Relying on Structured Cabling Solutions

Putting up and maintaining
a reliable, cost-effective network infrastructure have widely been regarded as an
essential investment for business competitiveness. A well-designed cabling system with an
efficient installation using a high-quality components is essential for optimum network
efficiency and reliability. Needless to say, structured cabling is the lifeline of an
information network.

Users in the key vertical segments like banking and finance,
manufacturing, telcos, and software development centres have been deploying
mission-critical applications on their networks. Which, in turn, require greater bandwidth
capacity. And, it has necessitated the physical infrastructure to be capable of
withstanding the ensuing load on the backbone. Therefore, there have been rapid
advancements in the transmission speeds on the network over the last five years.
High-speed data transmission technologies like ATM and Gigabit Ethernet are becoming
available at affordable prices.

Structured cabling has always led and will continue to lead the
advancements in networking. Unlike active networking components, structured cables are
part of the infrastructure. It is difficult to change the pipes once it is installed. In
this background, structured cabling has to be able to support data transmission speeds
that may emerge over a period of 10-15 years. So, choosing the right kind structured
cabling which fulfils the requirements of the user’s network is very critical.

In order to provide to our readers a perspective about the necessity of
having structured cabling and the nuances of selecting the right kind of cables,
implementing and customizing it, we have made an attempt to address these issues in the
form of two case studies. These case studies detail the procedures involved in selecting
the right kind of technology and vendor, stages in designing the physical network,
implementing the cables, running the applications on the physical network infrastructure,
and above all how it helps the user in achieving its business goal.

Also, is a special report on the first blown-fibre network installation
at CMC Mumbai.


CASE STUDY1

Wheel & Axle Plant

AMP’s structured cabling solutions help
Wheel & Axle Plant (in Bangalore) to have the required bandwidth for running
state-of-the-art applications.

Background

User Profile
Name: Wheel & Axle Plant (Indian Railways)
Area of Operation: Manufacturing of wheels, axles, and wheelsets for Indian
Railways
Covered Area of the Plant: 60,000 sq. m.
Employees: 2,000
Capacity of Plant: 1 lakh wheels & 50,000 axles
Type of Products: (i) wheels: 4 types
; (ii) Axles: 15
types
Turnover: Rs 230 crore per annum
Size of the Network: 150 nodes
Integrator: CMS Computers Ltd
Cabling Vendor: AMP India
Cable Used: Fibre, UTP, and thin cables
Duration of the Project: 3 months

Wheel & Axle Plant (WAP) is a manufacturing plant of
Indian Railways located in Bangalore. The plant was commissioned in September 1984 for the
manufacturing of cast steel wheels, forged axles, and assembly of wheelsets to meet the
Indian Railway’s requirements and its accepted specifications.

The plant has been certified for its quality management
system to BS EN ISO 9002: 1994 for the manufacture and supply of wheels, axles, and
wheelsets. This plant has also been approved by Association of American Rail Roads (AAR)
for the supply of wheels and axles to US Rail Roads and others.

Purpose of Going for Structured Cabling

The goal was to have a fast and the state of the art data communication
network so that users at distant locations can also access the data instantaneously.
“Need for having a computerized integrated production management system necessitated
building up a physical network. The decision to switch to structured cabling was taken in
early 1998. The previous network was riddled with bandwidth bottlenecks,” says, V
Babtiwale, senior EDP manager, Wheel & Axle Plant, Indian Railways.

Evolution of the Network

Since its start-up in 1984, Wheel & Axle
Plant had an old mini-computer type of system which was affected by maintenance-related
problem. Way back in June 1993 when LAN was not very popular among Indian users, Wheel
& Axle Plant embraced LAN and it had 40 computers connected to the network with two
servers. The network was on ArcNet technology. Over the years, it kept on adding more and
more nodes to the network until it reached 150 nodes. It had all possible operating
systems like Novell Netware and Windows NT.

V Babtiwale, senior EDP manager.After
having all the required hardware and software in place, there was a necessity to have all
the manufacturing activities on-line. It was critical that the network should have
sufficient bandwidth so that the user could run its applications. The network should
function smoothly without any bottlenecks. Realizing this, the network of the
administrative building was changed from Arcnet to Shared Ethernet last year. In the
beginning of 1998, it decided to change the network of factory area to Switched Ethernet.

Two factors were responsible for this move. First and
foremost was that the users wanted more bandwidth which Arcnet was not able to provide.
Second was that the components of Arcnet technology were not available in the market.
Before deciding in favour of Switched Ethernet, it made a through study on all the
technologies available. And, it decided to go for Switched Ethernet rather than Shared
Ethernet because it did not want any change to the network for another 5-10 years.

