Super highway

Sean Robson travelled to Italy, the home of Fiat, to find out how the motoring behemoth has partnered with BT Global Services to create an all-encompassing MPLS network.

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By  Sean Robson Published  October 10, 2008

Sean Robson travelled to Italy, the home of Fiat, to find out how the motoring behemoth has partnered with BT Global Services to create an all-encompassing MPLS network.

Fiat, one of the worlds leading manufacturers of motorcars, industrial vehicles and farming machinery, is in the process of transforming its backbone into a single MPLS network. A project that was begun in conjunction with BT Global Services in 2005, this has since seen18 different sectors collapsed into the single organisational network.

"We now have 544 sites all connected, with the final 71 due to be migrated by November of this year," says Stefano Candido, head of information and communication technology at Fiat, which operates in more than 40 countires, with over 1,800 dealerships in Europe alone. Candido was speaking at the recent Fiat and BT joint conference held in Turin, Italy.

In terms of the backbone, from BT point-of-presence to point-of-presence, we have had 100% service.

"Before the migration, we had contracts with over 100 operators which lead to a variety of different service offerings and levels of service," says Candido.

"The sheer numbers made it impossible to manage and on top of that was the difficulty in terms of economic factors. For instance, if I asked for a financial report on what our expenses were in the field of telecommunication services no-one could give me an accurate figure," explains Candido.

After looking at a number of providers, Fiat opted to work with BT Global Services. Together they set about delivering a single MPLS worldwide area network, known as Fiat Unified Network (FUN), which will manage sites from South America to China.

Amongst the interconnected services that are provided through the MPLS network is centralised internet access for users in Europe, North America and Latin America. Network optimisation is enabled thanks to the centralised infrastructure, which also provides improved access and security across all of the organisation's remote offices.

"Working with BT we have created a commodity out of telecommunications. The MPLS network is a commodity in the same way as water and energy are commodities," explains Candido.

In terms of a technology structure, Fiat currently operates three datacentres across the USA, Brazil and Italy, and plans on opening a fourth in China. It makes use of 40.000 IP addresses and offers users 1Gbyte of internet access.

"Efficiency is crucial in a network this big, and so Fiat has outsourced the monitoring of the system to BT as well.It is completely outsourced to BT and we do not have a monitoring centre as such. It is all managed by BT, which reports any major disasters to us. If, for instance, there is a crash or incident on the system we are then immediately notified. We also receive an economic performance report," says Candido.

"In terms of the backbone, from BT's point-of-presence to point-of-presence, we have had 100% service. In June 2008, we recorded 98.98% accuracy across the entire Fiat group. This is fantastic," explains Candido.

Candido narrates a story to demonstrate just what a difference BT's management of the system has made. "Before the migration to BT, one of Fiat's sectors had ordered an accelerator to improve its network performance. However, after moving to BT they soon found that the accelerator was no longer needed," he explains.

Through service integration and migration, BT was able to manage 80% of Fiat's services within the first year of the contract. "This single network gives us a global solution, and aids us in avoiding the costs and complexity of a fragmented network," says Candido.

When talking about the future challenges facing Fiat, and its network and telecommunications structures, Candido is quick to identify his biggest obstacle.

"The challenge, in my opinion is to reduce complexity. It is for this reason that I wanted a single provider with end-to-end connectivity. I want the same situation when it comes to voice services - to have a simple single platform," says Candido.

 Candido wants his users to forget that it was ever difficult to connect. He dreams of driving Fiat telecommunications towards the future in terms of local area networks (LAN).

"I would like to have the capacity to manage end-to-end services from one PC to another PC. Today, we have the capacity only from side-to-side but I want to change that in the future," says Candido.

On the horizon for Candido and his staff in the coming year is the introduction of unified communications (UC). "We will be looking at introducing UC in the form of solutions like Microsoft Openscape. I want employees to be able to speak from their computers instead of using telephone services," Candido explains.

Candido and his counterparts at BT are also working together to create an intelligent infrastructure that will allow the MPLS parameters to be changed and modified in real time. In addition BT is currently building a new network infrastructure that will connect to Fiat's dealers throughout Europe.

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