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Issue of September 2002 
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Case Study: Cyquator's Internet Data Center
A watchful eye on your IT infrastructure

The demand for IDCs increases as enterprises outsource non-core but business critical functions. Cyquator's world-class IDC is geared to address this requirement. by Gaurav Patra

Cyquator Technologies Ltd, a part of the Rs 2,500 million Essel Group has diversified into areas like Information Technology, Communication, and Entertainment (ICE). Cyquator also manages the entire IT infrastructure of the Essel Group and has positioned itself as a complete IT outsourcing company with a wide range of offerings, encompassing basic co-location services and high-end managed services. The company has set up a world-class 20,000 sq ft Internet Data Center (IDC) at Vashi Infotech Park, Navi Mumbai, which can host approximately 3,000 servers.

With enterprises increasingly outsourcing their non-core, yet business critical services, Cyquator believes it is the right time for professionally managed companies to address this market and offer quality managed services with clear Service Level Agreements (SLAs). The company has gone in for HP OpenView network management software for managing its vast and complex backend infrastructure, and provide better customer service.

THE COMPANY

Cyquator Technologies Limited is a part of the Rs 2,500 million Essel Group, which has diverse and widespread business interests in areas like Information Technology, Communication, and Entertainment (ICE).

  • THE NEED
    The company needed a scalable solution to keep pace with varying levels of IT infrastructure deployment, seamlessly interfacing with quicker rollout to evolve along with needs of company business drivers. Also the need was for efficient and timely after sales service within India, and to have a unified central chain of command for service desk.
  • THE SOLUTION
    Keeping in mind the vast data requirements (encompassing bi-directional data flow), Cyquator needed a solution that was scalable to the needs of the organization. Cyquator also felt the need for having an efficient network and systems management software that helps deliver real-time monitoring and technical reporting to the Network Operations Center (NOC) and the customers alike.
  • THE BENEFITS
    With this implementation the company is now enjoying a better balance of IT benefits against IT costs, and also experiencing improvement in business performance and in customer perception of the delivered IT services. The implementation has also helped IT staff in planning, scheduling and budgeting through the introduction of processes. It also helped in reducing incidences of poor service, improved business performance and decreased the cost of missed business opportunities.


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EXISTING INFRASTRUCTURE
Like most IDCs, Cyquator's internal environment is a complex mesh of systems and networks, linked in real-time to its customers. The company's operations have to be well synchronized to ensure zero downtime.

"Since our core business requires a robust, scalable and secure network, we have deployed industry standards-based structured cabling from IBM that carries the entire LAN traffic within the data center," said Jitendra Israni, Chief Technology Officer, Cyquator Technologies Ltd.

The central backbone comprises of core fiber switches from Cisco (Catalyst 6500, 4000 series and 3508G XL), that interconnect all access and edge switches (Catalyst 4840 with layer 3/4 functionality), with redundant configurations. The LAN network is also capable of interconnecting fiber-based systems and switches for high-speed networked applications.

The company uses Alteon's L7 content-intelligent Web switches to deliver load balancing services and help maximize the performance and availability of their customer Web servers and firewalls.

The company has an ISP Point of Presence (PoP) at Andheri—a Mumbai suburb. This is connected to the company's Vashi IDC using multiple T1 links terminating on Cisco 3600 series routers at both locations. "This interface can also act as secure connecting blocks from the customer's LAN to our IT infrastructure hosted at our headquarters," commented Vinayak Appugol, NOC Manager, Cyquator Technologies Ltd.

Cyquator's redundant WAN architecture ensures local loop redundancy, which terminates at different VSNL gateways in Mumbai (Fort and Prabhadevi). Its customers can access their infrastructure using X.25, DSL, ISDN, VSAT and leased line connectivity to access their servers for administrative purposes. Customers also have an option of other gateways offered by Hughes Telecom Limited (HTL) and Essel Shyam Satellite gateway above the same premises at the company's Vashi IDC, connecting various locations (more than 30) within India to their data center at Vashi.

