of the diverse nature of its business operations, ABB
India just could not continue using its legacy applications
and error-prone communications system. So it redesigned
its WAN, increased capacities, consolidated processes
and installed a uniform messaging system. All this has
helped immensely in providing timely information that's
required for critical business decisions. by Akhtar
Brown Boveri Ltd., India (ABB), a Rs 1,060 crore company,
has a presence in manufacturing, process and consumer
industries; utilities, oil & gas, and infrastructure.
There are several business divisions within ABB and
these units were using courier and fax for day-to-day
communicationsa time consuming and error-prone
process. The company had also outgrown its legacy accounting
application. The consolidation of SAP centrally has
helped bring down the cost of implementing ERP, and
streamlined accounting procedures. By using Lotus Notes,
ABB India has gained a uniform mailing system that has
replaced the tedious paper trails of the early days.
ABB decided to go in for a Wide Area Network around
1984 - 85 and the project began in 1987. To begin with,
the WAN connected seven locations including two in BangaloreABB's
headquarters at Sona Towers and Peenya; two in Mumbai
at Andheri and Worli; and three at Maneja, Nashik and
Delhi respectively. 64 Kbps leased lines were used to
link all these locations.
ABB India is a 51 percent subsidiary of ABB
Ltd, Zurich. It provides solutions for industries
as diverse as power, pulp & paper, metals,
cement, mining, consumer industries, chemicals,
petrochemicals, refineries and automobiles.
ABB could not cope with its manual communications
systems (courier/fax) which was error-prone.
Another problem was the high implementation
cost of SAP.
ABB set up a WAN and consolidated its servers
to a single location, Bangalore. This helped
in reducing the cost of implementing SAP. It
replaced the old mode of communications with
Lotus Notes messaging.
ABB has eliminated paper errors, improved financial
accounting and reduced the cost of implementing
SAP. Server consolidation has lead to cost savings
and made IS management easier.
on image for larger view
While rolling out the SAP and Lotus Notes applications,
ABB decided to consolidate its servers at a central
location: Bangalore. By doing this it hoped to reduce
implementation costs and set up a more robust WAN. The
ABB network team comprising fifty-two engineers used
Cisco WAN routers, Compaq Proliant 1850 servers (PIII
550 MHz with 512 MB RAM) and HP NetServers (PIII) for
the implementation. A Check Point firewall was deployed
at the gateway. There are six VSAT links providing backup
for the leased line connections.
ABB consolidated Lotus Notes and SAP on a single IBM
Netfinity (x-Series) server. This enabled it to streamline
its accounting procedures, reduce communication costs
and make maintenance and upgrades an easier task.
ABB's WAN had links with capacities varying between
9.6 Kbps and 64 Kbps. When the WAN was first set up
in 1987, the cost of a 64 Kbps link for a distance greater
than 500 kilometers was close to Rs 14 lakh per year.
In 1988, ABB felt the need for a corporate mailing system
and decided to use Lotus Notes. But the existing bandwidth
was insufficient for using Notes.
In 1995, ABB's corporate office in Zurich directed its
Indian subsidiary to roll out SAP at all its locations.
SAP was chosen because the product was well supported
in India and was also a worldwide ERP standard. As a
rule, before any application can be used for ABB's operations,
permission must be obtained from the corporate office
in Zurich. Before the implementation of SAP across the
country, all locations were operating on OLFA (Online
Financial Accounting System), a legacy accounting application.
"SAP is not a bandwidth hungry application unlike
Lotus Notes. The Notes design was based on a hub and
spoke topology where the central server (hub) located
in Bangalore was connected to the branch offices (spokes).
The cost of the SAP implementation was another reason
for consolidating our IS infrastructure," says
P.V. Kanagalekar, General Manager-Information Systems,
The IS consolidation project began in 2000. For server
consolidation to work with satisfactory response times,
a 2 Mbps link was required. Considering the economics,
a 2 Mbps star topology was rejected on the grounds of
being too expensive. The WAN was redesigned in early
2001 as a distributed star network and today the ABB
network has 2 Mbps links to all major locations. However,
64K pipes continue to be used at a few locations where
supplementary bandwidth is not required. And some locations
(Kolkata and Hyderabad) are being considered for a link
upgrade from 64 Kbps to 2 Mbps.
