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Indian Railways’ CMS application: A complex journey made simple

From the time of the first railway line in 1856 till today, Indian Railways has had a life of its own, growing and changing with times. Indian Railways’ rendezvous with technology took place in a major way in 1986 after the inception of the centre for railway information systems (CRIS). Over the years, CRIS has fully satisfied its role as the umbrella organization for all IT related activities at Indian Railways. Today, CRIS is a project-oriented organization engaged in the development of major computer systems for the railways, with over 200 employees nationwide. One of the major projects undertaken at CRIS has been the crew management system (CMS) for Indian Railways. It has changed the way Indian Railways manages its vast number of employees through this IT backbone.

With 55,000 employees in its central management system database, the results are indeed worth a standing ovation. “The important thing is an assurance that the crew is being utilized well. This way it helps us grade the crew,” says Deepak Ganju, the general manager of project III for CRIS. As a workflow-based system, CMS enables remote management and is customizable.

Indian Railways’ crew management system is an in-house project. After being sanctioned in March 2006 at a cost of Rs 38 crore for a 306-crew booking point in Indian Railways, the crew management system has attracted interest even from different metro projects. Currently, the crew management system is being used only for freight, shunting and coaching trains. It is a 24/7 browser-based application running on thin-client fixed at various lobbies. The crew management system uses n-tier J2EE architecture using struts framework supporting open standards.

The important thing is an assurance that the workforce is being utilized well. This way it helps us grade the crew.

The crew management system’s IT pillar

According to CRIS officials, the crew management system’s launch was not an easy task. After preparing the vision document, the team determined load based on factors like number of crew, trains, and lobbies (small and big). The big lobby handles around 500 trains and the small ones manage nearly 200 trains every day. Apart from this, transactions per second were calculated.

Once all the parameters were in place (including data growth), CRIS undertook the server design. During load calculation, it became important to understand maximum application load expected on the system, in order to avert unwanted project costs.

In 2006, Indian Railways carried out its proof of concept (POC) project at a departmental level in Ratlam and Baroda divisions. The crew management system’s PoC was managed with a single HP server running Oracle database and an Oracle application. During the crew management system rollout, the presence of multiple vendors for different features created issues. The server design was finally evaluated by vendors like HP and IBM.

In 2007, when the crew management system project was finally sanctioned, CRIS went in for pilot phase in five divisions. At this point, the deployment consisted of five IBM x346 servers. In 2008, the rollout process was started for 150 lobbies. By then, the number of x346 servers had increased to 13. Apart from these, the crew management system also uses two IBM Power 550 servers in a clustered environment. Other servers are also in place for external storage, with IBM Tivoli being used for backup. On the storage front, CRIS uses IBM x3200 SAN storage and tape drives. RAID 5 is being used with a storage capacity of 1 TB.

In 2009, the crew management system’s second phase was rolled out, in which remaining lobbies were covered—an extra CPU and RAM was added to the earlier phase-one servers. Now the servers have RAM specifications of of 4 GB. At the moment, the crew management system sees a per day data growth of around 1 GB.

Each server is capable of doing up to 4,00,000 transactions per second, which is seeing 50 per cent utilization at present. The servers are situated in CRIS’ data center at Chanakyapuri in Delhi.

Talking about the impact of crew management system, Ganju says, “No matter how sophisticated the technology we used, all our efforst would have been in vain if was not user-friendly.” As a result of this realization, Indian Railways identified 6,000 users for training on the crew management system. Indian Railways also chose 1,000 core implementers.

The scale of the crew management system project has also increased in magnitude. Earlier, there were six servers, whereas now there are six server racks. In 2005-06, the budget was around Rs 20 crore per year, and now it’s in the range of Rs 110 crore per annum. At present, 56 racks reside in CRIS’ data center.

With such a plethora of applications, the data center’s landscape has also changed. According to CRIS, server virtualization is definitely on the map. As far as the data center infrastructure’s capabilities are concerned, this will definitely boost Indian Railways’ IT capabilities to the next level.

  1. April 29, 2010 at 10:03 AM

    sup what is ur myspace page?

  2. March 23, 2011 at 11:56 AM

    Awesome post! It really helped me a lot! Thanks for sharing it.

  3. Donalraj.d
    July 23, 2011 at 1:34 PM

    i agree with you partially, i being in the system as a part of it

    many things what you need to consider & know is
    (1) development cycle
    (2) Cost & time input
    (3) How many clients have successfully & satisfactorily using it (W/out the involvement of railway borad )
    (4) How the running staff are benefited ?
    (5) Is the application design is fool proof ?, is the application preventing the crew going under ground ( i mean Crew lost in cyber world )
    (6) is the CRIS application is a successful project ? ,
    (7) is not the running staff + the zonal & divisional administration is dependent for data on CRIS as if presently it self the system is crying for data with CRIS
    (8) the most important is how the data is formatted , i mean the reports can one bind any zone / division / person to Analise the data as guided by the reports ? what flexibility is there to get the desired out put, is the reports console is designed for that
    (9) how many zones are running the multiple database applications one for purely as alternative to CRIS-CMS along with CRIS – CMS , JUST zones are adopted CRIS-CMS because of administrative lobby
    (10) nearly 3 years the divisions are running this project as a R&D hub of CRIS, what about their manpower,power,time. ?? whether the input has yielded
    (11) still how many years is this project going to go to meet the universal acceptance

    still what is awaited is involvement of trade unions.

    one simple example you know ? between 17/7 to 19/7/11 all the crew mileages was appeared as 0.
    centralized database, centralized application + big bug fired 55 K people wallet
    what chanakyapuri reacts to it you know ???? it is simple you post your bug it will be taken care in next version.
    CRIS – CMS team is having a hopeless system of approach & administration

    it was a good thought to have a centralized database for crew management ( why only running staff ) why not other subcategory of about 14 lak peaople

    do you know if the FOIS network fails then how many thousend people wallet is going to be teared, is the CRIS or the GOVT of india have any answer for this ?

    what the project should have been is

  4. K Joga Rao
    August 16, 2012 at 5:55 AM

    cris cms crew management system is doing well. with optimum and proper crew utilisation now there is an bird’s eye view on each and every running staff. previously many of the running staff were enjoying the running benefits while performing non running duties for a major part of their life time, now their quantum is easily known. many who have gone underground for a long time can also, easily be traced, at a click of a button….

    Bhilai/R divn./SECRl…

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