ESB commences major network upgrade

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1 April 2005 | 0

ESB is embarking on a major network upgrade that will enable the company’s 160 individual business units throughout the country to avail of shared IT services from two data centres, which will be delivered across secure, high speed links and managed centrally
from EBS headquarters.

The company has agreed a deal with LAN Communications worth €2.3m over three years for the supply of LAN and WAN infrastructure equipment for the upgrade. According to Tony Keane, IT technical services manager of ESB, the deregulation of the
electricity market and the requirement to provide highly available applications with full disaster recovery services across two independent data centres presented the company with an opportunity to change the way its IT services are delivered.

‘Splitting business units into separate logical networks which share the same physical infrastructure but communicate independently of one another is a new approach which will allow us to build a more responsive, efficient and fault-tolerant IT infrastructure for
the ESB group of companies.’

The draw-down contract will cater for a number of defined projects over the next three years. Under deregulation, ESB will continue to provide meter-reading services for all electricity market participants, hence the establishment of a major new data centre, the function of which is to provide full disaster-recovery facilities for the main data centre that houses production services. ‘As part of the deal, we supplied a range of next generation switches and routers to provide secure, high-speed, resilient connections with full fail over
enabled between the two sites,’ said Neil Wisdom, sales director, LAN Communications.

A plan to replace all routers on the network over the next 12 to 18 months will also allow ESB to benefit from advanced router functionality such as Quality of Service (QoS) or traffic prioritisation. For example, its SCADA application can retrieve operational alarms
from the electricity supply network or any equipment with embedded intelligence to identify interruption of supply at any point on the distribution grid. As a key application running across the IP backbone, SCADA traffic will now be given transmission priority over less important applications, ensuring operational imperatives are met.

Future-proofing the network infrastructure was also a key requirement for ESB and all newly-installed routers are capable of carrying operational traffic as well as voice traffic, when required. ‘Voice over IP is firmly on the radar for us,’ says Keane. ‘We now have the comfort of knowing that our network infrastructure is multi-media enabled and ready to carry voice or other latency-sensitive traffic as and when we decide to deploy it.’

The tender process originally incorporated 12 expressions of interest and was eventually narrowed down to four submissions. According to Tony Keane, ‘LAN Communications’ successful tender response represented the most economically advantageous proposal,
underpinned by a long-standing and successful working partnership with ESB.’

22/11/04

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