Yanbu Cement Company overhauls ATM network

The Saudi-based cement company has migrated its entire network infrastructure over to a Gigabit Ethernet solution from 3Com.

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By  Zoe Moleshead Published  January 26, 2003

Solid Foundations|~||~||~|As Yanbu Cement Company began investigating plans to update and extend its existing ATM network infrastructure; the organisation was faced with the realisation that key products were no longer available. As such, the Saudi-based cement company took the decision to migrate its entire network infrastructure over to a Gigabit Ethernet solution from 3Com.

“We reached a point where we had no space on our existing ATM switches, and when we wanted to expand our infrastructure to the older parts of the plant, which were not networked, we could not get any equipment. [Consequently,] we took the decision to replace the whole network,” says Reda Islam, systems & internal audit manager, Yanbu Cement Company.

Yanbu’s decision was also driven by the fact that its existing ATM solution was struggling to provide the speed and bandwidth the company required to run its mission-critical ERP applications.

“We needed to upgrade from a low performance ATM network to a resilient, reliable network that would virtually eliminate downtime,” explains Islam.

In response to its increasing performance demands, Yanbu has deployed a Gigabit Ethernet backbone with 100 M/bits/s to the desktop. Furthermore, the 3Com solution has also provided the cement company with the flexibility to deliver greater network speeds to its power users.

“Speed is the main advantage for us. We were running at 10 M/bits/s with the ATM network. [While] the core was 155 M/bits/s, all the switches were giving 10 M/bits/s to each station,” comments Islam.

“Now it is a 100 M/bits/s and even 1000 M/bits/s to a few power terminals and the backbone is a Gigabit solution. In some places, where there is a need for more bandwidth, the network reaches up to 2 Gigabits,” he continues.

At the core of Yanbu’s upgraded network infrastructure is 3Com’s 4007 switch, with a mix of 35 SuperStack 3 3300, 4300, 4400 and 4900 switches delivering traffic to the edge.

“They [3Com] provided a core backbone with 4007 switch and they provided 4400, 4900 and 3300 switches for the buildings and offices,” says Islam.

“The SuperStack 3 Switch 4900 delivers the latest Gigabit Ethernet ASIC technology available in the market to Yanbu Cement,” comments Rimah Ghaddar, country manager, 3Com, Saudi Arabia. “Our integrated solution also includes the SuperStack 3 Switch 4400 with Layer 4 functionality. This enables Yanbu to prioritise its business critical applications and block any non-business applications to increase overall efficiency and employee productivity,” he adds.

Additionally, a link runs between Yanbu’s plant and its Jeddah headquarters to ensure that the network’s 350 users all have access to the company’s ERP modules.

“At the plant we have about 250 users, while in the office in Jeddah we have about 100 users,” explains Islam. “The network was deployed in both the plant and the Jeddah headquarters, and we have a satellite link between the two sites,” he adds.

According to Islam, the network is vital to both sets of users. While office workers require access to the ERP modules, the network also houses process control equipment that is essential to its manufacturing plant.

“We cannot afford to be without a network today. We have an ERP solution developed in-house that is running over an Oracle database (DBMS) and part of it is also a Microsoft .NET solution. We also have process control equipment that operates our manufacturing processes,” explains Islam.

“We implemented the ERP solution four years ago and it covers all the business [operations] — the stores, the purchasing and the sales procedures are all tied together within an integrated system. Losing connectivity in any place will affect directly the sale of cement and livelihood of the company,” states Islam.

With Yanbu only employing a two man team to look after its hardware infrastructure, a reliable and robust network is essential. As such, the in-built management functionalities of the 3Com switches and its Network Supervisor solution have eased the configuration, management and troubleshooting tasks for the team.

“Our IT team consists mainly of software engineers. For the hardware part we have few staff. But we have had minimal problems with the network in the past and certainly not now,” he says.

Despite working with 3Com’s local partner, Natcom, on the project implementation, Islam says that it was the vendor’s personal involvement in the project that edged its solution ahead of rivals.

“What made us go with 3Com was their interest and personal involvement in the project. It was not their reseller that was doing the designs and the pitching — it was 3Com. That gave us the assurance that we have the support of the manufacturer [3Com] and not just the reseller that might just sell us something and then disappear from the picture,” he comments.

Although the network project was hit by delays as a result of public holidays such as Eid, and subsequently took an additional three months to implement, Yanbu Cement Company is already reaping the benefits of its enhanced network infrastructure.

“In just a few weeks and without any interruption to our production, 3Com delivered a network solution that gives us the bandwidth, power, control and scalability we need to perform mission-critical operations and a platform to support our future growth,” says Islam.||**||

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