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Ramping up of data centres to continue

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With both government and enterprise focusing on digital transformation lead by emerging technologies, the growth and ramping up of data centres in India will continue

With cloud computing becoming the default platform for businesses for new investment, innovation and consumption, there is growing reliance on smart data centres. This is primarily happening because of continuous rise in the numbers of data-hungry customers, applications, improvement in connectivity and enterprises’ and governments’ focus on marque projects aimed at improving the lives of people.

This is the main reason when you talk to a CTO, CIO or government’s IT heads, they are always looking for new places where massive amounts of data can be stored and utilised with efficiency and security. Although, the growth in the data centre market in India has been steady – showing only two-four per cent growth over the years – but it goes without saying that the data centre market has every reason to be upbeat about the prospects for the industry as the business leaders in India are looking for reliable, innovative and cost-effective solutions.

According to research firm Gartner, data centre infrastructure hardware enterprise spending in India may touch US$ 2.7 billion in 2018 – this is a 2.6 per cent increase from 2017. A data centre has three key components – compute, storage and networking. The spending on hardware has been moderate, but investment in software is picking up and it is likely to touch US$ 3.6 billion in 2018, a 10 per cent year-on-year increase.
“Digital business initiatives are forcing infrastructure and operations leaders in India to adopt a hybrid IT infrastructure model that can deliver reliable, innovative and cost-effective solutions to the business in a timely manner,” said Santhosh Rao, Research Director, Gartner.

With the Government of India pushing for Digital India and Smart Cities initiatives and increasing awareness among people on the issues of privacy and security, thanks to media coverage of the Supreme Court judgment on privacy, both the vendors and users have become cautious of how they possess and process consumers’ data. Some of the large players like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft, Google, and IBM have already started serving Indian consumers from their local data centres.

IBM has recently announced that its Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered enterprise marketing cloud services will now be available from its local cloud data centre in India, thus allowing its customers in the country to host their data locally. Earlier this year, Sify Technologies opened a point of presence at Interxion’s Marseille data centre in a bid to expand its business reach between India and Europe.

Similarly, AWS which already has data centres in India, is reportedly in talks with technology services company ITI to share one of the company’s updated data centres in Bengaluru. ITI has expanded its data centre facility by adding 1,000 additional racks at its Bengaluru set up and it is setting up a new data centre of 200 racks capacity at its Naini plant in Uttar Pradesh.

On the other hand, Microsoft already has cloud data centres in three locations in India and it is getting decent traction from both, small and large enterprises. “Data stewardship is a challenging task. What data is getting collected, whose data is it, where it goes, how it gets treated, who benefits from it are some of the issues of our times that businesses need to understand and act upon carefully,” said Harriet Green, Chairman and CEO, IBM Asia Pacific.

Agreeing with Harriet, Swapnil Bhatnagar, Research Director at Avasant said that the Indian data centre market is poised to grow due to demand coming from enterprises for digital transformation and various  e-governance initiatives of the central and state governments. “They all are collecting a large amount of data and they will need space for storage and computing,” Bhatnagar said.

Echoing the same sentiment, Sourabh Gupta, CIO of Kent RO said that with the smartphone, the speed and velocity of data generation have increased like never before, so companies like Kent RO are always looking to make their IT processes more smart and agile. “Anything that can provide a new level of flexibility for deploying automated, software-driven and scalable networks is a welcome development,” said Gupta.

While large financial institutions, telecom providers, and defence firms are relying on in-house data centres for meeting their data storage and security needs, SMBs and young companies like Ola, BookMyShow, Zomato, BigBasket, Practo, GoIbibo, InMobi, Pepperfry, Hike, Oyo are banking on the pure-play data centre hosting providers like AWS.

Like enterprise users, governments – both states and central – have significantly adopted technology to deliver citizen-centric services and are improving their own efficiency. This has lead to major investment in data centres by state IT departments and NIC, under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India.

NIC has spearheaded the e-governance drive in the country for the last three decades, building a strong foundation for better and more transparent governance and assisting the government’s endeavour to reach the unreached. According to senior officers, with the increased expectations from citizens for online services and the number of e-governance projects being launched by the government, the data centre requirements are growing exponentially.

There is a need to set up strategic infrastructure that facilitates high availability, quick scalability, efficient management and optimised utilisation of resources. To fulfill this requirement, NIC has set up state-of-the-art National Data Centres in Delhi, Pune and Hyderabad and 30 small data centres at various state capitals to provide services to the government at all levels. These data centres combine round-the-clock operations and management of systems with onsite skilled personnel. But most of them have reached their 75-80 per cent capacity, leading to search for new avenues for setting up data centres. That is why recently, it had to launch its fourth data centre in Bhubaneswar with 275 racks and 35,000 virtual servers.

“With a slew of government apps including mygov, eWay bill, public finance management system, eHospitals all being hosted by NIC, the demand for computing and storage has increased many folds,” said Neeta Verma, Director General of NIC.

The central government’s key programmes such as Aadhaar, Passport Seva and GSTN rely on the modern data centre. For example, the entire GST application is hosted out of two main data centres supported by two near data centres which function as disaster recovery centres. One of the centres is in Delhi and another one is in Bengaluru. With more and more firms becoming familiar with the GSTN system, more are likely to file their GST returns leading to growth in data storage and processing. “We believe the demand will only increase,” said Bijesh Babu Earesseril, Vice President (Information Technology – Data Centre), GSTN.

Similarly, UIDAI which is facing flake for data security and privacy, is investing heavily in data centre modernisation. It has state-of-art data centres in New Delhi and Bengaluru and efforts are continuing to make them more modern and secure.

On the line of central governments, many states have their own data centres and some of them are trying to increase the capacity as the demand has surged. For example, Rajasthan which already has three data centres in Jaipur has invested in a disaster recovery (DR) site in Udaipur.

On the other hand, Chhattisgarh is setting up a data centre in Naya Raipur. It is being developed on 10 acres of land at a cost of Rs 2 billion. The proposed data centre will be the first Tier-IV data centre of central India. It will cater to diverse geographies for high performance computing needs and intensive workloads.

“As the National eGovernance Plan (NeGP) took the baton to modernise citizen service delivery in India, data centres were set up across the country to help government departments deliver their services. Therefore, it was prudent to meet the need for integrating latest technological advancements to make those data centres future proof for optimal utilisation, better management, monitoring and service efficiently. Since then, governments across India have taken various IT initiatives gradually to automate the processes of various departments and required resources have been placed at the data centres to meet the goal,” said Aditya Shukla, Head of e-Governance, Chhattisgarh State (NeGD), and Joint CEO of CHIPS.

According to Shukla, with mobile telephony, especially data connectivity witnessing growth and Bharat Net project providing decent connectivity, the avenues for data collection will grow as more number of people will go digital. “The opportunity for the data centre in India will grow as the connectivity improves and emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning, and Blockchain take the centre-stage,” he said.

According to various reports, a large number of enterprises has hybrid environment wherein some applications are hosted on on-premise and some on the cloud. A software-defined environment in which server, storage, network and facilities resources are automatically provisioned and configured by software programmed to understand and adapt decisions to the requirements of each workload in real time, seems to be the way forward.

Furthermore, virtualisation has witnessed decent growth due to its sheer capability of optimising the data centre space – in terms of the hardware, storage, power and cooling usage. Despite the good development, managing energy efficiency is still a key concern for data centres in India as most of them heavily rely on diesel-run generators for energy.

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