A data center for well-oiled business
HPCL's business was growing and the company was expanding
its nationwide reach. It deployed suitable enterprise applications to support
the business processes and built regional data centers to support the applications
and business. by Anil Patrick R
Indian petroleum giant Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited
(HPCL) grew its business very rapidly. It has a number of zonal offices and
Strategic Business Units (SBUs) for the various product lines.
It migrated from legacy applications into an automated
environment with the use of ERP and other enterprise applications. In the process
it realized the need to consolidate IT infrastructure with data centers for
better management and information security.
Before computerization, the company used to create all
invoices manually, and had to make a number of error checks. HPCL developed
a Distributed Database (DDB) package and installed it in nationwide locations.
Company personnel were also trained to handle the applications.
The DDB package captured information like sales, stock,
public carrier bills, financial, masters into one form. This keyed-in data would
be stored on floppies and taken to the Head Office (HO) in Mumbai, to be balanced
As volumes grew, the company decentralized its business
activities to the zonal offices. At the end of the month, the vital business
data would be sent to the HO and the final print files were sent back to the
HPCL then introduced the concept of SBUs for business lines
like retail, LPG, and aviation. This further helped the administration of business
in the different zones.
As the company continued with DBB package, it decided to
deploy newer initiatives like ERP, e-procurement, and portal-based solutions.
Subhash Palav, General Manager, Information Technology, HPCL said, We
communicated to the higher management that these initiatives were actually business-based
activities, and thus were able to receive the required support and funds.
Data center for ERP
The company decided to implement an ERP from JD Edwards
(now a Peoplesoft company). But it had to set up a data center before the ERP
could go live because it had to subject the software to rigorous test runs before
the pilot implementation.
So the company set a deadline as September 30, 2002 for
the data center in Mumbai. Top management was supportive and the IT team had
to monitor the project very closely. We scrutinized aspects like security,
air-conditioning, power supply, and planned server uptime, explained Palav.
A tender was floated for consultancy, and IBM was awarded the responsibility.
The data center was ready by September 26, 2002. And the
company began to roll out the ERP in phases in the different nationwide locations
and SBUs. The rollout was done in February 2003.
More business needs
As personnel became used to the ERP, the business users
needed integrated business reports. This prompted deployment of a data warehouse
and an information portal integrated with data center servers.
In the process, HPCL decided to deploy similar data centers
at the zonal offices. These were not as large and elaborate as the one at the
HO, but were sufficient to handle the regional businesss loads.
For the data center
The primary and secondary communication links between the
data centers and various nationwide locations are a mix of VSAT and leased lines.
The company now uses 179 VSAT connections.
WLANs are used between certain locations, like the Agra
office and the Mumbai refinery. VPNs are also used in places, and an SMS-based
application allows remote users to receive information. An elaborate business
continuity plan has also been made.
The data center acts as a platform for the organization
to launch many of its vital business processes, said Palav. The regional
offices and HO can exchange secure and updated data at any time. This allows
them to take business decisions easily.
If we have to stay in competition, we need to use
the latest tools and technologies. And in order to deploy them, we must have
the required data center infrastructure. It's like a user who wants to use the
latest car, but the city has no paved roads, explained Palav. So
now when we have to deploy new IT initiatives, we already have a readymade platform
to launch it.