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Scaling Up: Telecom upgradation a key priority for BPO, IT and ITeS companies

June 10, 2013
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Scaling Up: Telecom upgradation a key priority for BPO, IT and ITeS companiesAs per industry analysts, online retailing, cloud computing and e-commerce are the major driving forces behind the strong growth in the IT industry. According to the National Association of Software and Services Companies, the segment’s revenues are expected to reach $225 billion by 2020. Further, IT and BPO exports are expected to grow by 12-14 per cent in financial year 2014 to reach $87 billion.

In order to tap the business opportunities such growth will offer, companies in this segment have been taking rapid steps to modernise their telecom infrastructure.

To enhance the robustness of their internal communication systems and lower the incidence of failure, these players have opted for more than one mode of connectivity. Their communication networks now comprise leased lines, international private leased circuits (IPLC), MPLS and integrated services digital networks. Leased lines are being used for 24x7 connectivity whereas MPLS is offering companies a dual point of presence in different cities and helping them increase bandwidth as per requirements. These organisations also have well-connected round-the-clock data centres supporting various critical functions within the organisation.

Moreover, the quality of IT infrastructure in the country has improved over the years with the introduction of services like 3G and 4G and enhanced internet connectivity. To meet the increasing need for internal and external communication through voice services, several companies have started using VoIP services, replacing time division multiplexing (TDM) technology. Videoconferencing along with audio and web applications is also being used widely.

For on-the-go connectivity, companies depend on mobility solutions like corporate intranet, mobile email, data connectivity, mobile-based pull and push solutions, data cards and dongles, amongst others. The industry also deploys telecom-based solutions for handling functions related to human resource management, accounting and sales. The most popular and commonly used software solutions by ITeS and BPO companies are customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP) and first call resolution.

Network security is another key area of concern for these companies given the increasing data traffic that needs to be handled. As a standard procedure, such companies deploy different layers of security solutions within their premises. The most commonly used security solutions include firewalls and penetration testing applications. Several companies also develop in-house security systems and solutions to meet their specific requirements. As compared to other enterprise verticals, all leading players in the ITeS segment have deployed a data centre. For redundancy, a disaster recovery mechanism is usually deployed.

Going forward, the industry expects an increase in the use of mobility devices, netbooks as well as notebooks. Further, with the ever-increasing demand for data, new concepts such as cloud computing and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) are expected to catch on. In terms of investments in these services, Gartner expects IT budgets in India to grow from $66.4 billion in 2012 to $71.5 billion in 2013, an increase of 7.7 per cent. Of this, the maximum investment is likely to come from the banking, financial services and insurance segment. According to Zinnov, this vertical is expected to spend $3.5 billion on IT and telecom products by 2014.

tele.net carried out a survey among companies in the call centre, BPO, IT and ITeS segments to assess their telecom requirements and solutions.

The following questions were asked in the survey:

What are the organisation’s key technology requirements?

What mix of service providers and vendors is used?

What are the biggest concerns with respect to telecom infrastructure?

What are some of the mobility and enterprise applications that the organisation has implemented?

Which network security tools has the organisation implemented?

What redundancy tools are being used?

Which new product or service holds the most relevance for the organisation?

Key technology requirements

According to the results of the survey, the key technology requirements of companies in this sector pertain to data security, disaster recovery, mobility solutions and new connectivity platforms.

Commenting on some of the new technologies being adopted by these companies, Srimathi K. Swamy, assistant vice-president and head, technology infrastructure, Infosys BPO, says, “As businesses become more complex, BPO, IT and ITeS players are increasingly adapting their communications infrastructure to include various new mediums. These comprise unified contact centre solutions, which integrate voice, video, chat, email and social media applications; cloud-enabled technology that caters to and supports ‘big data’; and mobility applications and BYOD.”

Typically, the telecom infrastructure of these companies comprises a mix of wireless and wireline technologies, suited to accommodate heavy data traffic and ensure service quality. The most widely deployed technologies include MPLS, internet protocol (IP)-based solutions, session initiation protocol (SIP) platform, leased lines, Ethernet, intranet, virtual private networks (VPNs), switches and routers and VoIP.

For voice connectivity in particular, BPOs, call centres, and IT and ITeS companies have shifted from TDM-based voice transport solutions to end-to-end VoIP-based platforms. “We have started using VoIP-based solutions for voice traffic, along with SIP technology. This has enabled us to reduce the total cost of ownership on voice services,” says Swamy. Some respondents also use MPLS for this purpose as it provides an economical and flexible mode of communication. The CSS Corp’s voice traffic, for instance, is supported on an MPLS-based backbone sourced from AT&T. “VoIP is cheaper than traditional phone services and provides a host of features at no additional cost,” says the company respondent.

Hinduja Global Solutions has also opted for the MPLS platform. Subramanya C., executive vice-president and global chief technology officer, says that the medium offers several benefits such as reduced costs (of 10-25 per cent as compared to ATM and frame relay technologies), enhanced disaster recovery and future-proofing of the network.

