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Bandwidth/Connectivity IS2003
The Vital Links

While enterprise-wide applications help you deliver better products and services to customers, it's connectivity that ties it all together and makes it possible

Stable connectivity—either between different office locations or to the Web—forms the backbone for any enterprise-wide application.

That's the reason why enterprises are serious about Bandwidth/ connectivity (B&C) options. In the last one year, 68 percent have invested in some kind of B&C solution. Most of these investors (80 percent) are large companies—this is an indication that large companies are either extending their WANs to more locations, or have upgraded existing WANs to build redundant connectivity.

Growing requirements
Bandwidth requirements are growing. 70 percent of the respondents said their bandwidth requirements are likely to increase this year, and this requirement comes mainly from the large and medium-sized companies. 38 percent said their bandwidth requirements increase by a factor of 1x to 2x every year.

However, compared to last year, overall investment in B&C is likely to decrease in 2003-04. The only exception to this is the Auto/Auto components vertical—many companies in this vertical will spend more on B&C this year, compared to last year. Automobile manufacturing companies will require reliable connectivity as they move to streamline their supply chains.

Why more?
What are the factors driving increase in bandwidth? According to CIOs, the most important factor driving increase in bandwidth is enterprise-wide applications like ERP, CRM, and collaboration tools.

Centralizing IT infrastructure is also contributing to an increase in bandwidth requirement. Consolidation of servers, storage, and databases has resulted in increased use of shared resources.

Intranets and convergence of voice and data networks is another reason for the increased demand in bandwidth. For practical purposes we have divided B&C into two areas: Net connectivity and Inter-office connectivity (or LAN/WAN/Campus connectivity). Let's look at investments in Net connectivity first.

Click on each diagram below for larger view

Linking to the Net
Dial-up, leased line and ISDN are the primary means of connectivity for Internet access in enterprises. 75 percent of the respondents use dial-up, 62 percent use leased line and 59 percent use ISDN. The other means of Net connectivity are DSL, cable, and satellite. While cable is more suited for home use, DSL as a technology has never grown popular in India. Satellite connectivity for Net access is another area that is yet to pick up in enterprises as the cost is perceived to be high (just a quarter of the respondents use this medium).

In many cases, enterprises are using the dial-up option as a backup link or for those who want to connect to the Internet periodically.

ISDN offers always-on connectivity and is usually used as a backup for the leased line or for branch offices where the volume of data transacted over the Net is low. A single ISDN channel (64 Kbps) can be shared between 30 users. This number can be doubled by going in for an additional channel. ISDN can also be used for video conferencing and voice calls.

Leased lines offer always-on connectivity and fixed bandwidth. It is ideal for organizations that want to set up a VPN, or those that need to upload or download frequently. That's why most respondents (39 percent) are planning to invest in leased lines for Net access this year. Most of these companies are from the BFSI and Telecom/IT/ITES verticals. This year enterprises will also invest in leased lines (39 percent) and ISDN (27 percent).

Wired office
There are a number of choices available for LAN/WAN/Campus connectivity. The medium chosen depends on the distance between two points of connection, the status of telecom infrastructure in the region and the application.

Leased lines are the most popular medium for WAN connectivity. 44 percent of the respondents are using leased lines for point-to-point links. This year, 27 percent of the respondents will invest in leased lines.

Demand for leased lines comes mainly from the BFSI vertical. Banks are increasingly using leased lines (and VSATs) to interconnect branches or ATMs.

Leased lines may not be economical in some instances. For connecting shorter distances (line-of sight connectivity) companies are using RF links. Some companies are also using RF Links for redundancy within a campus—if the main link goes down, they can still ensure that their network is up and running. 11 percent plan to go in for RF Links this year.

VSATs are the second choice for WAN connectivity and 30 percent of respondents said they have invested in VSATs. This medium is ideal for connecting offices in remote locations, where telecom infrastructure is scarce. VSATs are also favored for their reliability. Businesses that extend operations to B- and C-class cities or rural areas will go in for VSATs. Banks may also choose VSATs for connecting ATMs. The other verticals using VSATs are FMCG (with factories in rural areas) and also the chemical and pharma companies. When going in for VSATs it is advisable to stick with a single service provider as different standards or equipment may not be interoperable.

Virtual Private Networks or VPN is a more economical method of connecting remote offices. 28 percent of the respondents chose VPN, a means of interconnecting remote branches and offices via public networks like the Internet. VPN is certainly cheaper than using leased lines and VSATs for point-to-point connectivity, and it doesn't compromise on security. In case of Telecom/ IT/ITES and FMCG, a high number of companies said they invested in VPN.

Wireless to catch up
There is a lot of hype built around Wi-Fi (also called WLANs). The IEEE 802.11 standard (as it is technically known) can extend the existing LAN by providing wireless interconnections within the same office, same building or between two buildings.

However, unlike in other parts of the world, WLAN has yet to catch on in India. Just 9 percent of the respondents use WLAN and only 10 percent plan to do so this year. WLAN equipment is costly and licensing rules (for campus connectivity) are stringent. However, with deregulation of the 2.4 GHz spectrum for outdoor use, we can expect 802.11 WLAN to catch on soon. Also, there are issues with WLAN security, multiple standards and costs.

Another area to consider is Gigabit Ethernet (1000 Mbps). This connectivity is ideal for the enterprise backbone. Because of the bandwidth it offers, Gigabit Ethernet can be used for bandwidth intensive applications like video streaming or CAD/CAM in workgroups. Currently only 10 percent companies have Gigabit Ethernet and just 6 percent plan to go in for Gigabit Ethernet in 2003-04.

