POWERGRID To Begin ERP Shopping Soon

by Hinesh Jethwani    Aug 27, 2004

PowerGrid Corporation of India Limited (POWERGRID) has undertaken a network unification project to build a single domain with Windows 2003, and has chalked ambitious plans for purchasing a branded ERP in the near future.

Speaking to CXOtoday, S. Santosh, deputy general manager of IT, POWERGRID, said, “We have decided to purchase a standard ERP under a new initiative that will be split up into two phases. Phase I will include the appointment of a consultant for studying our requirements and selecting the perfect match. Core training of team members will also be conducted. Tentatively, a first phase rollout deadline has been scheduled anytime between December 2005 and March 2006. Our requirements are clear — we want to purchase a standard ERP only, and not a homegrown solution. Process mapping and evaluating our utility requirements will be the key role of the consultant appointed.”

The need for acquiring a branded ERP originated from a pressing requirement to integrate various islands of applications and remove obstacles hindering the clarity of data, claimed Santosh. “Obtaining complete granularity and achieving superior levels of analysis is our key objective. The ERP should allow us to effectively monitor & control maintenance costs of installer sets and track & manage the entire construction process, right from the conception phase,” added Santosh.

Detailing the network unification initiative, Samir Choudhury, deputy general manager of IT, POWERGRID, said, “We decided to opt for Windows Server 2003 in August last year. The core objective was to build a unified system network and reduce disparity to a bare minimum. Earlier, there was no domain concept to cohesively structure our organizational framework, and the use of piecemeal systems had increased overall complexity.”

POWERGRID uses approximately 700 clients in the corporate sector, with another seven branch locations using around 100 clients each. Under the Windows migration project, 900 systems are already up and running. An Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) proxy has been configured in Active Directory mode, and the company has recently concluded a load-balancing project to optimize network performance.

“The initiative involved the migration of Windows NT 4.0/2000 and Novell Netware 4.1 systems to Windows Server 2003. Since we were covered under Microsoft’s Software Assurance program, the upgrade was the next logical step. The project also involved upgrading our mail servers to MS Exchange 2003, which allowed us to seamlessly grant web access to remote locations. Outlook 2003 is more convenient and flexible for configuring remote location connectivity. We are now in the process of configuring Microsoft’s Systems Management Server (SMS) for automating routine administration tasks and facilitating automatic patch deployment,” added Choudhury.

POWERGRID has an annual IT budget of about Rs 4-5 crores, and has already spent Rs 3 crores this year.

“We have around 7 regional locations, some of which still need to be networked. A few substations are still running in dial-up mode. A full-fledged WAN network is in the offing, to further our existing VSAT TDM/TDA with 2 Mbps lines. We are also planning to build an internal communication network based on Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) in a closed server radius to lower costs,” explained Choudhury.

Beyond the usual MS Office applications, clients from various remote locations across the country use certain web-based applications, and have access to the company’s Finance & Accounting system. POWERGRID’s mission critical database is built on Oracle 9i running on two HP-UX cluster servers, and their network is powered by 16 Windows 2003 servers.

Detailing the reason for choosing Microsoft products, Santosh explained, “Microsoft has provided us with excellent support, and they also conducted a security and risk assessment review on our servers. The results of their patch testing and suggested templates have hardened our servers. On the desktop side, further scrutiny is still necessary, which is slated for the near future.”

And did the company ever consider using Linux? Santosh reasoned, “We had looked at Linux, but we decided against it because we were not clear about its support structure. Moreover, our internal IT team didn’t have any expertise on Open Source technologies. Outside support isn’t the issue here. It’s all about having the right internal resources. MCSE’s are easier to find, and we simply couldn’t afford organizing lengthy training processes that are involved with Linux. The learning curve associated with Linux should be faster for enterprises like us to make the plunge.”

Since POWERGRID’s applications are VB based — with ASP powering the web-enabled front-end — integration and interoperability was easier with Microsoft. At the backend, a few MS-Access data sources still exist, increasing the complexity, making Windows 2003 the perfect choice for the company.

POWERGRID is the Central transmission utility of India, which possesses one of the largest transmission networks in the world. The company has recently diversified into telecom business and is establishing a broadband network of 20,000 kms connecting rural and remote areas.

Tags: ERP, MS, Linux