by June 17, 2007 0 comments



Going by the nominations we received this time for the Best IT Implementation
awards, it seems that the manufacturing segment was the most active in terms of
deploying IT last year. The highest number of IT projects came from this
segment. Next in line were the Govt. and BFSI sectors, which continued to remain
sunrise sectors. Together they constituted more than 30% of all the projects.
Interestingly, there weren’t as many IT projects from the IT/ITES segment as the
other three. IT/ITES only constituted about 10% of the overall projects. Amongst
the remaining sectors, the surprise packets were education and power & utility.
Both segments have become ‘rather innovative’ users of IT. For instance, one of
the utility companies created a GIS map of North Delhi, which captured every
detail down to the last street. On top of this map, the company mapped each and
every piece of electrical equipment that they’ve laid out, down to the last lamp
post. They say that this project helps them track their assets, as well as
address customer complaints better, apart from many other benefits. Another
company that does power distribution in West Bengal has put tamper proof meters
with a GSM modem for all their commercial customers. This helps them remotely
track how much electricity is being consumed by each consumer. Now that’s
innovative! Similarly, in education, one engineering college in the south has
developed and deployed an ERP package using completely Open Source software, and
uses it for a lot of things. Another govt. owned research institute also
implemented an ERP package, which incorporates all govt. policies and practices.
So there seems to be a lot of action in the education sector, and one is likely
to see more in the future.

Types of implementations across industries
Out of all the different types of projects done in the manufacturing segment
last year, ERP projects topped the charts. A lot of manufacturing companies
embraced ERP. Workflow automation and infrastructure projects were the other key
project types taken up by the manufacturing sector last year. Likewise, the
Govt. continued to have a strong focus on e-governance projects. A lot of govt.
departments and ministries were busy building up their IT infrastructures by
introducing workflow automation, setting up new information systems and portals,
HR management solutions, mobility solutions, etc.

As far as IT/ITES companies go, then unlike others, they continued
strengthening their respective IT infrastructures. The maximum projects that
were implemented in this segment were related to IT infrastructure. The
interesting thing was that they used some of the latest technologies, and we
even had the benefit of seeing some of those this time. They used
virtualization, latest consolidation techniques, the best data center equipment,
the latest WAN technologies, and much more to ensure that their IT
infrastructures are world class.

Last but not the least is the BFSI segment. This segment was not only busy
upgrading its IT infrastructure with the latest technologies, but was also busy
doing a lot of other things. We noticed a lot of banks moving to core banking
solutions. This is good news for customers because it will enable them to do
banking from any of the bank’s branches. Besides core banking, security is
becoming an increasing concern. We noticed many banks deploying information
security solutions. The insurance sector, which hasn’t really embraced
technology as much as the banks till now, seems to have woken up. Many of the
public sector insurance companies are trying to get more networked, and some are
even using MPLS technology for connecting their branches. The more tech savvy
companies in BFSI, who have already done all the networking, core banking, etc
are now looking towards improving their internal processes. Hence they’re into
workflow automation.

That was all about the overall project implementations that we observed
across the country. Let’s now drill a little deeper into the kinds of
technologies and trends being used by IT projects.

Technology usage
While going through all the projects we received, we came across some very
interesting trends in the technologies being adopted by organizations for their
projects.

MS .NET for Portals
Most of the portal solution projects that we received were developed using
ASP.NET or VB .Net. We spoke to the project heads of these portals to find out
why they chose this platform. The answer was simplicity. According to them,
creating projects on ASP.NET is mush easier and requires less code to write.
Plus, it’s very easy to find people who know how to develop on this platform. In
fact, developers who can code in VB can easily shift to .NET without too much
training. Interestingly, a lot of the public sector projects that we analyzed
were also developed on .NET platform.




MPLS VPNs for WANs
We found that a lot of large enterprises with branches all over the country
are moving towards MPLS VPN technology. The reasons quoted for this are a more
secure and scalable network, better connectivity between multiple offices and
higher bandwidth. This helps an organization consolidate its IT infrastructure
and bring all of its remote offices under one umbrella.

Organizations are using MPLS for remotely managing their branch offices,
doing remote patch and update management, VoIP, and even running their business
applications. Some companies doing offshore software development for key
customers abroad have linked all their software development houses with MPLS.
This helps their software development teams coordinate better on software
projects.

