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Case Study: Intelligroupís New Messaging Solution
One-stop messaging

Intelligroup, an ERP systems integrator recently migrated to Microsoft Exchange. Here's how they managed this transition. by Minu Sirsalewala

A messaging platform plays a crucial role for Intelligroup. The ERP system integrator has an employee base of over 1200 people, and more than 100 clients worldwide. Due to certain operational and business limitations with their existing e-mail platform, the company decided to migrate to Microsoft Exchange.

"Keeping with our business philosophy and vision, and the changing demands of the market place, distance and technology, we realized that Lotus Notes was not serving our communication purpose. That is when we decided to migrate to Microsoft Exchange to offer our employees real-time access to information and an instant messaging system," said Pavan Reddy B, Manager-MIS, Intelligroup Asia. Reddy adds, "We have a robust network connecting our centers and our headquarters (HQ) in New Jersey."

In a nutshell

The company
Intelligroup is an ISO 9001 & SEI CMM Level-5 and People CMM Level-2 certified ERP systems integrator with an employee base of over 1200. Founded in 1987 it provides technology solutions and services to over 100 clients worldwide.

The need
The existing messaging system did not meet the company's technology or business objectives, so it felt the need to migrate to a more collaborative, single-step messaging platform that would fit seamlessly into their existing (predominantly Windows) setup.

The solution
Intelligroup migrated to Microsoft Exchange 2000 to have a common, secure, reliable, accessible and manageable messaging platform.

The benefits
The integration of Exchange 2000 with the existing Windows setup offered the company benefits like single-enterprise directory, simplified and integrated security management, and the ability to use Windows 2000 security groups as mail distribution lists.

THE NETWORK
Intelligroup Asia has two development centers in Hyderabad, an ADC (advanced development center) and CO (corporate office). The two offices are linked with a 1 Mbps microwave link. The CO is connected to the HQ at New Jersey through two 512 Kbps links, one a fiber optic link and the other a satellite link. The ADC is connected to Intelligroup Australia through a 64 Kbps satellite link.

Both the ADC and CO have their own mail servers to reduce traffic on the inter-office link. Both locations belong to the Windows 2000 domain and have a centralized mail service.

LIMITATIONS
Intelligroup had implemented its messaging system in January 98 and used the system for about three and a half years.

While using the old messaging system, Intelligroup experienced a number of glitches and needed to correct these to ensure an efficient communications environment. It was found that as there was no integration between the OS and the mailing system, the administrator had to create different login and e-mail ids for every user. If a user terminated his/her services with the company both the login and e-mail IDs had to be deleted separately. Any negligence could leave the e-mail ID existent forever, as mapping between login ID to e-mail ID was difficult, it resulted in the wrong ID being deleted for a particular login ID.

Users had two sets of IDs, one for the OS and one for the mails. They had to memorize multiple passwords—Windows login password, mail password, and also their Web access password, when accessing through a browser over the Internet.

The earlier messaging system also made it very difficult for an administrator to find what group a particular user member belonged to.

It was not feasible to apply common policies (like mailbox size restrictions) to a set of users or to restrict the ability of a particular group to mail a few designated users.

REQUIREMENTS
"With so many limitations in the product, the purpose of implementing the solution was not being achieved. We required a solution, which had more collaborative applications and one that was more user friendly," said Reddy.
Elaborating further Reddy said users should be able to log on to the network and access all the Windows 2000/NT file and print services, the corporate Intranet and mails with a single username and password.

Intelligroup felt the need for a messaging solution that would integrate with the OS (Windows) user database, thereby reducing the administrative overheads, resulting from having to maintain different databases for the OS and mails.

"All these requirements could be addressed if we used Microsoft Exchange 2000," said Reddy.

Phases of implementation
The implementation including the planning, simulation and QA was completed in four weeks. The actual deployment took only two days.

The deployment process was started with the designing of the Administrative Group, Routing Group and Storage Group structures after taking into consideration the existing network setup and user requirements.

The proposed solution was simulated in a test setup and was tested on all fronts to minimize problems while deploying in the live setup.

"We wanted to implement a standard naming convention across the enterprise. Hence we chose to recreate all the users as against migrate them from the existing system. We converted the older mailboxes to .PST using the Exchange Migration Wizard that comes with Exchange 2000, and installed it for users as Personal Folders," informed Reddy. "We did not face problems while configuring the client (Outlook), as a document with step-by-step instructions and screen shots was given to users so that they could configure their Outlook clients."
The company did face a few post migration issues but these were resolved without any delays.

Post implementation benefits
Once Intelligroup tackled most of the post migration problems, the benefits of the new messaging system slowly began to seep in.

"Implementation of Exchange 2000 gave us the collaborative platform with the added applications required by us.

We now have a multi-server environment, where the servers in an administrative group are managed as a single entity. All message routing and replication within a routing group is handled automatically without administrator intervention. Users whose mailboxes are moved between servers are automatically redirected to the new server, requiring no changes to the user desktop and no administrator intervention," said Reddy.

Administration also became a simpler task. Creating a Windows 2000/NT user automatically creates the mail ID. The administrator need not open a separate window for creating the mail ID. Deletion of resigned employees becomes easy, as deleting the user account also deletes his mail ID.

The integration of Exchange 2000 with Windows 2000 Active Directory also benefits the end-users by providing single sign-on capability.

OWA (Outlook Web Access) combined with the FE/BE (front- end/backend) architecture supported by Exchange 2000 makes it easier for users to access their mailboxes over the Internet using a simple URL, without the need to specify the name of the Exchange 2000 server where the mailbox is stored.

Cost benefits
Reddy says there were no direct cost benefits from the migration. "Exchange is a premium product and requires better hardware to run. Two new servers costing $6,000 each were purchased for the installation of the Exchange. The Exchange server was purchased at a price close to Rs 11 Lakh. And the anti-virus software (Trend Micro ScanMail for Exchange) came at a cost close to Rs 3 Lakh," added Reddy.

Future plans
To leverage more on Microsoft Exchange server, Intelligroup is integrating a Knowledge Management solution with Exchange as a backend, and making use of the robust workflow engine built in it.

"The knowledge management solution is still under development. It will use the Exchange Web storage system for document management and build workflows around it. The solution also includes ORMS (Operating Resource Management System). Workflow applications like leave application, stationary requisitions, and medical reimbursements will be easily developed online in a short time. The Microsoft Workflow Designer, included in Exchange 2000 is a graphical tool for building rich, rule-based workflows based on the Exchange 2000 store," said Reddy.

Minu Sirsalewala can be reached at minus@networkmagazineindia.com

 
     
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