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Case Study: L&T's Network Management Solution
A network engineered to handle complexity

The IT infrastructure at L&T increased in complexity over the years, as the group expanded. To address the criticality of its operations, L&T Infotech deployed a process and a tool to manage its vast and complex infrastructure. by Brian Pereira

The multifarious business activities of Larsen & Toubro India and the nature of its operations, make for a sophisticated IT setup. L&T is one of the pioneers in Information Systems in the country, with the installation of an IBM 1401 system way back in 1971. The then Computer Center became an independent division—the Information Systems Division (ISD) in 1977, with the responsibility for computerizing the various groups of L&T. The ISD took its first step towards globalization in 1987 with the execution of a 30 person year project in Europe. Several more projects followed in the US, Europe and Asia Pacific and in 1997 L&T ISD was spun off as a 100 percent subsidiary of L&T, becoming L&T Infotech Ltd. This was done to provide greater customer focus, operational flexibility and quicker response targeting the global market.

In a nutshell

The company
Larsen & Toubro Limited is India's largest engineering and construction conglomerate with additional interests in IT, cement and electrical business.
L&T Infotech Limited, a 100 percent subsidiary of Larsen & Toubro Limited, offers comprehensive, end-to-end software solutions and services. Its services encompass a broad technology spectrum, catering to leading international companies across the globe.

The need
To address the issue of increasing complexity of the Group's IT infrastructure, and the criticality of its operations, L&T Infotech started pursuing a process and a tool to manage its vast and complex infrastructure.

The solution
L&T Infotech decided to set up a network operations center (NOC) in 2001. The NOC would be used not just to manage L&T Infotech's infrastructure, but also that of its parent—the L&T Group. L&T Infotech also decided to deploy CA Unicenter to manage the entire network infrastructure.

The benefits
Over the 12 months that have elapsed since its inception, the NOC has already made up for the cost due to significantly reduced downtimes on desktops, servers and networks.

With 2,200 professionals, L&T Infotech is today a SEI CMM Level 5 software house and a complete IT solutions provider. It has seven development centers in India, and a global presence through its various offices in the US, Europe and Japan.

With its strong domain focus, L&T Infotech caters to the following verticals: Utilities, Telecom, Manufacturing, (discrete and process) and Financial services (banking, insurance, securities). It has expertise in the following niche areas:

  • Legacy system maintenance on IBM platforms
  • Porting and re-engineering
  • Internet related services (Web enabling/e-commerce)
  • Application development
  • Euro-currency solutions
  • ERP consulting (SAP R/2, R/3)
  • GIS services
  • Telecommunication services
  • Embedded systems

The IT infrastructure at L&T increased in complexity over the years, as the group expanded. To address the criticality of its operations, L&T Infotech started pursuing a process and a tool to manage its vast and complex infrastructure. Given the nature of its software contracts, L&T Infotech also felt the need to provide its global customer base with a strong assurance—it could not allow its infrastructure to be a barrier to providing world-class services.

The main criteria for the selection of a solution: It had to effectively monitor and control downtime and utilization so as to pro-actively manage the infrastructure.

In this context, L&T Infotech decided to set up a network operations center (NOC) in 2001. The NOC would be used not just to manage L&T Infotech's infrastructure, but also that of its parent—the L&T Group.

NETWORK OPERATIONS CENTER

The NOC, which became operational in April 2002, is situated at Powai, Mumbai. It spans an area of 2,000 square feet.

The resources managed by the NOC include:

  • Hardware - midrange and low-end servers. Desktops, storage and backup devices; network peripherals.
  • Operating Systems - Various flavors of Unix, Windows NT/2000.
  • Applications - SAP, messaging applications and their respective databases.
  • WANs and LANs using multi-protocols.
  • L&T's own networks comprising VSATs, a CUG comprising domestic and international leased lines and L&T Netcom (the L&T group's captive ISP).

The communications infrastructure has been brought under a single umbrella called L&T GlobalNet, and the NOC is the nerve center for L&T GlobalNet.

Within the NOC, the support team/service desk is split in three levels. Level 1 accepts calls (referred to as an incident or service request), through either a Web interface or via phone calls. This level handles routine incidents.

If higher skilled personnel are required to resolve the incident, it is transferred to Level 2 (OS administrators and network engineers) or Level 3 (specialists).

