Exxaro is one of South Africa’s largest black-empowered resource companies and its portfolio includes coal operations and investments in iron ore, pigment manufacturing, renewable energy, and residual base metals.
With Huawei, Exxaro upgraded its software-deﬁned WAN (SD-WAN) to improve operational efficiency in the mining area.
Digital transformation practices require new technologies
To support the rapid development of services, Exxaro’s headquarters and 13 sites are all located in South Africa.
The company was facing issues such as complex network architecture and difficult network management.
- The network had been deployed for six to eight years. Many devices were outdated, had poor performance, and were taking up excessive space in the equipment room.
- Making matters worse, network management systems (NMSs) and policies were not consistent across wired and wireless networks. Due the current network containing multi-vendor devices, the O&M department needed to manage the multi systems separately to implement policy control.
- New technologies, such as SD-WAN, needed to be introduced to provide technical support for the digital transformation of the campus network.
“We have moved from traditional mining where we mine coal to a more data mining operation. What I mean is that we now extrapolate information from trunks, shovels, drills, in the pit as well as the plants, so that information is used to make more informed decisions,” said Mukesh Soma, Head of Operation of Exxaro.
“We’ve moved to a more SaaS based solutions where we use cloud solutions, which is much more flexible and allows us to do much more analytics on those platforms. Huawei has allowed us to upgrade our LAN firstly, to a 10gig backbone. They’ve also introduced the SD-WAN which allows us to be more robust in terms of our Internet connectivity. It stabilizes that.”
Journey towards the intent-driven campus network
Huawei carried out in-depth analysis of the customer’s pain points.
Based on differences between campus network application scenarios, Huawei provided different network solutions for Exxaro’s headquarters and its 13 sites, allowing the services and applications to run better on the network.
The network solutions include the Agile Campus (LAN) and SD-WAN branch interconnection solutions.
- The Agile Campus solution allows the campus network to achieve efficient and secure interconnection between people and people, between people and devices, between devices and devices, and between wired and wireless networks. Standard 1U switches are provided to save space in the equipment room and reduce power consumption. The Agile Controller’s Network Access Control (NAC) function implements unified policy deployment for wired and wireless networks. In addition, eSight, the unified network management system (NMS), manages switches, APs, and SD-WAN CPE devices.
- The SD-WAN branch interconnection solution implements on-demand interconnection between the headquarters and branches and between branches and other branches. The solution provides intelligent traffic-steering and link aggregation functions to help customers reduce OPEX.
- Plug-and-play devices across the entire network enable fast deployment, providing an excellent O&M experience for IT personnel. Visualized management of applications and links, with GIS as an index, creates added visibility into the condition of the entire network. This facilitates quick fault location, easy O&M, and greatly reduced OPEX.
Fast and uninterrupted network upgrade for Exxaro
Due to urgently needing to upgrade their network, Exxaro required Huawei to deliver the project just one and a half weeks after submitting the order.
This included the time to transport the equipment from Shenzhen, China, to South Africa.
Huawei completed migration of the LAN and WLAN networks within the specified time– all while ensuring zero service interruptions. Wireless coverage increased by 30%, and the network speed increased from 54 Mbit/s to 1.3 Gbit/s.
The simplified network architecture and plug-and-play devices shorten deployment time from months to days.
This is a significant improvement on traditional enterprise private lines, for which it takes several months for in-store application, service commissioning, and onsite configuration.
Huawei provides a unified device management and policy delivery controller, the Agile Controller, to help Exxaro simplify O&M.
The Agile Controller offers visualized O&M, which enables IT personnel to easily identify network faults and application software faults without being onsite, improving efficiency by 2/3.
Delivery is just the start, with stable and reliable service assurance as the major support
The completion of the project is just the start of Exxaro’s digital transformation. Likewise, it is just the start of Huawei’s service.
Huawei and service partner Tech Mahindra jointly develop and provide the maintenance service solution – Co-Care support service – helping to maintain a more efficient and stable network environment and ultimately improve the network productivity of Exxaro.
With this solution, as well as providing warranty services, Huawei also responds to requests sent from Exxaro to Technical Assistance Center (TAC).
TAC provides customers and partners with one-stop support 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, including help desk, remote troubleshooting, spare parts service, onsite support for work order scheduling, pre-sales support, dead on arrival (DOA) support, and customer satisfaction surveys.
With such services, Huawei is able to replace hardware in the shortest possible time. Huawei’s 24/7 services extend to the core switches, distributed switches, and SD-WAN Solution.
The access switches and wireless APs offer self-protection, and 2% of all devices are reserved for use as spare parts.
Huawei is able to provide high-quality spare parts services in South Africa, with its global spare parts operation center in Shenzhen, nine regional spare parts operation centers, and seven spare parts warehouses in South Africa.
The upgrade of the Exxaro office network is a major step towards its digital transformation, and can be used as an exemplary reference for other multi-branch mineral and energy enterprises.