Then, it designed its network and floated tenders. Wheel
and Axle Plant network is a unique one because its servers are installed in the
administrative building and a major chunk of the nodes are located in the factory area.
What is interesting is that the factory area is one and half kilometre away from the
administrative building. The cabling technology which was available to support this
distance was inadequate. The selection of the cabling vendor was based on the following
parameters:

(a) proven and undisputed technological products,

(b) technical knowledge and support,

(c) willingness to co-ordinate and technical
transparency, and

(d) market opinion and impression about the vendor. And,
the user opted for AMP India.

str.gif (43215 bytes)WAP installed fibre for
campus backbone and in every 500 m, depending on the manufacturing site and network
requirement, it deployed LAN components. Wherever there was no distance limitations, it
installed UTP cables. The entire network has 2 km fibre and 4 km of UTP cable and it also
has 13 switches which connect seven plants. Each desktop enjoys 10 Mbps dedicated switched
bandwidth. It has changed its servers from 486-based ones to 82 300 Mhz which have a
capacity of 12 Gb hard disk. With the availability of increased bandwidth, it has
discarded DOS-based applications and embraced Windows-based applications.

CMS Computers Ltd, the systems integrator, has been
doing the maintenance of the network.

Present Network

The plant is equipped with an on-line data
capturing system based on the LAN technology. It uses a software developed specifically
for the plant called Integrated Production Management System (IPMS). This software
encompasses complete gamut of activities which include production planning and control,
manufacturing, purchase, inventory control, finance, personnel, and other support
activities of the plant. The network has six file servers and 170 nodes located at all
important activity centres in the plant and administrative building.

The system provides all information about production
inspection, quality control, inventory balances, expenditures, etc. A universal
user-friendly query system called QUEST gives general information to all the employees on
items like PF balances, leave records at any of the nodes at the network.

As the computer network is all pervasive at Wheels and
Axles Plant and almost all facets of WAP’s functions are totally dependent upon its
hence no weak links or breakdown of network can be averted. V Babtiwale concedes,
“Criticality of the physical network infrastructure and it, healthy and proper
functioning is appreciated and understood by WAP management.”

Wheels & axles.The network
infrastructure includes fibre and shielded-twisted pair of cabling. The network
certification and performance was considered as a key issue in taking decision about the
vendor of passive components. The active components were decided based on the employed
technology in the LAN electronics components and the technology upgradation features
available in various vendors.

The present network application considered for
deployment is 10 Mbps Switched Ethernet on the desktop with 100 Mbps backbone capacity.
The cabling distance limitations have been so observed that migration to Fast Ethernet up
to desktop will involve only minor upgradation of LAN electronics and no changes in
cabling infrastructure is required.

A Switched Ethernet LAN would provide much higher
bandwidth with increased data transfer rate. It leads to better management information
system, higher productions, better productivity, and employee satisfaction.

Babtiwale is pleased with the outcome of the project
which takes care of the present as well as future requirements. Says he, “As
opportunities increase to use multimedia and Internet access, thus adding value to the
management, the cabling system can support all these applications. This high-quality
cabling infrastructure can support new applications and technologies as they are developed
and introduced.”

Satya Prakash Singh

CASE STUDY 2

Infosys Technologies

Nordx/CDT’s IBDN
structured cabling solutions help Infosys Technologies to build up a state-of-the-art
infrastructure.



User Profile
Name: Infosys Technologies
Site: Electronics City, Bangalore
Area of Operation: Software development, consultancy
Employees: 900
Network Size: 1,300 nodes
Systems Integrator: In-house technical resources team
Cabling Vendor: Nordx/CDT
Type of Cabling: Nordx/CDT’s IBDN cabling solutions

Background

Started in 1981, Bangalore-based Infosys Technologies is a fast growing
company whose core competency is in software development, consultancy, and application
software.

In 1997-98, the sales revenue of Infosys
was Rs 260.4 crore, up from Rs 143.8 crore in 1996-97, thereby posting a growth of 81
percent. In terms of manpower, the company has grown from 1,705 employees in 1996-97 to
2,605 in 1997-98.

Infosys currently focuses on its global
market through its eight business units. The business units of the company deliver
services limited to offshore turnkey projects, offshore software maintenance, offshore
development centres, and on-site consultancy.

Evolution of the Network

Providing quality software
solutions to customers around the globe is the main focus of the company. And, developing
it requires a flexible, high calibre structured cabling system as a basis for support.

Realizing the need to have an effective
communication as its valuable weapon in business, Infosys Technologies gave it a top
priority. During the planning stage of the Electronics City building in 1994, it started
evaluating various networking vendors. For this, deadlines were very rigid and the mandate
was very clear. By that time, it was already decided that Infosys’s in-house
technical resources team would do the integration work. The company had the mandate to go
for an infrastructure which would support Fast Ethernet technology and leave enough
headroom for future applications. Its key requirement was to install a cabling system that
would provide an assurance to support not only the applications of today, but also the
future high-speed applications that it plans to implement.

