Vijay Devnath, IRSEE, Chief Manager (IT), Konkan Railway Corporation Limited talks about the replacement of Konkan Railway’s 10-year-old Informix-4GL based RAP system with J2EE applications
Konkan Railway earlier relied solely upon Railway Application Package (RAP), a system that computerized all the operational processes of a railway system. The data capture was on the action place and subsequently it provided information for better decision-making and increased asset utilization.
The biggest IT related challenge was to manage a 10-year old 4GL technology intermixed with modern J2EE applications with browser-based interfaces. There were issues related to using this age old application system, which was built on Informix 4-GL, a 25+ year old CUI language for the Informix RDBMS. The typical issues were:
No support for newer technologies for clients, e.g. Web-browser, layered security, user isolation, connections pooling, etc.
No GUI support (VT-terminals, only CUI)?
No concept of load-balancing in RDBMS, application, reduced reliability
The language technology (4GL, proprietary of Informix) had been dead for over six years
Being a proprietary platform, the cost of support was on the higher side and there was a lack of trained vendor manpower; the future was uncertain
The OEM had given ‘End Of Support Life’ notices
There was a lack of compatibility with current generation systems (hardware, OS, software tools)
A lack of flexibility when compared to current software and user expectations (GUI) existed
Business benefits of J2EE
A J2EE ERP system was implemented in 2008-09. There was a marked improvement in the operations of Konkan Railway thanks to this deployment. The new system has a user-friendly interface on the Client side offering a choice of GUI or browser-based UI. Moreover, it is modular and secure. There is an option of direct PDF/CSV/XML outputs. Moreover, the application can be accessed from any IP Network. The browser-based UI can be used over the Internet, behind Firewalls (with SSL); viewing, saving and e-mailing of reports is possible
Both live systems, the old 4-GL and new J2EE, are working in-parallel—updating the same databases, saving Konkan Railway Corporation Limited (KRCL) from having to go for an urgent, costly and chaotic replacement of critical systems.
Prefers custom-built ERP and apps
Currently we are using a custom-developed ERP system with the backend being on a standard RDBMS (Informix) and middleware Application servers (Jboss). We do both in-house development as well as third-party led development for new applications. We try to customize the Open Source and commercial products for our needs.
We use Open Source software heavily from operating systems to application servers, groupware and development tools. The primary reason for using Open Source is the freedom from strict licensing and the greater choice that it confers. Additionally, in critical production environments, we use commercially-supported open-source products. In certain cases, we are also using proprietary commercial software such as RDBMS and PC operating systems.
Relevance of Green IT
Green IT is highly relevant for e-governance because these projects are financed by the tax-payers, so they need to be as efficient as possible. Further, given the power situation in the country, we need to save every watt of power and it is in the interest of our nation.
The disposal of e-waste is not a major problem for our organization; however it is tackled by procuring most equipment on a ‘buy-back scheme’, where the supplier of new equipment has to properly dispose-off the condemned equipment.
E-governance projects are benefiting the common people, by providing them with information which is was normally available only in paper files. However, successful examples of e-governance projects are still few and far when compared to failed or stalled projects.
My personal experience has been with paying multiple types of bills/dues online and using credit/debit cards for Web purchases. Today, such facilities are still used by the educated and successful individuals—not the true common man in India.
Managing IT for Konkan Railway
I am the Chief Manager of Information Technology in KRCL. In my current capacity, I am responsible for everything and anything related to IT, which is critical in this corporation, where all business functions are fully or partly on the custom-built ERP system. Prior to this job, I had worked in the IT department of Indian Railways for about nine years and before that I was a Maintenance Manager (of Electric Locomotives, Traction supply) in the Electrical Department of the Railways.
– As told to Vinita Gupta