Haldia Banks On Linux Servers; Desktops Next

by Hinesh Jethwani    Jun 23, 2004

Linux is always making news Â- and the penguin has developed a knack of showing up in places you would least expect. What’s more, it’s adapting to the mission critical enterprise front with gusto, shedding its earlier avatar of a cost cutting alternative for mediocre functions that didn’t require too much mending.

Gone are the days when many Â’so-called’ supporters cautiously experimented with Linux only on the non-critical front (mail servers, proxy, etc.). A handful of adventuresome enterprises like Haldia Docks are all set to admonish that mentality, by investing blind faith in the system to support their entire ERP infrastructure.

With profound success on the server front, Haldia Docks is now looking to mete out the same treatment to its 150 desktop clients as well.

Speaking to CXOtoday, Basab Ray Chaudhuri, general manager - management & services, Haldia Dock Complex, said, “Out of our nine servers, six run on Red Hat Linux Advanced Server 2.0 and three run on Windows 2000 Advanced Server. All six servers designated for the ERP system run Linux. Apart from this, mail services, gateways and other services also run on Linux. We chose Linux primarily for its low Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and to achieve a fault tolerant system, and rate it higher than Microsoft in the fields of security and stability. We are also evaluating the possibility of migrating 150 desktops (which are currently running Windows XP) to Linux.”

Haldia Dock has finished a massive computerization project - first initiated towards the end of 1999, and completed only on 31st July last year. “Approximately 17 km of fiber was laid to interconnect the entire port complex area. In all, eleven offices were connected within the complex. Ten departments, split up into five dedicated for management & services, and the remaining five for operational functions were interfaced with the ERP,” informed Chaudhuri.

Administration, finance, materials management, personnel and medical divisions are the five sub functions of the management & services department. The operational departments consists of shipping, marine, infrastructure and civic, plant & equipment and railways.

Chaudhuri explained, “For our ERP setup, we chose National Informatics Centre (NIC), Government of India. The contract did not require the purchase of any licenses, as the ERP-like software was not proprietary. The approximate budget allocation was Rs 5.3 crore, and we purchased nine IBM Intel-based X-series servers, two SAN arrays and one tape library for implementation of the software.

NIC was allocated the project for integrating an ERP software based on the ports’ business processes. One of the significant problems faced was overcoming legacy.

Justifying the choice of using Linux on a mission critical system like ERP, Chaudhuri said, “Linux was a mutual choice of interest for the both of us. NIC was really interested in introducing Linux into our IT infrastructure. In all, six application and database servers were migrated from Microsoft to Linux. During migration, there were no problems encountered. However our reporting server is still on the Microsoft platform, as there are some issues that need to be resolved regarding the integration of Crystal Reports on Linux. We are using a Linux Sendmail solution for our mail server and the future EDI transactions are also slated to be designed on Linux.”

So how has the ERP streamlined operations at the complex? Chaudhuri replied, “The earlier system was completely manual, a far cry from the now digitized structure. All billing services Â- including cargo, container, etc., including internal procedures have been revolutionized by the new ERP. The earlier billing procedure operating under the manual system would take anywhere between 45-60 days, whereas now bills can be cleared within 3-4 days by using technology.”

Haldia Docks selected NIC over branded ERP players because of certain business complexities that were involved with designing the system. Both parties, Haldia Docks and NIC, have joint rights of ownership over the customized solution.

“The future IT roadmap of Haldia Dock Complex includes computerized container tracking, increased levels of security as per ISPS code, using Linux on the desktop front to cut down on TCO, EDI message exchange, and a systematic changeover to paperless transaction,” concluded Chaudhuri.

The complex is also planning to get a few team members trained on advanced Linux courses, like the RHCE certification.

Haldia Dock Complex, the subsidiary port of Calcutta, is located on the west bank of the river Hooghly.

Tags: Haldia