The adoption of any future advanced
technologies will emphasize pressing need for the underlying infrastructure that will
support them, the voice and data networks.

Infosys Technologies' Electronics city site, Bangalore.“We decided to go for structured cabling because to have an
efficient physical infrastructure is very critical as it forms the backbone of our
business,” says Koushik RN, assistant manager, technical resources, Infosys
Technologies.

Having decided for structured cabling,
Infosys Technologies evaluated all the cabling vendors available. The technical group gave
recommendations on the selection of vendor considering some of the key attributes that the
vendor should have like quality of product, price, delivery, and after-sales support. And,
it chose Nordex/CDT IBDN cabling for the passive network components. Nordex/CDT serves the
needs of corporate voice, data, and multimedia communications with complete structured
wiring solutions, including wiring, wiring closet equipment, installation and testing
tools, fibre-optic equipment, outside plant copper cable, and all other components
required to build a robust, cost-effective network infrastructure.

As far as the active network components
were concerned, it selected Cisco for switches and routers, Micom for multiplexers, and
PictureTel for videoconferencing equipment. A project consisting of Infosys Technologies
technical resources team and Apcom Computers which distributes Nordx/CDT in India was
formed and a plan of action was put in place.

As per the mandate, the project
was completed on time. The outcome of which is that the network has a bandwidth capacity
of 100 Mbps for the backbone and switched 10 Mbps capacity for the desktop. The completion
of the project gave a uniformity of cabling systems and brought about substantial savings
in maintenance cost and labour requirements as well as reduced the network down time. With
the installation of Nordx/CDT IBDN system, the user has been able to find out where every
piece of cable begins and ends and where it is routed in between. That is a tremendous
benefit considering the amount of adds, moves, and changes that most organizations undergo
in a given year. The Infosys Electronics city facility is completely certified by
Nordx/CDT which means that it complies with EIA/TIA-568A guidelines for “Category
5” data cable installations.

Present Network

Infosys’s state-of-the-art
development facility at Electronics City, Bangalore, is one of the largest of its kind in
India. Realizing the criticality of having a technological infrastructure, Infosys
Technologies has made substantial investments in this. Here, the hardware comprises S/390
IBM Mainframe, several AS/400s, over 100 UNIX and PC servers, and numerous IBM mainframe
workbenches. This hardware is completed by the latest software including development
tools, utilities, and RDBMS platforms.

All the employees of Infosys
Technologies including those at the Electronics City facility are provided with
state-of-the-art machines and stay connected through a 4,000-node network. Individual
E-mail connectivity and intranet allow employees spread across the globe to access
information seamlessly.

The Infosys Technologies’
communication network consists of several high-speed data links, with diverse routing to
increase reliability. By providing global connectivity, this network has made the offshore
project management concept a reality.

Infosys Technologies has put in place
very strict security and non-disclosure procedures. Firewalls ensure that Infosys networks
do not provide a path for customers to access each other’s networks. Effective
back-up and disaster recovery procedures are also in place. This ensures the protection of
its customers’ intellectual property, which is of prime importance.

Satya Prakash Singh

SPECIAL REPORT

CMC Mumbai

The first blown fibre site in India gets
installed at CMC Mumbai. How does this new concept give cost and upgradation benefits? A
report.

stru.gif (21456 bytes)Needless to say that the rapid pace of systems development has created an
overwhelming demand in the networking market. But now the challenge is a future-proof
network on account of flexibility and capacity. Here the million dollar question pertains
to the suitability of installed structured cabling systems to support to latest high-speed
LAN protocols. With new Fast Ethernet, Gigabit Ethernet, and ATM speed protocols coming to
the stream, the options available are to have either a product, which meets the Category 5
standards or a product having the headroom to go beyond the standards. Blolite has been
developed to cater to this demand. This is jointly developed by BT and BICC and has been
installed in numerous facilities around the UK and Asia.

The blown fibre principle revolves
around the creation of a network infrastructure at low cost by installing empty plastic
tubes. Specially designed optical fibres can be blown into the tubes to create data links
using compressed air and the compact, sophisticated Blolite installation equipment. Given
the high-quality and highly efficient network required and the unknown future-network
changes, Blolite blown fibre assumes more significance.

Recently, Blolite blown fibre got
installed in the network of CMC, Mumbai. With this, the CMC network in Mumbai got the
credit of having the country’s first blown fibre backbone.

