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Exceeding Draft Standards

Heineken USA Brews New Network Upgrade

When you think of quality imported beer, one name comes to mind - Heineken. Heineken Inc., headquartered in the Netherlands, is the second largest brewer in the world. Its product line includes some of the most popular imported beers in America, including Heineken, Amstel Light, and Murphy's Irish Stout.

In the United States, Heineken USA Inc. has offices in Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta, as well as the U.S. head-quarters in White Plains, N.Y. The New York facility houses executive administration, finance, operations, sales and marketing personnel, and the IT data center. The data center is critical to running the day-to-day operations of the U.S. business. The key application housed in the data center is Heineken's customer communication platform called HOPS (Heineken Operational Planning System). HOPS is an Internet-based collaborative forecasting and planning system for customer orders.

All U.S. Heineken beers are brewed and bottled in the Netherlands and shipped via sea to various demand points in the United States. When a distributor accepts an order using HOPS, the shipment leaves the closest demand point and is quickly trucked to the distributor. Distributors then deliver the beer to its final destination at restaurants, bars and stores. It is essential that the order entry process run quickly and dependably to ensure fast product delivery, freshness and customer satisfaction.

Heineken USA's success has soared over the years, with over 60 million cases shipped to the United States per year. Due to its accelerated growth, Heineken began to run out of office space last year and needed to expand its New York headquarters facility. The expansion would include moving to a new, larger facility a few blocks away and an upgrade of its entire network cabling infrastructure to accommodate the future growth of the company.

Heineken's IT network operations manager, Vincent M. Denich, was responsible for both the move and the upgrade. As Denich recalled, "My main concern was to find the best possible cabling solution for the company and poise us for future high-speed and broadband technology, but I also needed to get the move done quickly. Moving the data center would require the HOPS system to be down, and since any downtime might disrupt our customers' businesses, I knew time was of the essence."

Denich decided to bring in Bruce Torello, a consulting engineer and president of Structured Design Associates (SDA), to design and implement the installation. "We were looking at a complex move," Torello said. "Heineken's requirements mandated installation of an infrastructure capable of supporting both current and future network systems. The challenge would be to keep downtime to a minimum while moving operations from one building to the other."

SDA's design team started by selecting a high-performance (draft) Category 6 cabling solution. "Vincent informed me that Heineken is currently running Fast Ethernet today, but they plan on implementing Gigabit Ethernet and integrating voice-over IP (VoIP) to the desk within the next few years," Torello said. "A Category 6 cabling system would be the best solution to meet these future needs." Torello selected a System 6SM Vision® cabling solution from The Siemon Company and CommScope Inc. "System 6 was ultimately chosen because of its performance, quality and applications guarantee as well as the support provided by these two companies," he said. "I've worked with Siemon and CommScope over the years and they've got a rock-solid product offering and a reputation for high quality and high performance. Most of all, I knew I could depend on their assistance and product reliability in this time-critical installation."

With the help of Siemon's Silas Warner and CommScope's Dan Heffernan, Torello was able to select a cabling infrastructure with the latest Category 6 components designed to reliably support Heineken's voice and data needs today and tomorrow.

Denich and Torello demonstrate how color-coding cables and patch panel ports have enhanced and simplified ongoing system maintenance.

All aspects of the job were also designed with future growth and administrative ease in mind. High performance CommScope UltraMedia™ cable and Siemon Category 6 connecting hardware were selected, including prewired CT® patch panels for voice, HD ® 6 patch panels for data, and Rack Mount Interconnect Center (RIC) fiber enclosures populated with SC fiber connectors. Active equipment included Cisco Catalyst 6506 and 6509 hubs configured with a redundant gigabit backbone and server clustering for over 40 Compaq rack mount servers. Voice services were supported via a newly installed Nortel Meridian Model 61C PBX with Companion wireless services. In the work area, Torello specified Siemon MAX® 6 outlets and modular furniture adapters. To simplify moves, adds and changes, color coding of all cables, patch panels and work area outlets for simple port identification was implemented. "All outlets and cables are either yellow, green or blue," Denich said. "It's improved my staff's ability to quickly troubleshoot problems and improve ongoing system administration."

In addition to voice and data, Heineken required a reliable video conferencing solution. "Video conferencing is an essential communications tool," said Denich. "It's an efficient and very cost-effective way to conduct ad-hoc international meetings, adding speed and quality to our operations and the decision making process." Torello brought CommScope Quantum Reach coaxial cable to each conference room in the facility. "Since CommScope provides both twisted pair and coax cables, I was able to provide Heineken a single source solution for voice, data and video," said Torello.

Heineken's main data center is now state-of-the-art with a high-performance Category 6 network, redundant AC units, dissipative floor system, and a clean, well-managed appearance. Denich and Torello are shown here inspecting the final installation.

Structured Design Associates was also responsible for developing complete data center design and construction specifications. "The design goal," said Torello, "was to provide Heineken with a fail-safe operating environment." Two five ton AC units were specified to ensure proper cooling of equipment and redundancy. A specialized anti-static dissipative grounded floor system was installed to prevent electrical shocks and any subsequent data interruption. Electrical power was provided by a fully server integrated UPS backup system. Special consideration was given to a comprehensive grounding and bonding plan capable of satisfying some unique equipment needs. Torello added, "There is a mission-critical nature to this data center. The HOPS system needs to be up and running at all times or customers cannot place their orders and business will come to a halt. All aspects of this job were designed with this in mind."

From left to right, Vincent Denich, Bruce Torello, Silas Warner and Dan Heffernan celebrate the completion of the project with, what else...an ice-cold Heineken beer!

In executing the design for this new facility, SDA had to contract and coordinate 12 vendors including the cabling and network hardware manufacturers and installers, HVAC specialists, and Telco network service providers. "It's always a challenge with a project of this nature," recalled Torello. "Timing was critical, but we couldn't jeopardize performance for deadlines." The results? The installation and operational cutover were completed in just 36 hours. The real test, however, was how well the completed network performed. Denich regularly used network performance software to check for errors and monitor network health at his old facility. "Before the upgrade, we had a Category 5 cabling infrastructure and there seemed to be a consistently high incidence of collision and frame errors." Using the same performance software in the new facility, Denich remarked, "I saw a significant decrease in overall errors; throughput, as well as overall network health statistics, were vastly improved. This new data center will fulfill Heineken's IT needs for a long time. Best of all, we brought the data center online in just 1 1/2 days with negligible outage to the business. I couldn't be happier with Structured Design Associates' work, our cabling infrastructure and the success of this project."

With the headquarters facilities expanded and the new network installed, Heineken USA can now ensure its customers a smooth-flowing order and delivery process, in addition to smooth flowing imported beer.

Reprinted from Cabling Business Magazine Volume 11, Number 6, June 2001.