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Scaling Up: CESC's initiatives to improve operations

March 01, 2012
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CESC is an integrated power utility, engaged in activities such as coal mining, and power generation and distribution. The company serves 2.4 million customers across an area of 567 square km in Kolkata and Howrah.

Using telecom tools to modernise its operations, the utility replaced its communications infrastructure with a state-of-the art set-up. The aim was to streamline operations, improve network connectivity and  achieve cost-effective management of resources. tele.net tracks the development of the company’s telecom infrastructure...

Legacy system

According to Debashis Roy, vice-president, IT at CESC, the company’s initial communications set-up was based on the Cobalt platform. “The skill-set afforded by the legacy system was not adequate to meet our business requirements,” says Roy.

The shift

The company decided to upgrade its systems to keep pace with business growth. As a first step, it moved to an Oracle-based communications set-up. “We opted for Oracle as it provided a reliable and robust platform,” says Roy. “We migrated to this platform in 2004.”

The company then worked on  building a robust communications infrastructure. It developed its own optic fibre network, CSC Net, which is a metropolitan area network. The set-up offers high-speed optic fibre connectivity, which converts to metro Ethernet connectivity using Cat 5 cables.

Users can connect to the company’s enterprise server via the CSC Net infrastructure. The network is spread across 95 locations in Kolkata, connecting the company’s offices and important centres.

CESC uses the services of multiple internet service providers and vendors including Sify Technologies, Reliance Communications, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited and Tata Teleservices Limited.

The company utilises a centralised communications architecture comprising powerful enterprise servers and a data centre. Overall, the core network has a bandwidth of 10 GHz, which falls to 1 GHz in some areas.

CESC also uses multiple web-based applications which are connected to the central communications server via high speed optic fibre.

For network security, the utility uses multiple tools. These include an internal firewall, load balancers and Trend Micro’s security product suite. The network is protected from malware by an end-to-end security structure.

Facilities such as audio- and video-conferencing are used for efficient operations. According to Roy, these tools have provided the company an economical and effective means of communicating with its branch offices.

In addition, CESC uses a centralised billing application, a customer relationship management module, an internal payroll-related application and a treasury solution.

The utility is also setting up a data centre, which would house the communication network’s mission critical applications. The data centre is expected to perform multiple functions such as ensuring server uptime, data recovery and backup, storage management, hardware and network operations, and providing support for operations and end-users.

The data centre would also function as a disaster recovery site. Thus, in case connectivity is lost due to an emergency, the data centre would still be up and running.

Challenges and benefits

According to Roy, the challenges faced by CESC during the shift were mainly related to operations. “Obtaining space for the data centre, determining a feasible budget for IT and telecom operations, and aligning every server with the company’s corporate IT policy were major challenges,” he says.

However, the benefits of the upgraded communications infrastructure far outweigh the challenges. The network ensures business continuity and seamless connectivity, and is in line with the company’s business requirements.

Going forward, CESC is planning to implement cloud computing solutions. “Cloud computing is an important business tool. The network security-related risks on a cloud computing server are minimal,” says Roy.

Net, net, by scaling up its IT and telecom infrastructure, the utility has reduced its communication costs as well as enhanced overall productivity and efficiency.

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