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Foxboro cuts IS expenses by 10 million dollars.

When Foxboro decided to take on the formidable task of revamping the entire IS (Information Services) structure, several factors figured into the change. We hoped to conduct business electronically as much as possible and today, in most cases, the first piece of paper generated is the invoice sent to the customer.

Additionally, we were introducing a new product line, we needed to reduce overhead, and we wanted to improve our financial reporting capabilities.

Our goal of reducing IS costs was realized through a combination of downsizing our systems, reducing our vendor list, and investing in our infrastructure. Through these efforts and others we reduced IS expenses from about $28 million in 1987 to about $18 million and counting.

Foxboro's telecomm success was recognized through receipt of the 1991 Interop Achievement and Corporation for Open Systems Open Network Excellence awards. The Foxboro Co., based in Foxborough, Mass., is a leading supplier of process control equipment used in chemical plants, oil refineries, paper mills, power plants and other processing plants.

One of our first tasks in improving our network infrastructure was the selection of a value-added network services vendor. We detailed our requirements, with the key points in the selection process being 1) support for our direction towards distributed processing (i.e. reliability and availability; 2) international coverage and support (i.e. we were located in 40-plus countries around the world and needed local support); and 3) cost effectiveness. Finally, we needed assurance of interoperability.

We also wanted to encourage Foxboro's systems engineers to share applications whenever possible as this can result in significant savings in development. To do this, a minimum of 64 kb/s bandwidth over a reliable network is needed.

For all these reasons, we decided to phase out our private X.25 network and move to IP routing as supplied by Infonet's Infolan service. Our experience has shown approximately a 40% overhead is incurred when routing LAN (Local Area Network) traffic over X.25.

The LAN in Foxborough supports a variety of host systems, workstations and PCs. We use IBM and HP equipment for our business processing, and DEC and Sun equipment in the engineering environment. In addition, we make extensive use of our two electronic mail packages (Lifeline from Sun and HPdesk from HP with an Openmail gateway). We use IP routers through our private X.25 WAN to connect to other Foxboro locations over our leased line network.

Our user communities fall into three categories. Small facilities are typically international representative locations with one or more PCs used to dial asynchronously into Infonet.

In our medium-size facilities, we have dedicated 9.6 kb/s lines into either Infonet or a national PDN (Public Data Network). These facilities typically have HPs or other minicomputers running general business applications and PCs. Facilities in Paris, Milan, Singapore, Seoul and Mexico City have dedicated Infonet access. Our international reps use modems to access the Infonet X.25 network, or they access it through their national PDN.

Large facilities are connected to Foxboro's private line network. A leased line network connects our larger locations in Houston, Dusseldorf, Crawley in the U.K., Baarn in the Netherlands, Montreal, and our campus facilities in Foxborough. Users at these locations have both business systems, e.g. HPs, and engineering networks with Sun and DEC servers running under Unix. The total number of PCs supported worldwide is between 3,000 and 3,500.

A variety of applications are being utilized on this hybrid network including order transmission, order routing, order inquiry, electronic mail, file transfers, etc. E-mail applications enable us to avoid fax and other telephone charges. File transfer capabilities improve the timeliness of information flow, e.g. the joint preparation of a proposal by several dispersed groups, or review and consolidation of data to meet internal financial reporting requirements.

After focusing on distributed processing in most areas, we decided to bring our European computer operations under a somewhat centralized philosophy by targeting our Center of Engineering Excellence in Dusseldorf.

Over the next two years, the Dusseldorf center will support remote printing and remote terminal access over the Infolan network. Because day-to-day operations in England, the Netherlands, France and Italy are dependent on ready access to Dusseldorf, reliability--through the use of alternate routing and backup mechanism--is of paramount importance.

By the end of last year, we had Infolan connections with Foxborough and Dusseldorf. In the first quarter of this year we hope to complete Infolan installations in Crawley and Baarn.

Infonet has given us several advantages including worldwide presence and support, flexibility in the application of solutions to meet Foxboro's needs, and price performance when compared to our private network. We operate around the clock and Infonet offers support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Infonet offered flexible solutions. For example, I could provide the equipment or Infonet would, and scalable service levels were available to accommodate the varying needs of our small, medium and large facilities.
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Title Annotation:company's wide area network upgrade; information services
Author:Sinclair, John
Publication:Communications News
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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