Video conferencing being put to some serious usage
Video conferencing is finally being put to much more serious usage then mere
remote meetings. In one of the projects, video conferencing was being used for
tele-medicine and tele-education. This has a huge social impact, as you can
provide healthcare in areas that don’t have qualified medical practitioners.
Apart from this, we also interacted with many CIOs who have implemented video
conferencing, and saved huge costs and time that would otherwise have gone into
travelling. SAIL for instance, conducts regular meetings at the director level
over a VoIP based video conferencing system. Cisco has devised a video
conferencing system called TelePresence. It’s a high-end, room-based, video
conferencing solution built to operate seamlessly with Cisco’s VoIP architecture
and products. It’s designed around the IETF standards for Voice over IP and
video conferencing. Namely, SIP is used for connection management and signaling,
and RTP for media transmission.

The video images of the participants are life size and people appear on the
screen in the same size that they would appear in person when sitting across a
conference room table.

SMS based Mobility solutions
While we didn’t get too many projects that are using these technologies,
there is potential. The projects that are using GSM and GPRS technologies are
quite innovative. It can be used as a connectivity option in remote areas. It
makes sense to use this technology for communication simply because it’s now
becoming commonplace. Everybody has a cellphone these days, so a company can
easily leverage it to communicate with customers. Some innovative applications
of mobility that we found were remote meter reading, door to door order
processing, and even banking at your door step.

The usage of SAN and NAS
From the IT projects we received, we noticed that organizations are
increasingly adopting storage appliances. There’s also a growing need for secure
and centralized storage in enterprises. 21% of the projects we received were
using NAS boxes as file servers. Many of the portal solutions and information
systems were using SANs for data storage. The storage capacities being used
ranged from 1 to 5 TBs for the projects.

UTM appliances for security are gaining ground
The hot hardware in security nowadays is the UTM (Unified Threat Management)
appliance. Quite a few organizations have started deploying the same, or are
planning to deploy it. This makes life easier for security managers, as
configuring and managing a single UTM device is always easier than managing 5
different devices. One thing we noticed in some of the projects was that though
they were using the best of breed UTM devices, they were not creating DMZs for
their servers. What they’re doing instead is very interesting. Instead of
deploying a single UTM/Firewall appliance, they deploy two. One is deployed in
the datacenter and connected to the Internet or leased line and the other is
deployed in front of the proxy server for the LAN. In most of the cases, the
datacenter doesn’t even have a direct route to the LAN.




Rack servers have taken over
After seeing so many implementations, we found that the humble tower based
servers are vanishing. They’re being completely replaced by rack servers. Most
of the servers we noticed were based on x86 architecture. 4GB RAM is now
standard across all servers, and in case of specialized applications like
virtualization, we even noticed 32GB RAM being used.

Trends in software usage
On the software front, ERP implementations are happening like jungle fire. A
lot of companies are moving to ERP for automating their internal processes. We
received quite a few projects for SAP and Microsoft Dynamics implementations.
ERP is also entering newer verticals. For instance, there’s an ERP solution
available for governments now. It’s called GRP or Govt. Resource Planning, and
it adheres to govt. guidelines and amendments out of the box. There was another
ERP deployment for a poultry business.

Despite all the hype, we didn’t find too many virtualization deployments. One
of them was a large consolidation exercise using virtualization, and another was
more interesting and used it for disaster recovery. A software house put backups
of all of its critical applications on a virtual server. These were used for
failover.

From the project forms that we received, we found 56% of the projects were
using Windows, which includes 34% Windows 2003, and 22% Windows 2000 Server.
There were around 24% projects that were using Linux. Based on feedback from
some of the project heads, the key reason for using Linux is not the source
code, but cost saving. But one area where Linux is still widely being is
embedded applications. A lot of devices being used in IT projects run on Linux.
UNIX usage was lower at 14% and Solaris at 9% amongst the projects that we
received.

These were some of the trends we observed from the IT projects we received.
In the pages to follow, we’ll take you through the specific project
implementations and the benefits they offered.

Anil Chopra, Anindya Roy and Sanjay Majumder

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