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Issue of September 2005 
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Galileo revamps its business backbone

Galileo India previously used legacy technology in its WAN. It revamped this IT infrastructure and built a new backbone on a common routing platform for smoother business workflow and operations. by Soutiman Das Gupta.

Anil Porter, Head, IT & Telecom, Galileo

Galileo India, a large Customer Reservation Services (CRS) provider, used a number of links to share information between its business units in 97 cities. The links used a number of legacy technologies which were difficult to manage.

Apart from the task of managing these different channels of connectivity, the company also had to manage an outsourcing relationship with SITA India which provided connectivity links to Galileo.

The company wanted to revamp its WAN infrastructure and offer new products and services. It built a nationwide WAN on a single routing platform after which business is fast, smooth, and efficient with little scope for failure and downtime. Initially the company used a mixture of DSL, CDMA, X.25/28, and IP over X.25 for its WAN. The infrastructure was outsourced to various ISPs, and X.25/28 and IP over X.25 was outsourced to SITA India.

“We did not have a single managed interface for the WAN and thus felt a strong need to revamp the entire infrastructure in order to offer our latest products and services,” recalls Anil Porter, Galileo’s Head for IT & Telecom.

WISH LIST

The challenge faced by the organisation was to accommodate outdated technologies, grapple with the issue of getting spares, and keep up the maintenance and upgradation of the hardware needed to support legacy technologies such as X.25/28.

“We realised that there was a high cost of ownership when it came to running a setup based on these technologies. There was also the need to provide the latest product offerings and services that are available only on TCP/IP,” says Porter.

The company wanted to introduce new products and services, and reduce its operational expenditure. It also wanted to lower its cost of infrastructure and get higher business uptime. This led to the decision to set up its own WAN infrastructure on a single technology platform.

“We began looking for a solution that would automate business operations and offer the latest products and services that were available in the travel industry. The infrastructure also had to be manageable in a proactive rather than reactive manner,” Porter adds.

THE CHOSEN ONE

The company realised that the customer premises equipment (CPE) would have to possess certain capabilities for it to provide the desired service levels. The functionalities required by the company were script-based routing, auto-triggered PSTN/ISDN dial-out, a robust architecture, SNMP compliance, ability to integrate with NMS, cost effectiveness compared to features, and ease of configuration.

After evaluating several solution providers including Cisco, the company partnered with Allied Telesyn to supply the required CPE.

“The company chose Allied because its routers provided the functions that we were looking for in an access router,” explains Porter.

DESIGNING THE NEW WAN

“The new WAN is designed on the simple concept of No Single Point of Failure (NSPF). It is laid out in a hub-and-spoke topology, and has a POP-based architecture,” says Porter.

All the city circuits use channelised E1, and they switch to IP in the last mile. The backbone link to the company’s office in the US is through Frame Relay.

The network design objectives were based on a number of aspects.

  • There was a need for high network availability since downtime would mean direct loss of revenue.
  • Leased lines were to be used as the primary media.
  • On-demand backup had to be provisioned on any analog dial-up.
  • The CRS network traffic had to be prioritised.
  • Strict access control had to be provided for inter-franchise communication at all times.
  • There had to be a provision to support fixed and pre-allocated IP addressing for franchise terminals.
  • Local Internet traffic needed to be re-directed.
  • One-way dynamic on-demand routing had to be configured to reduce routing overheads.
  • Seamless integration was necessary with existing multi-vendor network inventory.

The solution provider was also involved in the network design process. Notes Rajesh Sahore, Country Manager of Allied Telesyn who was involved in the project, “Our philosophy was to understand the CRS system since it was the primary business application driver. Once we understood the application in detail, we had a clear picture of the expectations from the design architecture.”

THE SOLUTION

AT-AR350 routers were deployed at all franchise locations. All the primary and secondary WAN circuits were aggregated at six service provider POPs. These were interconnected using point-to-point circuits to form an IP cloud called GALNET. The GALNET IP cloud connects to the CRS servers at Denver (in the US) over IPLC links.

On the access front, the organisation uses equipment from Allied Telesyn at the core and a few Cisco routers.

All remote terminals and Web-based services are on the Windows platform. Trend Micro’s anti-virus products are used for desktop and gateway-level protection along with network level firewalls. Traffic generated from a remote host is classified based on services and routed to the specific destination ports. The rest are blocked.

ON THE WAN

“All services on devices in the network, right from the remote Managed Leased Line Network (MLLN) links to individual routers are managed. The network is monitored 24x7 from Hughes Escorts Communications (HECL’s) Gurgaon hub,” says Porter. HP’s OpenView is used for network monitoring.

The entire network traffic which originates from India is load balanced on two IPLC links at Bangalore and Mumbai that are configured as fail-overs for each other.

The company feels that the network is simple and stable with almost no scope of failure. “We do not need extra manpower for daily administration. The solution has actually reduced the support staff needed to manage networking devices,” comments Porter.

Deployment began only after Galileo India finalised the main aspects of the project such as the systems integrator, telcos, OEMs and got DoT’s approval.

The deployment was planned in three phases. Phase 1 began in June 2004 and the links were migrated by September 2004. Phase 2 started in January 2005 and was completed by April 2005. The company is currently in the final stages of planning Phase 3.

PROBLEMS, PROBLEMS

The biggest issue the company faced was getting approval from the regulatory authority, DoT, to set up a self-owned network.

Other challenges were relatively minor. One was that the IT support staff at Galileo India was not experienced in the use of new devices, so the technical support staff at Allied provided them with hands-on training and helped with the configuration process.

Procuring links for the large-scale deployment involving multiple cites was a challenge. The company had to ensure that link terminations were done as per standards and with precision. The company had decided to use MLLN NX64 links from MTNL and BSNL only. Then there were other issues related to site conditions such as LAN performance and power conditioning.

After overcoming challenges with the new network, the company has completed one year of operations on it. “The various uptimes that we have been able to achieve are 98.89 percent on remote links and 99.99 percent on the backbone and POPs. Downtime due to remote access router failure has been 0.01 percent,” reveals Porter.

About Galileo India

Galileo India is the Indian distribution company of Galileo International, a company in the travel and hospitality industry. From humble beginnings in 1994, it has now spread to 97 cities. It has 18 dedicated offices, over 350 employees, 4,000 agency locations, and has successfully deployed over 40,000 terminals nationwide.

BENEFITS

The solution has provided a number of business benefits to the organisation. They are:

  • The company has been able to consolidate operations and be agile enough to provide services on demand.
  • It now has a competitive advantage in the area of service delivery to its customers (travel agents).
  • Operations are cost-effective and thus improve profitability.

COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER

Although the new WAN has brought a lot of benefits to the company, Galileo nevertheless feels that there are ways in which the solution could have been better.

Being in the final phase of deployment and entering into cities other than the top six, the company has found that the available telco infrastructure and uptimes thereof are lower than those in the top six cites. This is the principal reason why the final phase is taking time to complete. It was also necessary to include the cost of securing remote devices into the total cost of ownership. Since this was not done, these additional costs made the cost of the project seem higher.

FURTHER EVOLUTION

“With the business backbone in place, we wish to introduce a number of value-added services in future. This will allow better network utilisation and provide business opportunities for travel agents,” Porter remarks.

After the third phase is over, the company plans to implement total remote management and administration capabilities at office locations nationwide. It will include features such as OS reload on the fly, remote online troubleshooting, and maintenance of remote desktops. This is intended to further reduce the cost of support and running of the network.

soutimand@networkmagazineindia.com

 
     
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