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Issue of January 2004 

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Cover Story: Infrastructure and Asset Management

Manage better and automate this year

In 2004 Indian enterprises will need to automate systems, introduce better management practices, and have a practical view of their IT assets.

Soutiman Das Gupta

Any successful Indian enterprise of today will have its business infrastructure tightly coupled with its information infrastructure. In such a scenario where business relies heavily on IT, it's important to know that a problem exists before it impacts critical business applications.

Good infrastructure management ensures that all the components required to deliver quality performance are performing at optima llevels. And through proactive and centralized management of the infrastructure, a company can even forsee performance breakdowns and compromises.

Trends in 2004

So what do we expect will Indian enterprises do in the area of enterprise infrastructure and asset management in 2004? S.R. Balasubramanian, Vice President, Information Technology, HDFC Bank says, "Enterprises will put more focus on implementing automation tools. These tools will help IT personnel get alert messages much before a failure occurs. Companies will be able to avoid possible downtime and make sure that customer service is always maintained."

"In the area of infrastructure management, Indian enterprises will concentrate on managed services in 2004. Industries will try to focus on their core businesses and outsource infrastructure management functions. And depending on the cost, leasing may be a favoured option," says Subhash Palav, General Manager - Information Technology, HPCL.

V.K. Ramani, President, Information Technology, UTI Bank, spoke of banking industry specific trends of 2004. "The adoption of technology for banking services will continue at a healthy pace. The major thrust will be in areas like procurement of ATMs, expansion of LANs and WANs, building data center infrastructure, power supply setups, building security infrastructure, and the need for network monitoring tools. Facilities management practices will be the key to successful operations."

Challenges to infrastructure

Although 2004 will see a number of changes in the way Indian enterprises will manage infrastructure, the operations are not without challenges.

"Currently, land lines form the primary means of communication, but their reliability needs to be improved considerably. Regardless of advancement in technology, the last mile connectivity still remains a challenge. There are also other challenges like obsolescence of equipment, and poor service support at remote locations," says Palav.

The banking industry will continue to grow at a quick pace in 2004. A quick growth rate along with rapid amendments in governing rules will pose a number of serious challenges.

Ramani comments on these challenges. "The challenges are a function of growth in a number of branch applications and the increase in products and services. The Governments will depend on the Banks' retail outlets for collection of taxes and other revenue. So it will be a challenge to find ways to integrate banking systems with the payment mechanisms. This effort will require a large-scale process engineering function."

Assets to keep

Managing IT assets is a responsibility that many Indian CIOs may not take seriously. But IT asset management is all about nurturing the infrastructure, which runs the IT in organization, and is directly related to TCO.

Gone are the days when CIOs thought that the network's fine if the software and databases are working fine. They now have to pay more attention to the other peripheral areas like power and air-conditioning.

Says Balasubramanian, "Your applications may be up-and-running but if the AC is not working you have to shut down your server. And this infrastructure which is vital for functioning of IT should be owned by the IT department."

Ramani feels that in the banking industry aspects like replacements, upgrades, obsolescence, and inventory management are very important. At the desktop level the mapping of inventory will become critical, as the users will access several applications. And the computing power of servers needs to be harnessed for better ROI.

A basic way to begin enterprise asset management is to plan activities like server and desktop consolidation, and right-sizing hardware with applications. You can use rack and blade servers to save space, power requirements, and cost. The use of thin clients for workstations that run specific applications is a good idea to save license fees and avoid system administration hassles.

Critical aspects

The monitoring of availability, response times, and fault repairing will be the key components of network management in banking and financial company networks. Sophisticated software tools will increasingly be in demand as the critical business operations will depend on network performance and availability.

The introduction of real-time gross settlement system by RBI will require the banks to remain connected. And failure to respond to transactions will result in financial loss to the banks.

Channel management will depend on a robust connectivity infrastructure. Internet and intranet services will aid the communication systems for customer interaction and transaction settlements. And intranets will enable the banks to optimize the utilization of the information repository that is available for efficient conduct of business.

Multiplicity of database servers and application servers will be the inevitable consequence of increasing computerization. Consistency of response and synchronization of databases need to be addressed as strategic requirements.

Handling critical aspects

In reality many organizations are busy fighting fires, and there's less scope and thought for better infrastructure management. An ideal situation is where the CIO is very aware of all the options available to get better value out of the existing infrastructure. The CIO can do with the efficient use of strategies, management skills, and technology tools.

Here's some of the goals the Indian CIO can have for better infrastructure management in 2004:

  • Increase productivity by automating manual processes.
  • Reduce complexity through more accurate and efficient data collection, and manage diverse platforms by sharing common tools and services.
  • Reduce costs by building the system with application-focused products that cross all platforms with the ability to deploy infrastructure management solutions only as needed.
  • Maximize the existing infrastructure investment by effectively centralizing existing and new environments.
  • Deliver a common communications infrastructure through a central GUI and by providing a common presentation interface with the ability to view all components of your infrastructure.
  • Keep track of all IT infrastructure assets and make strategies to utilize them optimally to derive best value out of it.

Soutiman Das Gupta can be reached at

Solution Provider Perspectives
Here's what a few vendors and service providers have to say about infrastructure and asset management trends in Indian enterprises in 2004.

Abhik Biswas Manager, Product Marketing, Network Management, Cisco Systems
"Enterprises in India today are doing more business on their networks than ever before. They need vendors to develop solutions that make their networks easy to manage and simple to roll out new network based services."

Kalyan Kumar, Technical Marketing Manager, Converged Networks Business Unit, HCL Comnet
"Infrastructure management is a complex domain that needs constant attention. Offshoring infrastructure management can enable Indian enterprises to focus on your core business while the vendor performs what it does best - manages your infrastructure."

Sharad Sanghi, Managing Director, Netmagic Solutions
If 2003 could be considered as the year that hailed the acceptance of remote infrastructure management by Indian Enterprises, 2004 will see the consolidation of services. Qualified service providers will be able to act as one-stop providers of infrastructure requirements."

Akash Saraf, Jt. MD, Zenith Infotech Ltd
I foresee 2 major trends in the area of network management. First, a radical simplification and cost reduction in network management products. Second, network management tools will cover the entire gamut of infrastructure aspects from applications to network devices. And the new generation software will be able to pinpoint the crux of the problem in the network management cycle. This will reduce the MTTR (Meet Time To Repair)."

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