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Konkan Railway revamps IT network structure

Anuradha Ramamirtham, Principal Correspondent

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Vijay Devnath

Obsolete systems and compatibility issues with the proposed enterprise collaboration suite forced Konkan Railway Corporation Limited (KRCL) to overhaul its information technology (IT) network structure, KRNet, after 12 years. It took KRCL about two and half years to convince the board and railway board to replace its IT network structure.

The IT network structure project by KRCL kicked off in October last year and is aimed to be completed by September 2011. As the estimated capital expenditure for the IT network structure project (hardware, software, and network infrastructure) was very high, i.e. about Rs 40 crore, KRCL opted for a lease model. “All the equipment is on a five-year lease. We will pay the vendor every quarter,” says Vijay Devnath, chief manager, IT at KRCL. This money will get absorbed as operational expense.

The IT network structure—KRNet—consists of optical fiber, optical network, data and voice network, and IT infrastructure. As optical fiber has a long life, the IT network structure upgradation starts with the optical network where synchronous digital hierarchy (SDH) is replaced by synchronous transport module (STM). “The optical network layer is partly shared by Konkan Railway’s sister concern RailTel Corporation of India Limited (RailTel), which took the responsibility of replacing it. However, the project will be funded by Konkan Railway,” says Devnath. RailTel has already provided KRCL with STM links at every station.

All the equipment is on a five-year lease. We will pay the vendor every quarter

Vijay Devnath, chief manager, IT at KRCL

As part of the IT network structure, the voice and data network reside on top of the optical network. Voice network consists of 26 exchanges and all stations have a small exchange box for voice communication. Additionally, a control and emergency (C&E) system is available for 24x7 reporting on train traffic and abnormalities, if any, to station masters.

Parallel to voice network is the data network with equipment like switches and routers. On this data network sits the IT infrastructure. New changes to IT infrastructure by Konkan Railway include replacing Alpha to x86, HP-Unix to Linux, VT-Terminals to thin clients, and 4-GL to J2EE.

For the makeover of the IT network structure, Hewlett-Packard has been assigned the responsibility of replacing the voice and data network and the IT systems. HP has deployed voice network access and data network features at every station. The vendor has implemented servers at a few major stations (hubs) that provide access to server, OS, and application resources to all the 56 stations of Konkan Railway.

The lease model will require an investment of Rs 8 crore for the IT network structure in 2011. KRCL expects the project to be completed by April 2011. The six months between April and September 2011 will be dedicated to test the systems and the processes in real business environment. “We will handle the migration process in such a way that the users are not adversely impacted by the back-end technical issues,” says Devnath.