Escalation may be forced or automatic when the time allotted to resolve the incident is exceeded. Each user is provided a portal view giving current status of all elements relevant to the service provided to him/her. Thus each SBU (Strategic Business Unit) or division is provided a view of servers, network elements and reports which impact its business.

L&T Infotech has developed its own reporting tool to monitor and measure the resolution of incidents online. The tool provides the reports that become the basis for a monthly performance review meeting. During the meeting all SLA's are reviewed and corrective actions taken where necessary. Proof of continuous improvement, all-important to a CMM 5 company is sought, and problems and weak process areas identified.

The NOC fulfills the basic needs of establishing a managed service by:

  • Ensuring the delivery of customer focused IT services using a process-oriented approach.
  • Offering services that meet cost and performance targets such as ensuring high availability and optimum capacity utilization.

COST BENEFIT

Over the 12 months that have elapsed since its inception, the NOC has already made up for the cost due to significantly reduced downtimes on desktops, servers and networks. Downtime is crucial to an organization that is dependant for virtually all its business processes on IT. L&T hosts 14 instances of SAP for its various businesses including cement, where downtime results in the stoppage of dispatch of cement laden trucks from its plants, (one truck every three minutes)—something unthinkable.

IMPLEMENTATION

According to L&T Infotech, the implementation of the NOC is unique and significant for the following reasons:

  • Required the participation of in-house teams to pilot the roll out of CA Unicenter at six locations in India.
  • Was one of the first implementations of CA Unicenter version 3.0 in India.
  • The functional design was undertaken in-house by the company's IT infrastructure design team.
  • Involved the implementation of IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL), a standard specifically developed for IT service management. ITIL has now evolved into the BS 15000 standard.
  • Roadmap includes support of applications such as SAP, messaging and related databases.
  • Roadmap includes the establishment of a Knowledge Repository to ensure efficient troubleshooting by less experienced personnel.

NETWORK MANAGEMENT TOOL

L&T Infotech selected the Computer Associates Unicenter network management solution to manage the entire infrastructure in a phased manner.

It took five months to deploy CA Unicenter. L&T Infotech deployed the following modules of this network management solution:

  • Unicenter Service Desk
  • Desktop Management Suite
  • Unicenter Network and Systems Management
  • Unicenter Service Level Management
  • Application Management - Unicenter Lotus Notes management

Currently SAP is managed using its native Solutions Manager. Integration with Unicenter will be deferred to a later opportunity.

Says J.C. Colaco, General Manager-IT Services, "The service desk implementation, along with the ITIL-based (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) incident management processes have enabled us to deliver a significantly improved service level with a high degree of consistency and repeatability."

According to Colaco, a valuable fallout has been that almost 50 percent of incidents are handled by level 1, the relatively less experienced personnel. This frees the experienced personnel for more challenging work.

"Unicenter SLMO (Service Level Management Option) provides a vivid snapshot of multiple parameters of each of our communication links including availability, utilization, etc. From these we are able to plan the capacity and ensure service quality," says Colaco.

Asset Management option enables the tracking of hardware and software assets, the latter being compared to license availability to ensure compliance. Data from the Asset database is extracted along with user data to improve the efficiency of incident reporting.

L&T was one of the first to implement Unicenter v3.0.

Content with the implementation results, L&T Infotech is now constantly fine tuning its network management tool to extract maximum benefits. In fact, L&T Infotech created its own reporting portal tool which helps to create and publish customized reports on the Web with a great deal of flexibility.

THE NEXT STEPS

Having gained implementation experience on this network management solution, L&T Infotech plans to develop and build on the experience through training, and thereafter take up external projects in the area of enterprise management. It also plans to bundle infrastructure management along with its offshore software maintenance capability.

Brian Pereira can be reached at brianp@networkmagazineindia.com

L&T Infrastructure Support Network


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A standard for improving management of IT services

ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) was developed by United Kingdom's Office of Government Commerce (OCG) in the 1980's with the objective of improving management of IT services (www.itil.co.uk/).

It contains a best practice framework for quality management of IT services and infrastructure, with contributions from expert IT practitioners around the world.

ITIL broadly divides IT service processes into two categories. The first category called Service Support processes includes, Service Desk function, Incident Management, Problem Management, Change Management, Configuration Management and Release Management.

The second category, known as Service Delivery Processes, includes Service Level Management, Availability Management, Financial Management for IT Services, Capacity Management and IT Service Continuity Management.
These best practices of ITIL are now known as the BS 15000 standard for IT Service Management.

 
     
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