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Issue of June 2006 

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Infrastructure Strategies '06

Hardware on top

x86 servers and Gigabit Ethernet are the most popular technologies on the hardware front. India Inc continues to earmark the biggest portion of its IT budget for hardware. by Priya Jain

According to the IS survey, investment in hardware tops the charts when it comes to spending on IT in large and medium businesses. This finding is in tune with the previous two surveys. Most enterprises continue to spend on hardware as they upgrade their networks to keep pace with business expansion. It is interesting to note that while spending in many areas has reduced this year, enterprises across verticals continue to spend on hardware.

Demand for hardware is strongest among companies undergoing rapid expansion—banks and financial institutions, manu-facturing/engineering and auto components, chemical and pharma, FMCG and telcos. Hardware features among the top three focus areas of the IT budget in the survey, with 29 percent of the respondents plumping for it.

X86 at the core

x86 is the preferred server platform and its adoption is highest in the manufacturing/engineering and auto components sector and the IT/ITeS vertical. Overall 68 percent of the respondents (304) across verticals have invested in x86 servers and 21 percent are planning to invest in this category in the current fiscal. Only 9 percent of enterprises are planning to invest in RISC servers during the current financial year.

AMD could be gaining ground in its fight with Intel although widespread deployment remains far away. The survey reveals that only 8 percent of enterprises are using AMD Opteron-based servers. The usage of AMD Opteron server is relatively higher in the FMCG/consumer durables segment (13 percent). Many companies are looking at AMD Opteron for implementations in the future as it is perceived to be a cost-effective architecture.

“Heavy applications still need broadband”

Ashok Adhikary
Associate Director
Aker Kvaerner Powergas
“I don’t think that AMD is catching up. There is still time for wide deployment of such processors. For instance, we are using an Intel-based processor system on Microsoft OS and other software including databases for client server operations as a global standard named as common operating environment for 150 offices in 30 countries for our intranet.

 I think Wi-Fi is best for specific hot spot zones or for centralised conference rooms with access from network. However, heavy applications still need broadband technology for wider usage.

The printing technology depends on usage. We use centralised laser network printers on a large scale and individual inkjets are used in combination to cater for bulk as well as confidential self requirement functionality. We also use outsourced high-speed multi-function device for A0 to A4 printing, scanning, copying and so on. 

 Among the peripherals UPS has certainly gained momentum. For instance, we have centralised UPS for critical systems like a server farm with redundancy backed up by DG sets. Stabilised power supply and critical client machines are backed up by individual UPS and clean electrical system with surge protection and isolated earthing.”

Getting connected

In terms of networking, reliability of the network is the topmost priority. There is a change in networking budgets in large and medium businesses. Now when they are looking at business strategies they are looking at networking as a strategic opportunity. The requirements of networking in large and medium businesses depend on the segment in which they are operating and the nature of applications used. For instance in the telecom, government and services segment the dependability on LAN and WAN is high.

The requirement for switches is based on the number of users whereas the demand for routers depends on the number of locations. Services companies are planning to invest in a big way in switches and routers mainly to keep pace with their expansion in terms of employees and locations. Large and medium businesses do not consider cost when it comes to critical business requirements.

Feature-rich routers and switches sport integrated security and manageability via simple network management protocol (SNMP); Gigabit Ethernet is fast becoming a preferred option. Fast Ethernet and Ethernet are being phased out in these organisations as they look at Gigabit Ethernet to accommodate their voice, video and data transfer needs.

Moreover, today most of the LAN uplink is by default on Gigabit. There is hardly any price difference between a Fast Ethernet (FE) switch and an FE switch with a Gigabit uplink. Also prices of Gigabit Ethernet equipment have dropped to a comparable level with that of Fast Ethernet gear.

Investment in structured cabling is the highest in the government, BFSI and manufacturing segment. While the FMCG and government verticals are planning to invest in it in future. In recent times though we can see the emergence of Cat 6a in fresh implementations while Cat 7 hasn’t made much headway.

NM Recommends
  • Deploy your front-end (Web tier, file & print) mid-tier applications (app server etc) on x86 and reserve RISC for your database or ERP server
  • Routers with integrated security or VoIP etc make sense when it comes to hooking up branch offices to your WAN
  • Gigabit Ethernet and Cat 6a are the best for a new LAN
  • Wi-Fi is best suited for organisations with a huge campus or large buildings and lots of notebook users
  • Mix and match technologies to suit your needs. DMPs are best for transaction printing while lasers work out best for business documents with graphics

“We prefer an x86 platform”

R P Dumasia
GM, IT, The Great Eastern
Shipping Company
“The survey correctly points out the increase in use of x86 platforms. We prefer an x86 platform because it is much easier to administer and set up and is cost effective. We have been using x86 for our mail server and document management. The only drawback though is that we need to go for continuous security updates. We plan to invest in Windows-based x86 workgroup servers on board our ships for similar reasons.

As for operating systems, I believe that Windows has its advantages. Windows is easier to maintain, therefore we use it on ships whereas we use Linux in offices because it requires technical help and guidance.

Wireless at Great Eastern Shipping Company is yet to start. One of the reasons for this is because it still cannot match the speed of copper and is not completely secure.

It’s quite right to say that adoption of printers depends on the workload. We use inkjets at desktop level, line printers are being used for leisure printing, and dot matrix is being used for check printing, while laser is being used for high-end printing.”

Wi-Fi starts its climb

As the cost of wireless infrastructure drops, adoption has risen. Growing notebook usage is another factor; all those notebook users need wireless connections, if they are to be mobile. Moreover, hospitals and educational institutes have huge campus areas to be covered. The investment in wireless is the highest in the services sector followed by the manufacturing and IT/ITeS verticals. Wi-Fi is already nearing saturation in some segments. For instance, 71 percent of the companies in the services sector have already invested in Wi-Fi so only 14 percent plan to invest in the future.

Choice of printing

Choice of printers still depends on the workload. The adoption rate of laser, inkjet and dot-matrix printers is almost at par across all verticals. Of the total respondent base of 328, 94 percent have laser printers, 88 percent have inkjets and 84 percent have dot-matrix printers.

The services vertical leads in the adoption of laser and inkjet printers. DMPs are used for requirements like check printing while the existing line printers are still being used in a number of applications in the BFSI, manufacturing/engineering and auto components and government segments. These are usually faster and less expensive (in total cost of ownership) than laser printers. In printing box labels, medium volume accounting and other large business applications, and line printers remain in use.

Multi-functional devices (MFDs) are not ubiquitous yet. 40 percent of respondents have invested in MFDs. Manufacturing leads the pack with 49 percent followed by services and telecom.

The survey also points out that the usage of colour in the organisation is increasing. Colour printers are in use at 91 percent of respondents. As far as colour printing goes, inkjet adoption is higher when compared to laser. MFDs for colour printing have the lowest adoption with just 18 percent having invested in this technology.

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