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Managing a strategic communications investment.

It's rare for a major corporation to be given the task of implementating its communications infrastructure from scratch.

Rarer still is the requirement for an infrastructure which has to serve the diverse needs of 13,200 employees spread nationwide, and includes a wide area networl linking together approximately 40 local area networks. Yet this is precisely the situation that faced National Power following the breakup of the British goverment's Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) and the company's subsequent privatization.

With revenues of approximately 4.3 billion pounds sterling and 13,200 employees, NP is one of the leading electricity generating companies in the United Kingdom and one of the largest in the world. The company owns 35 power stations with a total capacity of around 27,700 megawatts, which supply around 46% of the electricity in England and Wales. Newly privatized, NP lost key parts of its communications infrastructure and had to rebuild it from scratch.

Part of NP's corporate mission is to continue to be the UK's leading electricity generating company.

The communications facilities which NP inherited from CEGB were based on a variety of computer systems from different manufacturers and were not compatible with an integrated corporate approach.

NP therefore decide its needs would be better served by LANs at each of its major sites, linked by its own Unity network which runs the length and breadth of England and Wales.

Implementation of Unity was achieved in record time. The WAN, for example, was built in just 47 weeks, and implementation of the 40 LANs was completed in September 1991.

The WAN consists of three main nodes, interconnected via multiple 2 Mb/s services from BT and Mercury. Other sites are connected via additional digital services, with interfaces to on-site systems via Timelex multiplexers.

At each LAN site, NP has installed DEC, Cisco and SynOptics equipment, with fiber and UTP structured cabling systems being used to served end-users.

The design, implementation, management and maintenance of the network--including all cable and communications equipment with the exception of the BT and Mercury services--are handled by NP's Telecomm Services Unit. TSU operates from two major sites in Northern England and outside London.

The sizes of NP's facilities vary enormously. London's LAN, for example, has 300 linked users, while the company's Northern Operational Center has about 2,000. Other sites can have as few as six users.

Problem can affect a single user or entire buildings. To counter, NP uses a substantial range of network management and diagnostic tools which actively monitor the network. These include Timeplex TimeView. Orbitel phone call management system, PBX and LAN management tools and AT&T's Accumaster Network Integrator which monitors activity on the network.

Improving fault location

When a problem is first reported, sufficient info must be gathered to determine whether it lies within the user's current application, is hardware-based or is a connectivity problem.

The Unity management tools are good at identifying the problem logically, but they cannot necessarily tell where the fault is physically located.

This is particularly true of faults related to cabling. Isicad's Command product is being used to fill this gap.

NP installed a Command 5000 system, running on a Hewlett-Packard file server, in its TSU site outside London, and will install a second system in its Network Management Center (NMC) in the north. It was chosen because of the problem associated with managing such an extensive network, and because the company required central control combined with multi-user access.

Command will be used by NP initially to document all new LAN cabling within NP's major sites.

Each LAN has a substantial amount of documentation related to it, including plans of sites and buildings, cable routes, patching configurations and equipment details.

This data must be accessible to the NMC to assist engineers with problem resolution. With a paper-based system, locating and diagnosing a fault, can be extremely time consuming.
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Title Annotation:National Power of Great Britain
Author:Yates, David
Publication:Communications News
Date:Mar 1, 1992
Words:647
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