Novartis South Africa, a leading pharmaceutical organisation, has upgraded its local area network (LAN) and wide area network (WAN) and moved to a Voice over IP (VoIP) platform with the assistance of KSS, a network integrator focusing on integrated data, voice and/or video solutions, and Cisco.
This has increased the reliability and performance of the company's networks, enhancing business efficiency and communication, as well as enabling Novartis to meet the standardization guidelines of its international parent company.
Novartis South Africa is part of the global pharmaceutical organisation, a leader in the research and development of products to cure disease, ease suffering and enhance quality of life. Created in 1996, a product of the merger between Ciba-Geigy and Sandoz, Novartis focuses on pharmaceuticals, consumer health, generics, eye-care and animal health. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Novartis Group companies employ about 81 000 people and operates in over 140 countries around the world. Novartis South Africa has offices in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town, and employs approximately 550 staff.
Towards the end of 2006, the South African office had to reassess its infrastructure due to new standardisation policies abroad on compliance to global standards. This propelled the local company to look at upgrading its existing LAN and WAN, as well as upgrading its telephony system to a VoIP platform. The solution went live in March 2007.
"Due to growth and change, our LAN and WAN networks were not functioning optimally. We needed to connect with two branches in Cape Town and an additional two in Durban but found our network to be slow, unreliable and lacking the functionality that we required. We also needed to upgrade our infrastructure to meet global standards," says Brigitte Thompson, service delivery manager at Novartis' office based in Isando, Johannesburg.
"In addition, our migration from the Microsoft NT to XP platform further drove the business case for a network forklift upgrade. We felt this was essential to support our branches and continue providing innovative medical solutions to our markets."
Novartis also needed to expand its wireless network at its Head Office in Isando, providing mobility for notebook users. Another key requirement was to migrate to a VoIP platform as the old telephone system was not meeting the company's requirements.
Novartis provided a design specification, a list of hardware and the standards that they needed to adhere to, to four solution providers. Novartis' global technology partner, BT, facilitated the project implementation and, together with Novartis and KSS, ensured it was done properly and completed within the defined time frame.
The head office applications included Unity for Lotus Notes for 500 users on a Cisco IP IVR MCS7835 server and a Unison Galactrix Telephone Management System. The expanded wireless network required the installation of Cisco's 4400 wireless controller with 16 LWAPP access points to facilitate the wireless IP phones which replaced the older cordless phones. Cisco 2800 ISR routers and C3560 Power over Ethernet (PoE) LAN switches were also implemented.
"The implementation had to be carefully planned to ensure minimal impact on the operations through downtime. The first phase of the implementation took place at the head office in Johannesburg. The hardware was ordered, an asset count and a 'burn-in' were completed. KSS assisted with the pre-configuration, test and design of equipment at their own testing facility in Midrand. The Johannesburg implementation took three days and was relatively free of challenges and hitches. The Durban implementation was next, followed by the Cape Town site," says Corne Sassenberg, account manager at KSS.
Comments Thompson: "Although we did not experience any major technical challenges, planning was crucial and facilitating the implementation at five sites in total was a trial. What did emerge is the ethic of team work that BT, KSS and Novartis illustrated, eliminating finger pointing during the implementation, hastening the time to go live and ensuring the project was a huge success."
Redundancy was an important consideration with a converged network and the new network has redundancy built into it with the inclusion of dual links that offer fail over and ensure the business will not be affected if one particular area of the network requires maintenance or repairs.
The network now creates improved efficiencies due to faster access speeds to the servers and the ability to find information quickly. Thompson adds: "In an environment where the production of drugs is reliant on a number of systems, including the support of back-office applications and functions such as finance, it is crucial for us to have a reliable, performance optimised network to support our business."
Once the new network was implemented, Cisco's IP Telephony solution, Dual MCS7835 Call Manager 4.2, was installed with a mix of Cisco 7936, 7941, 7961 and 7971 IP phones. The unified messaging platform simplifies telephony for users on the go, with voice mail messages routed through as an email voice clip.
Thompson adds: "The IP Telephony solution has also allowed us to manage and contain costs. Reporting is now available at the touch of a button and with this information at hand, management of our telephony costs are simplified. In addition, the redundancy functionality of the upgraded network provides us with a safety net. The old POTS system had no built-in redundancy so when the telephone system was down we had no alternative that could restore the telephony system."
The new Cisco IP Telephony solution meant that users required training to ensure the full functionality of the phones and system was understood and used. KSS provided training and users are now able to log into the phones remotely and securely with passwords.
KSS continues to provide maintenance and support for Novartis' network and new IP Telephony solution. Turnaround times are stipulated in a Service Level Agreement (SLA) and Novartis has the peace of mind that their network and telephony system will not cause any downtime that could impact their production lines.
Videoconferencing will form a future focus for the company and their newly upgraded converged network will ensure a smooth and easy transition.