Meanwhile, for data connectivity, leased lines and VPNs are usually deployed. For example, Micro Technologies India Limited (MTIL) uses a dual-technology network for intra- and interoffice connectivity. The company uses a VPN-based set-up to connect to its development centre in Pune as well as for establishing connectivity between the head office and branch offices. For communication among its branch offices, and media and marketing offices, the company has deployed a leased line network that offers a speed of about 10 Mbps and a user configuration of 1:1. MTIL also uses a Wi-Fi network for internet connectivity.

PC Solutions Limited (PSL) has opted for leased lines for its communications infrastructure, which is Ethernet based. The IT major currently uses two leased lines that connect to a stack of switches and routers sourced from Cisco at its headquarters. The company’s entire internal networking system is based on a 100 Gbps Ethernet platform, the bandwidth for which has been sourced from Bharti Airtel and Reliance Communications (RCOM).

Aside from this, companies in this vertical have also deployed various IT tools. For example, MTIL has implemented the ERP tool as well as CRM, both of which have been developed in-house. Infozech Software Limited (ISL) provides data cards and dongles to select employees to help them access data and information remotely. The company has also implemented server virtualisation via the Hyper V and IBM Blade infrastructure.

The survey revealed that most respondents have adopted or are in the process of deploying cloud-based services. PSL, for instance, uses its own private cloud, which is based on Hewlett-Packard’s (HP) blade server system. This helps its employees to access the main database from any location. The company also uses other cloud-based solutions for the same purpose.

Data centres are also being set up by all respondents to store and manage data and enterprise solutions, host applications and ensure adequate backup and network security.

Service providers and vendors

The companies in this enterprise vertical avail of services from companies like AT&T, RCOM, Bharti Airtel, Cisco, HP, IBM, British Telecom, Avaya, Tata Communications, Sify Technologies, Ericsson, Nokia Siemens Networks, Orange Business Services and Tulip Telecom.


Key issues and concerns

Some of the major challenges faced by the respondents relate to technology advancements, the installation of new components in the existing user access network, the high cost of telecom equipment, network downtime, upgradation of the existing voice platform and long lead times in implementing connectivity architecture.

For instance, PSL finds it difficult to keep pace with rapid advancements in technology. According to the respondent, “The telecom space is constantly evolving in terms of products and solutions. These changes are taking place so rapidly that by the time a company’s existing communications infrastructure matures, a new set of technologies has been introduced. Cloud-based services are an example of this.”

Antec, Inc., too, faces several challenges with regard to its communications set-up. “The key issues for us include identifying all our information needs, keeping all personnel informed about the changes, acquiring the know-how required to use a technology optimally and integrating new components into the existing user access network as well as for each office facility,” says the company respondent.

ISL faces challenges with regard to the high cost of telecom equipment, identifying appropriate vendors and network downtime. According to the company respondent, the cost of implementing new architecture is considerable and network downtime, however minimal, impacts day-to-day operations. Besides, the company faces difficulty in ensuring that the system meets all their requirements.

For Hinduja, upgrading its voice services platform, enhancing network security and integrating telephony systems (which support cloud solutions as well) with the SIP technology pose key challenges.

While setting up delivery centres, Infosys BPO faces inordinate delays and long lead times in deploying connectivity infrastructure. This adversely impacts the company’s expansion plans.

Mobile and enterprise applications

Players in this vertical have deployed several mobility tools. PSL, for instance, uses the time tracker platform to track employees’ timesheets. It enables the company to monitor each project in terms of productivity, cost and targets.

The most widely deployed enterprise applications include audio- and videoconferencing, the SAP B1 platform, web hosting, VoIP, corporate intranet, conferencing solutions, push alerts, mobile access to supply chain management and CRM.

Network redundancy

The tools used for network redundancy include dual backup systems, switches, disaster recovery centres and high availability links. For example, MTIL has a dual backup system. Notably, it also has a solar power-based redundancy system. Further, the company uses a parallel MPLS network along with its VPN set-up as the latter sometimes provides patchy connectivity, leading to network downtime.

Network security

Companies in this sector accord high priority to network security. In order to achieve this, they use internal access systems, the Cisco ASA platform, Microsoft Threat Management Gateway, firewalls and antivirus packages.

The way forward

Most of the companies included in the survey have chalked out plans to upgrade or enhance their communications infrastructure.

PSL, for example, is looking to enhance the scope of its enterprise mobility solutions and the flexibility of its current network interface. “This will help accommodate more applications as per our business requirements,” says the respondent.

Hinduja has a multi-pronged plan of action. According to Subramanya C., “Over the next two years, we are looking to enhance our messaging infrastructure and globally expand our MPLS set-up. This infrastructure would also have the provision to be ramped up or ramped down as per our business requirements.”

Similarly, Infosys BPO plans to consolidate its wide area network infrastructure. To this end, the company is implementing a multi-virtual routing and forwarding technology. This solution enables the segregation of multiple end-to-end customer traffic in a secure manner. It is also planning to deploy unified communications technology that supports video, voice, email and chat. “With the launch of 3G and 4G networks, there is a rapid growth in available network bandwidth, which makes a video conversation with a contact centre agent a reality,” comments the respondent.

In all, by scaling up their IT and telecom infrastructure, BPOs, call centres, IT and ITeS players have reduced their communication costs and enhanced their overall productivity and efficiency.

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