Thursday, January 12, 2006

Meeting Your Bandwidth Requirements For Supply Chain Management Applications

In today's business world it is critical for companies to deploy supply-chain management (SCM) systems to enhance efficiency across the product lifecycle by streamlining procurement, production, fulfillment, and distribution processes. Deploying an SCM solution that provides the intended return on investment requires that the applications, servers, and enterprise network infrastructure work together seamlessly. This is easier said than done and will necessitate a thorough evaluation of your bandwidth needs to meet the demand.

SCM solutions require integration of applications and data across multiple geographically dispersed supply chain partners, as well as internal integration with legacy systems. To ensure success, your organization must deploy robust, end-to-end dedicated bandwidth that delivers highly reliable and strictly monitored QoS (Quality of Service).

An SCM solution is only as strong as the weakest link in the chain. Access to SCM applications and data must be guaranteed for all of your users, inside and outside the enterprise. Your company must provide sufficient bandwidth to support constant data flow between desktops and servers at the company headquarters, geographically dispersed suppliers and partners, manufacturers, distributors, customer service call centers, and for mobile users and teleworkers. Connections between servers and desktops must provide the necessary bandwidth to deliver resource-intensive services, real-time application data to all users, and enable integration of disparate data sources.

At your headquarters office, where corporate Web, application, and database servers reside and WAN links converge, availability and security are key. A redundant backbone switching architecture with Gigabit Ethernet connectivity to servers and access switches is often indicated, along with a modular, enterprise-class routing platform that supports advanced security features and WAN bandwidth management.

In order to ensure availability over time, a successful SCM solution should be built on an application design, server architecture, and network infrastructure that can grow easily as your business grows. This is called scalability. The solution must provide the ability to easily provision more WAN bandwidth to meet peak needs, to scale with fluctuating traffic between vendors and partners, and to adapt quickly as supply chain partners are added or replaced. To accomplish this, the solution should readily accommodate new server connections, partners, and locations. Network routers should provide enough capacity to easily and economically provision additional bandwidth as traffic increases, or to add new locations as the geographic reach of the supply chain expands.

Each location involved in your SCM infrastructure will require dedicated bandwidth to meet the functions conducted at that location. This likely will involve some combination of the following choices and is dependent on the complexity of the deployed SCM system and the size of your organization:

- DS3 bandwidth, also known as a T3, is the reliable, all-purpose, digital connection for extremely high-volume requirements. Operating at 45 Mbps (equivalent to 28 DS1 circuits, or 672 DS0 channels), DS3 can provide a cost-effective solution for smaller locations in the SCM network. With DS3, you can link your high-volume host computers for resource sharing and load balancing.

- OC3 bandwidth is a fiber optic line delivering 155 Mbps (equivalent to 3 DS3 circuits) designed for those who expect constant, high bandwidth requirements. For a mid to large size business implementing a SCM system....this will likely be your choice for infrastructure backbone (e.g. headquarters) bandwidth.

- Gigabit Ethernet is a version of Ethernet, which supports data transfer rates of 1 Gigabit (1,000 megabits) per second. Large scale deployment of SCM systems and larger organizations will likely consider this solution.

The process to determine and than find the appropriate bandwidth solution for your SCM application can be a daunting task. Use of an unbiased professional bandwidth broker will save your IT staff countless hours of effort and headaches while guiding them through the technology minefields towards the best choice for system reliability and cost. I strongly suggest you take advantage of their expertise.

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