ABB has an international link from Bangalore to Singapore
on Frame Relay with 1 MB Committed Information Rate
(CIR). This link connects ABB India to ABB locations
worldwide. Singapore is the Asia Pacific hub and all
Asian countries are connected to it. This point of connect
is referred to in ABB as 'Country edge' and it is managed
by ABB's Network Competence Centre (NCC) in Sweden.
While redesigning the WAN in 2001, ABB standardized
on Cisco routers. Kanagalekar says, "As per corporate
network guidelines we are using Cisco equipment. The
in-country WAN operates on EIGRP (Enhanced Interior
Gateway Routing Protocol), Cisco's proprietary protocol
for routing. RAD is the preferred vendor for modems."
ABB has used 92 servers from vendors like Compaq, HP
and IBM running Windows NT. These are now being migrated
to Windows 2000. In all ABB has used 32 Cisco routers
for 56 WAN and six VSAT links. BSNL and MTNL provided
the leased lines while HECL provided VSAT services for
REDUNDANCIES AND BACKUP
ABB uses star and mesh topology in six major locations
for effective backup connectivity. These are connected
by 2 Mbps links and also have backup 64 Kbps links.
"In case these links fail, we have VSATs connecting
directly to the data centre at Bangalore. The VSAT links
have re-locatable bandwidth that can be used elsewhere
depending on the situation of links at those locations.
Some locations use ISDN dial-up to the nearest VSAT
location. Offices in Bangalore will be on our ISDN link
to the data centre itself. We also have redundant links
of 64 Kbps at a few locations," says Kanagalekar.
ABB has a stringent worldwide IT security policy with
well-documented rules available in the form of a Lotus
Notes Database. The rulebook is available to all registered
users. The company has an Internet gateway at Bangalore
providing HTTP access to users. This gateway is protected
with a Check Point firewall with policies reviewed and
scanned every month by the ABB Corporate Security team
at Zurich as well as the Indian team.
The IDC has access restrictions and has two levels of
Access controls. The data and information to all users
are either on SAP or in Lotus Notes databases/messages
for which the user requires access permission. These
can be accessed through IDs that are allotted to individual
employees after formal approval. In addition ABB also
follows the GSD331 standard for security.
Consolidating SAP on a central location has brought
all processes on one platform, hence reporting financial
data is easier and information is available to the user
and controllers online in real-time. All locations now
have a uniform mailing systemLotus Notes. This
effort has resulted in providing timely and relevant
information to users who need to take decisions on business
issues. An application enabled through Lotus Notes provides
online chat, helps share information and reduces communication
The IT Services department of ABB Ltd. recently began
outsourcing its IS requirement to IBM Global Services
India. With this decision, IBM India has acquired 45
people from ABB's IS team and they have become IBM employees.
IBM India takes responsibility for the quality, performance
and delivery of ABB's IT services. This includes handling
ABB's IT infrastructure and applications; managing and
operating the data centre; providing end-user support,
overall network management, disaster recovery services
and technical support of business applications. Through
this outsourcing partnership with IBM India, ABB Ltd.
will be able to concentrate on its core businesses and
gain operational efficiencies.
ABB intends to implement VoIP in future. Says Kanagalekar,
"We spend approximately Rs 5 - 6 crore per annum
on inter and intra office communications. We are looking
at different ways to reduce our communications costs.
Currently we are evaluating the prospects of implementing
a VoIP solution--an alternate and cheaper way to
communicate. We are talking to Cisco and Nortel for
the VoIP implementation."
Bharati and Reliance have also announced that they will
be offering VoIP solutions connecting land lines to
mobile connections and vice-versa by end 2002.
"It will be a good option as we will save on equipment
cost, but these service providers need to have a presence
in all parts of the country. We will finalize our VoIP
deployment by November 2002," informs Kanagalekar.
Akhtar Pasha can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org