Wireless takes away the hassles
Siel India implemented a campus-wide Wireless Local Area Network after facing
a string of teething problems. The results have proved that the efforts were
Automobile manufacturer Honda Siel India, the company that
manufactures City and Accord car models as well as the CRV has a campus spread
over 250 acres in Greater Noida, near New Delhi. The legacy campus Local Area
Network (LAN) had performance and scalability issues when the number of users
increased from 100 to 700.
After a few attempts to upgrade the legacy LAN, the company deployed a campus-wide
LAN network. And after a number of teething problems, the organisation felt
that the use of wireless was really worth the while.
In 2002, the problem of growing traffic and the need to access more applications
by an increasing number of users became a significant issue.
The company adopted a three-pronged approach to expansion. It decided to;
- Create a good backbone to avoid the network downtime,
which happened at the cost of actual applications.
- Provide connectivity to the remote locations.
- Expand the network in the primary function area.
In line with the strategy, the existing hub was replaced
with a Layer-3 chassis-based Cisco switch to enhance the network performance.
Three Virtual LANs were created from this new switch-based network. And remote
units like spares, receiving area, materials gate, yard, utility centre, training
centre and R&D centre were interconnected.
As the demand for access to more applications from the remote
sites grew, the company decided to deploy new and efficient means of connectivity.
The existing Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP) LAN was unable
to scale up and meet the performance needs of the administration and production
areas. This was especially because the number of users grew from 100 to 700
in a short time. All the channels, through which the UTP cable was laid, were
full and buried under the floor. The company found that it was not feasible
to put supplementary channels to induct new UTP cables.
It posed digging and civil works issues, and was aesthetically challenging,
said Hilal I Khan, Head, IT, Honda Siel Cars India.
Time was important. The new users had to be connected as soon as possible. And
an added benefit of mobility would help the operations.
Since it was a defined area, we thought that giving a chance to Wireless
LAN might just work, said Khan.
Where no company had gone before
Although simple to deploy, the technology carried with it a unique set of problems.
Our first worry was to choose the right partner purely in terms of the
vendor who could provide us the right equipment like access points, adapters,
and network cards, said Khan.
There was no successful deployment case study example as yet, especially in
the manufacturing industry. Honda Siel India did not know much about the capabilities
of a wireless vendor.
The important concern was that none of the vendors, who were called for
discussion, were able to provide a suitable solution given the prevailing circumstances
in our organisation, said Khan. Each vendor endorsed the need-based implementation
plan that the company had internally prepared.
At the cost of sounding thankless to the vendor and
the integration partner, the credit of design and to some extent, the rollout
goes to the internal IT team, commented Khan.
Select the Vendor
The company decided to deploy and test the available options.
We tested equipment from Cisco, Avaya, and Netgear to see the pros and
cons and evaluate their potential, says Khan. After evaluation the company
decided to use equipment from Cisco. The solution provided 802.11g WLAN with
54 Mbps speed.
The network was backward and forward-scalable and did not have compatibility
issues. By updating a firmware at the access point, the access point could be
scaled down to 11 Mbps and scaled up to 108 Mbps.
At a later stage Network Solutions also played a significant and able
role to fulfil our needs along with our active components partner Cisco,
- The company
Automobile manufacturer Honda Siel India, the company that manufactures
City and Accord cars and sells CRV, has a campus spread over 250 acres
in Greater Noida.
- The need
The legacy campus LAN had performance and scalability issues when the
number of users increased from 100 to 700.
- The solution
The wired campus LAN was upgraded to a wireless setup. The solution
had a few initial problems, which were overcome later.
- The benefits
The company enjoys hassle-free connectivity with no scaling or mobility
Lack of Clarity
The company was not able to ascertain how many people it could populate on that
network. There was no clear idea of the number of access points to be put. There
was not much clarity on how to avoid the black holes, which could
disrupt the network. We started with one, but ended up installing seven
access points for the defined area of 500 sq metres, said Khan.
Though the initial implementation was for seven wireless points in one building,
the company ended up installing more than 35 access points in 12 buildings within
the same factory premises. That reflects our confidence in technology,
speedy deployment, freedom of mobility and tangible cost advantages. As part
of our network strategy we have decided that our buildings and locations will
be having at least one access point each, says Khan.
The company deployed 35 WLAN access points in the primary area of administration
and production. The initial cost was not too high, as the access points were
not too expensive. But the recurring cost of the wireless network was still
a concern area.
The wireless cards are still in the range of about Rs 6,000 for desktops. If
I buy a new device, I can ensure that it is pre-fitted with a wireless card,
but what would I do about the existing ones, asks Khan. Because of the
cost of the card, the TCO goes up.
Bouquet of Benefits
After all the teething problems, Khan still maintains that it was a positive
step and a great learning exercise with regard to future expansions or deployments.
Initially the company populated only 25 people on this network, but today there
are 400 people using it. We plan to put 100 more people on this network
soon, says Khan.
The performance barring the initial issues was stable and the speed was up to
the organisations requirements. We are happy with the initial investment
as well as the time taken to deploy. But the recurring cost is still a grey
area, feels Khan. The cumbersome process of laying down the fibre/UTP
cables was bypassed. The best aspect about the solution was that the implementation
did not create any hindrance in the day-to-day activity.
Smooth integration with the backend Cisco switch was another advantage
that had to be taken into account. The UTP instead of terminating on different
nodes, can now terminate on an access point and the network is up and running,
In 2005 Honda-Siel felt that business criticality demanded that LAN users all
over be on a redundant network. To achieve this, a ring LAN was created so that
every location had access to the LAN through two different paths.
The objective was that every building within the company
should have a wireless access point to serve the purpose of providing additional
number of network connections and make the users mobile. The company has decided
to create redundancy at the switch level i.e. within the switch and replicate
the master switch.
With inputs from Priya Jain