soon as there is any new location brought into the VoIP network, the network needs a configuration change in all routers.

  • No tool to identify/monitor the quality of the voice and check the effectiveness of QoS.
  • Accounting of VoIP usage, bandwidth utilization and capacity planning is a concern area.
  • Initial delay of 25-30 seconds before the VoIP call is established.

Says B. Ashok, Vice President, Cisco India, "Cisco has tried to address each of the implementation issues. The Cisco Gatekeeper seems to be the solution for the huge configuration issue but it is a solution that needs to be evaluated. On other fronts, the Cisco Voice Manager is highly recommended as the solution for VoIP Usage Accounting. However, this again needs to be customized for India. QoS has been partially implemented across the network we are confident that it will be manageable once it is implemented across the enterprise."

Benefits
The objective of Convergence@Wipro was to build not only a single converged network to carry voice, video and data traffic, but also one that would be scalable, secure and reliable. The benefits of managing a single converged network, instead of two or three, has already started delivering sizeable cost and resource benefits.

Wipro now has an IP-based, scalable and future-proof network. Such a network makes it possible to implement next-generation services such as Unified Messaging and IP-based contact centers within a relatively short time span. Moreover, the efficient utilization of bandwidth allows for easier network management since the solution is end-to-end and dramatically reduces internal support requirements. An IP-based network allows for enhanced internal communications through delivery of eLearning modules to employee desktops, better information sharing between offices, effective training modules.

Brian Pereira can be reached at brianp@networkmagazineindia.com

 
     
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