Moving to Web Applications? Don't Forget Bandwidth

FRAMINGHAM (01/28/2000) - Before Millipore Corp. began an upgrade of its ERP system, the maker of purification devices had a lot of plumbing work to take care of.

Network plumbing, that is.

Millipore, based in Bedford, Mass., last month completed an overhaul of its network infrastructure in preparation for a planned switch later this year to Oracle Corp.'s new Web-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications.

The $700 million manufacturer is one of the many users that still run Oracle's green-screen, terminal-based ERP software. But new releases of the applications support the Web-based format only with a graphical user interface, which means all of Oracle's users will eventually have to do the kind of migration that Millipore is making.

Millipore also plans to centralize its ERP system on a global server that can be accessed from anywhere in the world. But first the performance of its WAN and the LANs used at headquarters and remote offices had to be cranked up.

That's a key piece of the company's strategy for keeping end-user response times from ballooning after the changes are made to the ERP system, said Michael Dapcic, manufacturing business systems manager at Millipore.

With the green-screen applications, users typically get information they're looking for in less than two seconds. "They hit that button, and the screen flashes right back at them," Dapcic said.

To try to keep performance in that range using the Web-enabled, graphical version of the applications, Millipore installed a new Gigabit Ethernet backbone network based on switches from 3Com Corp. at its headquarters. Remote offices were outfitted with Fast Ethernet LANs, also built around 3Com switches, and WAN bandwidth to many of the offices was doubled or even tripled.

"This is all to get ready for the fused environment" with the centralized server and Web-based applications, said Ram Prabhu, Millipore's corporate telecommunications manager. Neither he nor Dapcic would say how much the network upgrade cost.

Even with the power boost over Millipore's old 10M bit/sec. LANs, though, more testing is still needed to make sure everything will work smoothly when Oracle's graphical user interface goes into widespread use.

For example, Dapcic said it took 15 to 20 seconds to process purchasing transactions during tests of a Windows-based version of the graphical user interface that's being given to some of Millipore's users as an interim step.

The project team is still looking for the cause of that slowdown. "We're kind of feeling our way in the dark ourselves in some cases," Dapcic said.

Byron Miller, an analyst at Giga Information Group Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., said Oracle's use of Java in its Web-based client software means network speeds "have to be pretty good if you're going to [run] it over a WAN" because of the time needed to download Java applets over the network.

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