Need for a NMS
One of the key components in any data center is an efficient network and systems management software that helps deliver real-time monitoring and technical reporting to the Network Operations Center (NOC) and the customers alike.

Keeping in mind the vast data requirements (encompassing bi-directional data flow) Cyquator needed a solution that was scalable according to the needs of the organization.

"We selected HP OpenView among other products because it suited our internal business modus operandi and our vision to deliver qualitative integrated services to our customers," commented Israni. "While other products were equally comparable, we had to consider the challenges and ROI from all the management products. HP OpenView complimented most of these challenges with timely deployment, cross-platform/multi-vendor integrations, operational and functional support, available expertise, reporting and presentation, ease-of-use and administration," he added.

Unlike other HP OpenView installations, where the solution integrates seamlessly with the organization's existing IT infrastructure, Cyquator's business needs were unique--there was no pre-set IT infrastructure or a networked road-map as a frame of reference. The challenge was to provide a solution that would progress synchronously with every stage of evolution of Cyquator's business model.

"We had unique requirements with reference to our business model. Since Cyquator didn't have a set IT infrastructure in place, the twin pillars of our service-driven business model namely IT infrastructure and network management evolved simultaneously.

The adoption of a collaborative approach to manage such a vast and myriad scale of operations was important. Therefore, the inherent challenges were immense," informed Israni.

Building blocks
Cyquator felt the need for an enterprise management solution as the data center evolved. The success determinant of IT solutions outsourcing companies hinges on their ability to manage their entire Web hosting infrastructure and commerce services (e-businesses)—on which a large number of sophisticated and media-rich websites and related portals depend.

Unlike other companies in this domain, Cyquator wanted to be much better prepared and in the highest state of alertness, to ensure a glitch-free operating environment.

The evaluation exercises were expectedly elaborate with the top management team well primed to focus exactly on the solution that was needed. The critical decision points included—faster rollout, seamless interfaces, efficient and timely after-sales services, strong locals roots, breadth of functionality and the ability of the product or solution to evolve (in terms of relevant R&D initiatives) with the needs of the company.

"We wanted to choose a company that would provide the management tools for a service provider like us to offer managed services to a varied and multi-location clientele. Even at the setup stage of the company itself, we were firm on being software and carrier-neutral. The evaluation agenda involved evaluating a mix of products that would offer the best of breed of individual functionalities. The vendors had to put together most of the modules and integrate them with other investments," affirmed Israni.

He added, "The aim was to choose a vendor with strong Indian roots to support us all through, once we became operational. The top management including the CEO, CIO and the CFO played a key role here."

The company did consider competing products in the network management market place. "While all products/companies evaluated had almost equivalent features and technical competency; we had to consider what suits our business and service offerings and we zeroed on HP-OpenView," says Israni.

The rollout
Once the implementation process was underway, the important part was to manage systems in-house. They also had to take into account the rapid growth in installed server base. Another factor considered was that Cyquator would be adding nearly 100 servers a month. To be sure, HP OpenView was scalable enough to meet the emerging operational challenges.

Powerful management tools from HP OpenView with other point solutions provided a unified view of the entire Internet Data Center, ensuring maximum uptime and also tracks SLA's for servers, networks and services.

Cyquator's business operations hinges around the NOC. It helps in monitoring the servers, applications, databases and the networking devices by defining processes and by using industry standard monitoring tools. The NOC also enables capacity planning and trend analysis of various services.

Cyquator managed Internet services are designed to give complete visibility into the workings of websites and the attendant backend Web infrastructure. This is achieved through the implementation of the HP OpenView suite of products: Vantage Point Operations (VPO), Vantage Point Internet services (VPIS) and Vantage Point Web Transaction Observer (WTO).

VPIS works in conjunction with HP OpenView Vantage Point Web Transaction Observer (WTO) and integrated keynote services (optional) so that problems and glitches with the end-user desktop environments or ISP can be identified and isolated.