Research Snapshots
  • Enterprise applications (like ERP, SCM, messaging, collaboration) and intranets are driving the need for more bandwidth/connectivity solutions.
  • 70 percent of respondents said their bandwidth requirements are likely to increase this year, and this requirement comes mainly from the large and medium-sized companies.
  • 38 percent of respondents said their bandwidth requirements increase by a factor of 1x or 2x every year.
  • Compared to last year, overall investment in bandwidth/connectivity will decrease this year. The only exception to this is the Auto/Auto components vertical—companies in this vertical will spend more on bandwidth/connectivity this year, compared to last year.
  • Dial-up, leased line and ISDN are the primary means of connectivity for Internet access in enterprises.
  • Leased lines are the most popular medium for WAN connectivity. 44 percent of the respondents are using leased lines for point-to-point links. This year 27 percent of the respondents will invest in leased lines.
  • VSATs are the second choice for WAN connectivity and 30 percent of respondents said they have invested in VSATs.
  • WLAN has yet to catch on in India. Just 9 percent of the respondents use WLAN and only 10 percent plan to do so this year.
NM Suggests
  • Consider ISDN for Net access. It also offers the advantage of simultaneous voice calls and it can be used for video conferencing too.
  • Leased lines may not be economical in some instances. For point-of-sight connectivity consider other options like RF links or WLAN.
  • Leased lines are not 100 percent reliable and you must have backup links like ISDN or VSAT.
  • When going in for VSATs it is advisable to stick with a single service provider as different standards are not interoperable.
  • VPNs are a cost-effective means of connecting remote sites. Since VPNs use public networks, you should consider the Quality of Service factor.
  • Use WLAN for campus connectivity. For WLAN, consider your bandwidth requirement and check if a particular WLAN standard can address it.
    • Also buy equipment that is compatible with other WLAN standards (like 802.11a).
  • Consider Gigabit Ethernet for converged networks. This medium is ideal for bandwidth intensive applications like streaming or CAD/CAM in workgroups.
  • Don't unnecessarily buy more bandwidth every year. First monitor network traffic and bandwidth usage and take into account the following:
    • Bandwidth prioritization for applications and workgroups.
    • Perform bandwidth intensive tasks like backup and FTP after office hours.
    • Look for bottlenecks and resolve these.
    • Insist on better bandwidth from service providers, backed by SLAs.
Le Royal Meridien goes wireless

Le Royal Meridien (LRM) offers its patrons anytime-anywhere Internet access as a value-added service on the hotel premises through its WLAN network/connectivity.

The hotel uses Cisco access points for the private area network. A guest is given a PCMCIA card for the laptop that gives access to the WLAN.

WLAN at the hotel
LRM initially had CAT 5 cabling in every room and needed to extend the connectivity to the pool, bar and lobby area. The wired connections were limited to the business center, guestrooms, and library.

Pradeep Khetwal, Systems Manager, Le Royal Meridien Mumbai says, "Installing wall sockets taints the interiors and there are too many wires creating a jumble. Besides the guests are tied down to one place and have no mobility. This left us with the only option, wireless."

Anytime-anywhere
After evaluating various WLAN vendors, the hotel settled for Cisco solutions. LRM engaged the services of Air & Wireless for design and implementation specifications. The access points from Cisco are installed in strategic locations within the premises. The access points are wired to the proxy server at the backend. The proxy server is connected to a leased line modem through a firewall. The modem in turn is attached to the backbone switch.
The access points are mounted on poles, which are placed at strategic locations in the hotel where the signal reception is strongest. These access points have two 6 db antennas for wider coverage.

"Meetings and conferences are no longer limited to the rooms and business center. A more casual environment is available for interaction as guests can access the Internet anywhere in the hotel," says Pradeep.

More value-adds
The hotel will allow the guest—as they enter the premises—the flexibility to access his/her registration details online through notebook or PDA. "The guest will be able to check-in online and not go through the time consuming manual procedure," explained Pradeep.

AWC Gets a combat-ready network

Army War College (AWC) at Mhow, Madhya Pradesh—a training institute of the Indian Army uses an LRE (Long Range Ethernet) broadband solution at its campus to enable training applications on the network.

The college has a thin client standalone network to provide classified material to authorized personnel in controlled and secure environments. It has also implemented a converged voice, video and data solution to provide Internet access and training applications to over 300 users.

Networked training
The college wanted to provide the best real-time training modules to its students to prepare them for future wars and war exercises. It realized the need to enhance and optimize training utilizing the potential of IT and related tools.
Col S.P. Kochhar VSM (Sigs and IT), Army War College, Mhow says, "The very first step to address this need was to network the campus."

It opted for Cisco's LRE broadband solution to extend its reach on the campus. "One reason for selecting LRE was the simplicity of the CPE (customer premise equipment) coupled with the bandwidth delivered, and manageability features."

Extended benefits
The LRE broadband solution extends the reach for traditional Ethernet from 100 meters over normal (copper) lines to up to 1500 meters.

The college can now provide adequate bandwidth and converged voice and data services to students and instructors on a 24x7 basis.

The campus has WAN connectivity with services like e-books, OLAP, LDAP based smart card systems, server farm, IP-based video conferencing, learning labs and host of other programs.

"The campus is justifiably proud of using the latest and relevant peripherals that aid in training. The benefits are already visible and the college intends to continue to grow its IT infrastructure," says Col Kochhar.

 
     
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Copyright 2001: Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Limited (Mumbai, India). All rights reserved throughout the world.
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