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Issue of October 2002 
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Case Study Special: Hero Honda fine tunes its network
Revved up server architecture

Hero Honda has revved up its server architecture to provide dedicated platforms for storage, mail, backup, and database management. by Soutiman Das Gupta

Hero Honda Motors Limited is the world’s largest two wheeler company. And to keep pace with the tremendous growth and maintain the competitive edge, it has a network spanning 700 nodes. This includes the HO (Head Office), two manufacturing plants, and 20 marketing offices nationwide.

Besides migrating from a slower performing network to a faster, almost-glitch-free network, Hero Honda has also consolidated disparate applications that once ran on different departmental servers by implementing SAP. It has also reworked its server architecture to provide dedicated platforms for applications, storage, mail, backup, and database management.

In a nutshell
  • The company
    Hero Honda Motors Limited is a joint venture between the Hero Group, the world's largest bicycle manufacturers and the Honda Motor Company of Japan. It manufactures India's largest selling motorcycle. Its network is spread across 700 nodes and includes two manufacturing plants, a HO, and regional offices nationwide.
  • The need
    As business needs evolved the company had to harden themselves technologically and move from older applications, servers, and connectivity options to something more reliable and structured.
  • The solution
    The company structured the components and devices in its LANs and WANs nationwide. And it bought a new range of servers to run its databases, applications, and SAP functions.
  • The benefits
    The LANs in different locations are now completely structured and switch efficiently. And the WAN has multiple links through dedicated lines with adequate fall back options. The server setup is able to run all enterprise applications smoothly.

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The first move
In order to get a hold over its diverse operations the company felt it necessary to deploy new applications like Oracle and Ingres. These relational databases helped the company consolidate data at one place and make it accessible to an authorized user on the fly.

These new entities demanded higher throughput and better scalability. The legacy LAN had a high failure rate and it was difficult to isolate and rectify a problem that arose, at times, in various segments. Also, its legacy TDMA-based WAN, which was a shared network, had the tendency to choke as new users were added.

To address this issue of running bandwidth-hungry applications efficiently across the LAN, S.R. Balasubramanium, CIO, Hero Honda, decided to strengthen the existing server infrastructure first. The company deployed IBM RS/6000 midrange servers (the H70 and F50 series) for running Ingres and Oracle. Lotus Notes was used to manage mail and messaging and it was run on IBM's Netfinity servers.

A 10/100 Mbps switched network was soon deployed and fiber was installed at all the critical segments. The HO and two plants at Gurgaon and Dharuhera were connected with secure leased links and radio links.

Enterprise applications
The next move was to implement an ERP in order to consolidate various departmental servers performing diverse functions like accounting, inventory management and so on under the same roof.

SAP R/3 Release 4.6B was implemented to control its operations. The company went live with SAP in February 2001. It uses modules like production planning, materials management, quality management, and sales & distribution. SISL was the implementation partner.

SAP provided numerous benefits. It presented a high-level of data integration and enabled common master sheets that can be used across various functions like transaction, validation, accounting, and reporting. There were improvements in the quality, access, and usage of transactional data. It suitably eliminated multiple entries and there was no need for manual reconciliation.

Hero Honda was now able to implement better cost control measures. The ERP made it possible to calculate cost of consumables, tool inventory cost, power & fuel costs, and plant overheads. And it also readied the organization for future SCM (Supply Chain Management) and CRM (Customer Relationship Management) implementation.

To strengthen the server architecture Balasubramanium decided to stick to a single server vendor, IBM. "This allows us to get a complete range of products and services under one roof. We can communicate with a single point of contact for services and complaints. The vendor treats us as a preferred customer and honors its commitments," said Balasubramanium.

Hero Honda uses separate servers for running applications, databases, mail and messaging, network management, development, testing, and production. IBM's RS/6000 SP servers are used for most SAP applications. The servers have various hardware and software configurations to provide optimum performance.

"The RS/6000 is a very reliable and scalable system. IBM AIX which is shipped with the boxes also performs very well. We have used IBM's servers in the past and are quite satisfied with them," said Balasubramanium. The Web servers are outsourced.

Hero Honda's network connects two manufacturing plants in Gurgaon and Dharuhera (Haryana), a HO in New Delhi, and 20 marketing offices all over India. A mix of VSAT links, leased lines, Frame Relay links, and dialups interconnect these offices.

"The company's LANs at various locations are now completely structured and switch efficiently. They use 10/100 Mbps Ethernet technology for data transmission and are connected with Cat 5 cables so that it can support bandwidth requirements for the next few years. There are rare instances of network breakdown and we haven't had any major failures in the last three years," said Balasubramanium.

The Gurgaon plant has two Cisco 2610 routers that are connected to an IBM 8274 LAN RouteSwitch. A large setup of servers, storage boxes, backup devices, and workstations are connected to the switch. A RS/6000 SP runs SAP applications, an e-server pSeries 620 runs Tivoli, an H70 enterprise server runs Oracle, a Netfinity server handles mail, and a G8BlueBox from G8.NET (appliance designed to provide end-to-end services on the Internet) acts as a mail gateway.

The two Cisco 2610 routers connect to the HO in New Delhi and the plant in Dharuhera. It links with the HO through a 2 Mbps leased line along with a 128 Kbps ISDN dial-up link as backup. A 64 Kbps ISDN dial-up link serves as a second backup.

The Dharuhera plant connects with the Gurgaon plant through a 768 Kbps RF (Radio Frequency) link. There is also a backup 192 Kbps VSAT PAMA (Permanent Assigned Multiple Access) link provided by Comsat Max.

The HO has a Cisco 1720 router that connects to a 3Com 3300 switch. This is in turn is connected to another 3Com 3300 switch which supports Netvista and 300GL workstations. A range of devices handle backup, mail, bridging, firewall, modem, RAS (Remote Access Server), and mail gateway functions.

The company plans to implement the Human Resources and Production Management modules of SAP. It also plans to implement CRM and SCM applications to seamlessly connect and manage its dealers and vendors. Currently Hero Honda is connected to the public network only for mail management applications. So this move calls for more secure networks.

"To address the current security needs we have constructed a basic level of protection using firewalls and point-to-point links. A comprehensive security policy is under evaluation to address the new security concerns that will come up after the CRM and SCM initiative. And we will implement the policy before we connect to the outside world. Although we have allocated sufficient bandwidth for the WAN connectivity across all critical locations, more bandwidth is always useful. Unfortunately public networks today are not very reliable and don't provide adequate bandwidth," Balasubramanium said.

There are also plans to move from the copper leased lines to optical fiber leased lines. "This will enable us to move towards a faster and more error-free network," said Balasubramanium.

Soutiman Das Gupta can be reached at

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