"We have implemented world-class support processes built around HP OpenView suite of products. Integrated support processes cover operations, performance and business intelligence associated with the management of IT infrastructure. This service management solution integrates processes such as order management, call management, incident management and problem management, together with quality management processes: configuration, change, workflow and service level management. HP OpenView also complements the workflow processes of specialists and trained professionals inside the NOC," informs Israni.

From a service point of reference, an efficient and unified Service Desk is critical for maintaining the centralized chain of command--important for a multi-data center and multi-location network. HP OpenView Service Desk thus becomes first point-of-contact for all the customers. Once customer calls are generated and logged in via various customer interfaces (i.e. Web, e-Mail, fax and phone), the tool automatically generates a trouble ticket and sends the status back to the customer giving thorough transparency to processes and solutions to each service call.

"Over a period of time, our personnel also became adept in realizing even more benefits out of the various product features of HP OpenView. They have been very innovative in the use of the products and have been able to add value in a unique way in various key functional applications. For example, our technical specialists were able to integrate the Service Desk functionalities back to the network management level thereby value adding to the existing Service Desk functionality," commented Appugol.

At Cyquator, HP OpenView is deployed on Windows and Solaris platforms. "We selected these platforms on account of performance, scalability and ease of administration," commented Israni.

For the implementation of HP OpenView, the company has spent roughly 30 percent of the total product cost. However, they have plans to spend more on developing reporting capabilities to suit individual client needs. This is one area where HP-OpenView has to meet the aspirations of service providers. It took close to four months to implement the project.

Benefits
HP OpenView solutions have helped Cyquator maintain standards based operations and escalations. Some of the immediate benefits were to leverage ITIL based processes and workflow into their work orders, service calls, incident and service level management processes. ITSM compliant tools like Service Desk help them build IT service delivery mechanisms and improved customer satisfaction. The integrations also helped them forward alerts as incidents into the Service Desk's Incident Management, giving accountability and correlativity between customers' IT infrastructure and its associated incidents.

IT service management processes are key to Cyquator's vision of complete service delivery and customer relationship management. Service Desk suits automated response and accountability giving their customers transparent and immediate access to their problems and services subscribed.

"We have deployed Service Desk as a primary interface to all customer support calls. This interface allows our customers to log, view and update their service calls online with optional mail and telephonic call logging features, giving our customers immediate attention and reduce mean time to resolution," informed Israni. Their internal workflow on this includes work order authorizations, finance approvals, provisioning and accounting. While service call escalations and resolution times are accurately recorded and reviewed for frequent problems and support patterns, it also helps them account their internal support personnel. Service Desk helps them achieve a process driven IT management.

Bottlenecks
There were quite a few hiccups that Cyquator had to contend with during the implementation stages after the initial preparatory and exploratory exercises. But thanks to the proactive measures of the HP team, most of the project constraints were resolved without putting Cyquator's business operations at risk.

As far as the implementation of HP OpenView was concerned, the main challenge was to customize it to suite their service offerings. According to Israni, the implementation team displayed exceptional understanding of the requirement, although initially it was unclear on the type of solutions and services that were expected out of OpenView.

As some of the products were partly inclined towards enterprise centric networks, they had to customize these to compliment their managed offerings. Another big challenge during implementation was data security and reporting.

"While some data could be exposed to other customers, we had the challenge to present only customer specific data and views. OpenView SIP 2 came to the rescue and helped us deliver the right kind of integrated and secure access to their specific IT infrastructure," he added.

In the near future, Cyquator plans to integrate HP OpenView with other developed applications, to provide proactive notification, paging and trouble ticketing. In conjunction with HP, CTL is open to build a collaborative working-cum-competency center (beta site), for HP OpenView products.

"We look forward to more value-added services and partnership to bring best-of-breed products and valuable services to our customers," said Israni.

Gaurav Patra can be reached at gaurav@expresscomputeronline.com

 
     
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