ITC's wholly owned Information Technology subsidiary, ITC InfoTech is based in Bangalore, and provides end-to-end IT solutions and services. ITC InfoTech combines its experience across various industry sectors with world-class capabilities in technology to deliver ‘business-friendly solutions’ in four verticals:
“Microsoft Services came up with a well-defined remediation strategy to resolve our severe replication issues. We were really impressed by the way they undertook the task and executed the entire project flawlessly.”
Founded in 1902, British American Tobacco (BAT) is one of the world’s largest cigarette manufacturers. Its portfolio of more than 300 brands features some of the world’s best-known brands, including Kent, Lucky Strike, and Pall Mall. BAT employs more than 55,000 people worldwide.
The company’s global IT network system incorporates 102 domains and 450 domain controllers. To manage this “data forest,” BAT has outsourced the Active Directory® Service to ITC Infotech as part of Level 2 and Level 3 Infrastructure support to BAT. At the time of Services Migration to ITC Infotech , the health check showed that BAT’S vast network was experiencing problem, with employees unable to log on to applications and access information. The replication system was also unable to replicate data across the entire system, which created multiple views of the BAT network directory.
The primary issue was the site replication topology, which did not align with BAT’s wide area network and meet replication requirements. A lack of network connectivity to all sites from a central location made it extremely difficult to devise a plan to stabilize the environment and measure progress. The absence of a proactive monitoring system also added to the problems facing BAT.
“Immediately after services commenced out of ITC Infotech, a decision was taken to engage with ITC Infotech’s technology partner, Microsoft and form a task force of BAT, ITC Infotech and Microsoft technical managers to restore the health of the AD forest and ensure that the services being delivered achieves high levels of customer satisfaction,” says V Sreenivasan, Vice President , ITC Infotech.
To deal with the problem, ITC Infotech turned to Microsoft® Services Premier Support. Lee Oommen, Technology Architect with the Windows Center of Excellence in Microsoft Services, analyzed the environment and immediately realized BAT was faced with a serious situation—more than 400,000 outstanding replication queues.
“This was obviously a very serious issue faced by BAT,” notes Oommen. “BAT had a database that‘s logically split into hundreds of domains distributed across the globe, and the changes were not converging. The company needed to have a well-defined site replication topology and replication working so that changes would converge. The system they had was broken to the point where it was causing multiple problems within the BAT environment.”
To craft a solution, Microsoft Services chose to deploy the Active Directory Risk Assessment Program (ADRAP), delivered by Tom Daniels of the Premier Field Engineering organization. The ADRAP identified and prioritized risks, recommended fixes and defined success metrics. It also identified various mitigation steps for the risks associated with these fixes. With Oommen’s guidance and expertise, the virtual team comprising of ITC Infotech, Microsoft and BAT created a solution—using various remediation tools and processes—and stabilized the BAT infrastructure in less than three weeks. The dramatic results are shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1. Results of Remediation followed by Active Directory Risk Assessment Program (ADRAP)
“Microsoft Services came up with a well-defined remediation strategy to resolve our severe AD replication issues,” says Darren Eastland of BAT. “We were really impressed by the way they undertook the task and executed the entire project flawlessly while ensuring that directory services delivery was minimally impacted. They defined their strategy in different phases, each of which contained an execution plan, a timeline, and a backup plan.”
“All three parties—Microsoft Services, ITC Infotech and BAT—worked like a single team to fix all the critical issues,” says Piya Ray, AGM, ITC Infotech. “BAT provided all the relevant access and necessary timelines to carry out the strategy. Microsoft Services designed the solution, and ITC Infotech implemented it successfully.”
For all parties involved, the whole experience was mutually beneficial. The solution restored the Active Directory structure at BAT to a healthy state, putting the company back on the right track from an IT standpoint. At the same time, Microsoft Services and ITC Infotech garnered valuable information about solving such complex problems.
The solution from Microsoft Services optimized the Active Directory site topology at BAT. It eliminated the frequent delays in replicating objects among the domain controllers and in obtaining certificates from the server—issues which prevented employees from accessing the network. The solution also increased bandwidth availability and streamlined communication channels, reducing overall Active Directory replication connections from 12,000 to 640.
“Our employees were frustrated with the slow connection times and problems accessing AD,” says Darren Eastland. “The strategy from Microsoft Services fixed these issues and restored the network to maximum performance.”
Patrick Huff, a Program Manager for the Microsoft Services Industry Solutions group, agrees. "The ADRAP program was built to provide our customers with a solution to their Active Directory problems, and this environment is a testament to its effectiveness when the remediation plan is carried out by the customer."
Increase Operational Efficiency
The strategies that Microsoft Services provided cut the number of pending replication tasks from approximately 400,000 down to 22,000 in less than two weeks. With this backlog reduced and replication functionality restored, the IT staff could focus on frontline network issues and provide resolutions more quickly.
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Document published February 2008
“We have experienced a large drop in the rate of employee support incidents related to Active Directory,” says Hariharan Balasubramaniam, Operations Manager of BAT. “This has made a big difference in our business and productivity levels.”
Promote Operational Excellence
BAT wanted to make sure that this problem would not recur, so Microsoft Services trained the company’s staff to implement process and procedure to diagnose symptoms proactively and prevent them from becoming problems. Oommen explained this concept with the adage that compares the long-term solution of teaching someone how to fish with the short-term benefit of giving them a fish.
“We taught the customer how to fish, which was one of our main goals,” says Oommen. “Now they have a proactive framework to follow. There will be fewer problems, but if any occur, they will be easy to troubleshoot.”
“We have a comprehensive plan that lets us stay on top of things and keep our queues to manageable levels,” says Rishi Verma, Operation Manager, ITC Infotech. “We’re confident that if something goes wrong in the future, we know how to fix it ourselves.”