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Powering Up: Tata Power modernises its telecom set-up

October 31, 2012
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An integrated power company, Tata Power operates in the power generation, transmission, distribution and trading segments. The company has an installed generation capacity of 6,099 MW in India and has signed several public-private partnerships. These include Tata Power Delhi Distribution Limited, in collaboration with the Delhi Vidyut Board for distribution in North Delhi; Powerlinks Transmission Limited, in partnership with Power Grid Corporation of India Limited for evacuation of power from the Tala hydro plant in Bhutan to Delhi; and Maithon Power Limited, in collaboration with the Damodar Valley Corporation for a 1,050 MW mega power project in Jharkhand.

Tata Power also operates in the renewable energy space and is developing a 4,000 MW ultra mega power project based on supercritical technology at Mundra in Gujarat. The company’s international presence includes strategic investments in Indonesia, Singapore, South Africa, Australia and Bhutan.

As its business grew, Tata Power recognised the need to establish a new communications infrastructure, incorporating best practices in technology.

tele.net traces the development of the power major’s telecom set-up…

Legacy system

According to Ujjal Ghatak, head, information technology, Tata Power, the company used a basic communications infrastructure from 1992 to 2001.

In 2001, it migrated to the SAP R/3 platform – an enterprise-wide information system designed to coordinate all the resources, information and activities required to complete business processes such as order fulfilment and billing.

“Tata Power’s telecom infrastructure was developed over the last 10 years. It shifted to its current set-up in 2010. Considering the company’s growth and customer acquisition (both new and change-over customers), it was essential to develop new communications infrastructure,” says Ghatak.

The shift

The company took several steps to upgrade its telecom set-up. At present, around 3,500 officers and 500 non-officers have access to this network.

To begin with, it consolidated its multiple data centres into a single data centre for better management of resources spread over multiple locations. Thereafter, it shifted from using point-to-point leased lines to multiprotocol label switching (MPLS)-wide area network technology. Last mile access was achieved through local area network/Wi-Fi connectivity (depending on business requirements) with end-point and gateway-level IT security.

Tata Power also has an optic fibre-based ring topology across Mumbai, which uses gigabit bandwidth while its remote project sites are connected via an MPLS network. The bandwidth of this MPLS network ranges from 2 Mbps to 100 Mbps, depending on the company’s requirement. “The amount of bandwidth utilised is continuously monitored using network tools,” says Ghatak. “We also have disaster recovery (DR) data centres in different seismic zones, which function as mirror sites. All transactions at the company’s primary centre are immediately replicated on the DR site. Hence, instantaneous recovery of data in case of a network slowdown is possible.”

Challenges and benefits

According to Ghatak, identifying an appropriate service provider with end-to-end experience of implementation of such a network was a major challenge. “Also, ensuring that we stayed within the allotted budget for the project was an issue,” he says.

However, the company has managed to recover the investment it made in its telecom set-up. “To manage the growth of the company, it was essential that the telecom infrastructure kept pace, as it would otherwise not have been possible to support the business. In the past three years, we have garnered around 0.3 million customers, who are served using the new set-up. Hence, our generation and distribution businesses have already managed to recover the value of investments made over the last two to three years.”

The road ahead

The company plans to upgrade its communications infrastructure going forward. It plans to deploy the enterprise single sign on (SSO) and the single identity management (SIM) platforms. “The SSO is a property of access control of multiple related but independent software systems. With this property, a user logs in once and gains access to all systems without being prompted to log in again to each application,” explains Ghatak.

The medium offers several benefits such as reduced phishing and password fatigue from different username-password combinations; curbing the need for re-entering passwords for the same identity; lower telecom-related costs; and assured security on all network levels.

According to Ghatak, the SIM platform is an information system that can be used for enterprise or cross-network identity management. Identity management describes the management of individual identities, their authentication, authorisation, roles and privileges within or across system and enterprise boundaries. The main benefits of such a system include increased security and productivity as well as decreased cost, downtime and replication of data.

The company also plans to set up email solutions that offer enhanced storage and ensure email continuity in case of a disaster; enterprise storage solutions with infinite access for corporate purposes; expand existing adaptive multi-rate audio codec schemes; and establish mobile solutions for remote monitoring of its receiving stations.

In sum, improved telecom infrastructure has helped Tata Power to efficiently manage its information assets and enabled it to connect efficiently with its customers and stakeholders.

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