Blolite system.The modus
operandi
is simple. The fibres are blown but not pulled into the tubes thus by
eliminating tensile stress on the fibre up to 1,000 m runs horizontally and 300 m
vertically. The installation is at a speed up to 40 m per minute. The labour strength
required is one trained installer and one assistant. The cost-effectiveness makes the
blown fibre an ideal solution for structured cabling requirements. Explains Gul Gidvani,
regional sales manager of BICC Brand Rex, "Blown fibre costs about the same as
conventional optical cable, but the real advantage comes from deferred cost. For example,
most people today put in six-core or eight-core fibre multimode backbone cables, but
independent research has shown that 75 percent of that fibre is redundant or spare
capacity. The end user invests in fibre on an as ‘needed’ basis." For
cost-effective upgrades and repairs, the technique can be used since fibre circuits can be
blown out or replaced. Once installed, the Blolite network can be switched to the latest
fibre technology with the minimum fuss and disruption. Currently up to eight fibres can be
installed in the same tube.

On account of future expansion,
blown fibre backbone appears as a solution. With the expansion in bandwidth requirements
of emerging systems, many multimode backbones are becoming saturated. This results in the
installation of further multimode fibres or the shift to single mode fibre. Here the blown
fibre backbone occupies the centrestage. Says Milind Takur, zonal manager (networking) CMC
Mumbai, "The installation of a blown-fibre backbone would provide a more
cost-effective solution and would allow for the simple transition from multimode to
singlemode fibre." The introduction of BloTwist, which combines Category 5 twisted
pair and blown fibre technology, added new dimensions to the Blolite product portfolio. By
breaking the network down into three discrete elements—Category 5 UTP, STP or FTP
copper cables, Bloduct passive infrastructure, and high-performance optical-cable
fibres—BloTwist achieves its cost-effectiveness and flexibility. Explains Chintak
Dalal, technical manager of BICC Brand-Rex, "In this process, the Category 5 cabling
and the Bloduct are installed simultaneously while the fibre is added only when required.
Thus for a medium to large scale project, whole life costs could be reduced by to
two-thirds by using blown fibre."

The Differences

Conventional Fibre Optic Cabling System

Normally most of the end users are going for
six-core indoor/outdoor fibre-optic cable, which alone contributes to about 90 percent of
the installations. Various factors are contributing to this. Customers need two-core for
network to run again in most of the cases. This comes to 95 percent installations. The
future upgradation and expansion of bandwidth needs will call for more fibre cables. For
unexpected and emergency failures of some cores, customers need to build in redundancy
cores. In order to compare the benefits of conventional and blown fibre cables, a typical
example of a site, wherein 1 km of indoor fibre-optic cable is required, is taken into
account. Price to the customer for six-core indoor fibre-optic cable is Rs 171 per metre.
To add to it is the cable laying charges of Rs 15 per metre. Hence, the total cost on day
one for catering to today’s need, future provision, and redundancy stands at Rs 186
per metre.

Blown Fibre Optic Cabling System

As per this technology by BICC
Brand-Rex, two products need to be laid. One is the single indoor microduct of 8 mm size.
The price to the end customer for the bloduct is Rs 25 per metre. With the addition of
labour charges, the figure reaches Rs 29. The second product in the system is the two-core
fibre, which costs Rs 33 per metre per core-fibre to the end customer. Hence the cost in
this case (two-core fibre) is Rs 66. The current blown fibre charge works out to Rs 10 per
metre. So, the use of this technology makes an expense of Rs 105 per metre only. Here the
comparative study reaches the conclusion that the initial savings on day one if going for
the blown fibre in case of 1 km of cables is Rs 81,000 (Rs 81×1,000).

Assume the situation five years later
when network expansion calls for more fibres. Upgradation cost in conventional system on a
rough estimate is considered nil but the interest lost for five years due to more
investment incurred on day one is Rs 81,000. While in the case of blown fibre system, the
price to blow in two-core fibres is Rs 17 per metre per core on the assumption that in
fibre technology prices are reducing and halved every five years.

Going by this estimate, the cable cost
is Rs 34 per metre and an additional cost of Rs 10 per metre that makes the additional
cost after five years at Rs 44 per metre. Gul Gidvani is giving an investment perspective
to the comparative study. "Rs 81,000 saving interested Rs 81,000. So total capital in
hand at the end of the 5th year when gone for blown fibre is Rs 162,000, of which the
spending is only Rs 44,000."

Once again, a comparison requires at the
end of the seventh year wherein a situation arises which makes it necessary to go for more
upgradation of technology and the multimode fibre cannot be used for high bandwidth
application. In short, the customer has to have a single mode. In the case of conventional
system, the situation leads to the change of the entire cable which, in turn, results in
the one and the only option of six-core single mode. In token of this, cable and
installation cost comes to Rs 55 per metre (Rs 35 + Rs 15). This estimate is made on the
assumption that six-core single mode cable is today available at around Rs 80 per metre
and it will be available at less than half the price at that time. Going by the same
assumption, the cost for blown fibre system at that point of time is considered Rs 26 per
metre inclusive of the fibre blowing charges. BICC sources, the advocates of this
technology, strongly believe that this cycle continues for ever.

Anil Joseph

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