Honda has revved up its server architecture to provide
dedicated platforms for storage, mail, backup, and database
management. by Soutiman Das Gupta
Honda Motors Limited is the worlds 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.
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.
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 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 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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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.
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.
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,"
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
"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,"
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
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
PLANNING A SMOOTH RIDE
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