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Data Warehousing: ALL revamps its communication infrastructure to ensure business continuity

March 31, 2014
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A part of the Apollo Group, Apollo LogiSolutions Limited’s (ALL) areas of operation include managing container freight stations (CFSs), transporting containers to and from ports, cargo handling and consolidation, facilitating customs clearances, palletisation, labelling and bar coding. Other activities include cargo sorting and storage, temperature- and climate-controlled warehousing, and other customised services.

The company has established a CFS in Panvel, close to the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust. ALL has collaborated with contract logistics company FIEGE to form a 60:40 joint venture, Apollo FIEGE Integrated Logistics Private Limited. This company provides end-to-end services, including customs brokerage, freight forwarding, and contract logistics.

According to industry reports, the Indian logistics industry is currently valued at about $125 billion, and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 10-12 per cent to reach $195 billion in the next five years. With an aim to tap the business opportunities offered by this growth, ALL revamped its communications set-up, adopting the latest technologies.

tele.net traces the development of the logistics major’s telecom infrastructure…

Legacy system

According to Atul Gupta, assistant vice-president, IT development, the company initially had a relatively simple technology set-up. “From 2000 to 2013, we had deployed Siemens’ Hipath EPABX infrastructure, along with a mix of analog and digital lines. However, as our business expanded, we started facing several issues – limited scope for future upgradation, outdated technology, and the inability to expand network capacity and support the convergence of IP technology. Therefore, to keep pace with new developments in the telecom space, we took steps to shift to a multi-tiered communications infrastructure.”

Communications set-up

ALL has deployed NEC’s IP EPABX infrastructure, which supports various platforms such as session initiation protocol, primary rate interface, and digital and analog lines as well as facilities like voicemail service, “Meet Me” conferencing, IP telephony, fax-to-email and email-to-fax services, IP audio- and videoconferencing.

The WAN components of ALL’s telecom set-up include dedicated managed MPLS lines that are used for establishing connectivity between the company’s branch offices and warehouses. This set-up is managed centrally from the company’s head office.

For last mile connectivity, ALL uses non-copper technologies with radio and optic fibre cable-based redundancy. The company’s LAN is based on CAT6E-compliant structured cabling and a single secured roaming wireless platform.

Various enterprise applications are also being used. These include a group-wide intranet set-up, enterprise resource planning (ERP) on a software-as-a-service model sourced from Ramco and Logisys, and Google’s applications for email, messaging and collaboration.

The mobility applications in place include an intranet and mobile access to the company’s various applications. Further, employees have been provided with a laptop and data cards, and BlackBerry and other smartphones to maintain connectivity with the head office. In addition, software applications such as the Windows Desktop operating system and Microsoft Office suites have been deployed.

The company’s network has a bandwidth of 10 Mbps and internet connectivity in a 1:1 ratio, which has been sourced from two different service providers.

For network security, ALL has deployed a central firewall to protect its LAN, WAN and MPLS access from viruses and external threats.

Challenges and benefits

According to Gupta, the company faced multiple challenges while overhauling its communications set-up. “Migrating all users from a Linux-based architecture mailing system with support for Google applications while ensuring that no emails were lost during the transition phase was a key issue. Further, the implementation and activation of our Logisys ERP set-up with a user base of over 100 and of the warehouse management system sourced from Ramco also posed a challenge.”

Nevertheless, he says that the benefits far outweighed the challenges. “With the new telecom set-up, our employees have 24x7 access to all internal and external communication. This has also helped reduce overall telecommunication costs as well as capex related to server infrastructure and maintenance. The complete infrastructure supports business continuity in case of any emergency,” he explains.

Going forward, the company has a multi-pronged telecom strategy and plans to implement cloud-based storage area network infrastructure for data backup and retrieval. “We will also introduce cloud-based corporate videoconferencing along with integrated business intelligence tools for collaborative on-demand and automated business reporting,” Gupta concludes.

 

 
 
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