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Plans on Track - Network upgrade ensures smooth operations for Konkan Railway

August 15, 2009
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Banking on telecom to modernise its operations, Konkan Railway Corporation Limited (KRCL) replaced its dated communications infrastructure with a state-of-the-art set-up. The underlying idea behind the upgrade was to streamline operations and improve network connectivity. tele.net tracks the development of KRCL's telecom infrastructure...

Background

KRCL was formed by the Ministry of Railways and the state governments of Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka and Kerala as a special purpose vehicle to execute the Konkan Railway project on a build-operate-transfer (BOT) basis. The 760 km long project was commissioned in 1998.KRCL is headed by the chairman, who is also member, engineering, of the Railway Board, and ex-officio secretary to the Government of India, followed by the managing director and directors.

Legacy systems

KRCL's initial communications infrastructure comprised a simple wide area network (WAN) and local area network (LAN). For external communication, fax machines and telephones were used.

The lack of a streamlined communication system made project-tracking and proper execution difficult. KRCL realised that it needed a solution which would help the company to adopt industry best practices and establish a solid platform for supporting further growth. The company realised it needed a telecom system that would help it closely monitor daily tasks and enable faster and sharper decision-making.

The shift

Under the new communications infrastructure, the servers at 53 of KRCL's stations are connected to a central server located at the corporate office in Navi Mumbai. The servers are in star configuration and use optic fibre cables. Each station server has a unique IP address. The stations that are not connected through the star configuration are connected through leased lines. The total communications system comprises 74 servers, 600 terminals and about 100 personal computers.

KRCL has also implemented IBM's Informix online server as a relational database management system engine. This helps the company maintain data records and indices in the form of tables. The Informix server works at the central database server and the Informix standard engine works at various station servers.

The company opted for a distributed database to share the load between the central server and the station servers. This also acts as a redundancy option as it enables the station servers to continue work even if there is no connection with the central server. The relevant data is transferred from the stations to the corporate office.

The company uses Java and Linux, and also has an intranet, called Disha, which is accessible throughout the KRCL network. The company has upgraded its WAN infrastructure by implementing multiple technologies. It uses DLC (local loop), ISDN and the internet. The services of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) are used by the company.

KRCL has opted for DSL technology to access the internet. This medium offers secure access to the internet, high bandwidth and easy integration with other connectivity options.

In terms of enterprise applications, email is used as it offers a free and flexible option for communication. Software solutions such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) are also used.ERP helps the company to automate and link all its business processes. It combines data from separate applications, thereby synchronising the flow of information across multiple systems. As a result, KRCL has been able to standardise and reduce the software required for multiple processes. Similarly, CRM has helped the company to organise the contacts with its current and prospective customers.

KRCL has undertaken several other telecom-related initiatives. For example, it has implemented a unique railway application package which involves complete computerisation of all railway systems and a comprehensive collection of 18 modules for handling the day-to-day work of all departments. These modules include annual accounts, expenditure authorisation, health management, commercial freight, operations and train control.

Conclusion

KRCL did not face any major challenge in overhauling its communications infrastructure. The new and improved set-up as well as the automation of business processes has helped the organisation streamline the flow of information between stations and the main office. All in all, KRCL is reaping the benefits of leveraging available technologydriven opportunities.



 
 
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