data centres in India

Digital transformation and data centres in India: Sumit Mukhija, CEO STT GDC India

In an interview with Dataquest, Sumit Mukhija, CEO STT GDC India talks about how digital transformation has impacted data centres in India, trends and challenges, and what is in store for data centres in the country

What are the major trends and challenges of managing a colocation data centres in India?

India has rapidly embraced digitization, with both government and enterprises, focussed towards achieving digital inclusion for 1.3 billion Indians. Mass rollout in a country like India requires vast amount of compute, data storage and networks and applications that will drive these services, making data, one of the most valuable resources for the country.  The move towards a digitally connected India is leading towards massive growth in the way data is generated, stored, managed and consumed and needs to be disseminated to users universally through public and private clouds.  Cloud computing is the most disruptive force in the digital age impacting IT strategy and expenditure and adopting a cloud-first strategy which has now become necessary in businesses. The data centre business has witnessed high growth because these factors and would continue to be so in the future.

The spotlight is now firmly focused on efficient, reliable and scalable Data Centres in India. For Enterprise customers, content developers, cloud and OTT service providers, datacenter colocation is the most common and perhaps the most efficient way of consuming datacenter Services.

data centres in India

However, despite this evident demand for colocation, there is still a section of enterprise users that harbours misconceptions around security and control in a colocated environment. As a result, more than nearly 70% of organisations still channel huge capital investments towards in-house, self-managed server rooms and data centres, which are not scalable or reliable and require constant upgrades and maintenance, requiring huge cash outlays. Enterprises that choose to outsource their data centre requirement to a highly specialised third-party data centre services provider not only move to a simplified cost savings model, they also free themselves of the complexity of infrastructure management, leaving more time for core business applications and innovations.

Growth of the data centre services market is also hindered by regulations and complex processes. Currently a number of permissions and clearances are required from multiple government departments and agencies even before we can break ground.  Sourcing Reliable and scalable power from the utility Service providers is also an ongoing challenge. India’s power infrastructure woes limit the expansion to Tier 1 cities, where, real estate is expensive and scarce thus driving up capex costs.

Building global quality data centres demand highly skilled professional in specialized areas like cooling, power, security, network, civil, cabling etc. This expertise is developed over a period, not easy to replicate and is concentrated only in metro cities only.

How do you see Digital Transformation in India impacting data centre strategies?

The digital revolution in India is real, disruptive and well embraced by enterprises. It is aggressively backed by government through popular initiatives like the GST reforms, Smart cities, Rupay, UID and various inclusive citizen services. These are further fuelled by the boom in fintech and ecommerce and now AI and IoT are knocking at our doors as well. A move towards a connected and inclusive digital economy means more and more data is being generated across platforms like cloud, social media and accessed by more and more people using mobile technology. The data being generated needs to be stored, managed and disseminated made available to users ubiquitously on the device of their choice through public and private clouds and thus making data centres the bedrock of digital transformation.

How are you dealing with the availability and costs of key resources – grid power, power from renewable sources, water, skills and connectivity?

We are a technology driven company and we are perpetually in the process of bringing new changes in our existing and newer facilities. For STT GDC India, management and effective utilization of key resources like people, skillsets and most importantly, the scarce resources like water and power is a key priority. Green is no longer just a buzz-word, it is an inherent responsibility that all of us carry.

Across our datacentres we have redundant HT electrical feeds, ensuring reliable and scalable power supply. In India, we are the first data centre services provider undertake the large-scale deployment of Li-Ion batteries for UPS System in one of our production datacenters. Li-on batteries require less floor space and floor loading capacity, faster recharge time of one to three hours thereby providing higher assurance in case of recurring EB failure. Via our well-designed air flow management systems, we have minimized hot and cold air mixing thus making our facilities more efficient.

Currently, more than 30% of our overall power consumption is coming from renewable sources. Using highly energy efficient components, leading to a massive reduction in our carbon footprint. We have deployed new green captive power generation system’s that offer clean & reliable power without any surges, sags or interference, and can be used for directly powering the critical server load without some of the intermediate power conditioning equipment. With key customers, we’ve also undertaken Power utilizations effectiveness (PUE) improvement initiatives.

While India suffers from water scarcity in most parts of the year, there is excess water during Monsoon. To conserve water, we have implemented rainwater harvesting in many of our facilities. Further, by treating and re-using blow down water from chillers, we save over 336 Kilo Ltrs of water annually. We have also done pilot projects wherein we have used hybrid cooling technologies as well as peripheral techniques like adiabatic cooling to reduce water consumed by chillers plants. We are in the process of deploying a new “air to water” generation plant that produces upto 1000 litres of water per day from moisture in the air on a Beta basis.  These are ongoing efforts expected to achieve even higher amounts of savings of water.

By increasing efficiency and driving the adoption of renewables, we believe we are making a huge difference and are demonstrating how green business is good business.

We have standardized on LED lighting fixtures in all of our Datacenters and Offices saving significant units of electricity.

Green and sustainability is a corporate direction for us. Even for our internal meetings and communications needs, we encourage the use of video conferencing and Telepresence and avoid air travel to the extent possible and reduce carbon footprint.

We see an increase in the adoption of cloud and hybrid models by Indian enterprises. How does this change the dynamics for colocation players?

Increasing adoption of cloud is creating a win-win scenario for the entire ecosystem including Cloud providers, customers and Data centre colocation services providers alike.

A typical enterprise has hundreds of applications. Each one of these applications has its own dependencies and complexities. While some applications are extracted from the cloud using SaaS models, others channel into it using IaaS and PaaS models (applications requiring burst capacities and web applications). Applications that are data hogs may be better served by a dedicated, private cloud. A colocation environment sweeps across all these environments evenly and effectively.

Customers moving some of their applications to the cloud are increasingly taking colocation and managed hosting services from Data centre Services providers for rest of the applications and in doing so, they ensure those applications are nearer to the cloud.

Cloud Services Providers are working closely with their trusted carrier-neutral Data Centre service provider partners for their core as well as edge capacity requirements which they further use for offering services to their end customers.

Data centre colocation and cloud complement each other, and together, enable the new generation of digital enterprises.

CIOs today have become an integral part of the board meetings, they have been in the forefront of driving digital revenue streams. Do you see a shift in their buying patterns?

The role of IT in an enterprise has evolved from just a set of EDP servers and a cost center to that of being a business enabler and differentiator. Enterprises now increasingly leverage subject matter experts and service providers to meet their Infrastructure needs and to keep the lights up and running. Accordingly, the role of CIO Is fast emerging as an Innovator and a digital evangelist, chartered with enabling the use of digital for business transformation and service differentiation. Buying strategies are shifting towards “Anything-as-a-service” ( XaaS) models. Relevance, trust, reliability and agility will be top considerations for them while buying any products or services. The vendor-buyer relationship itself is evolving into a partnership model.

Where would you like to see the Indian data centre, outsourcing and cloud industries in 5 years’ time?

While already in part above, the rapid pace of digitisation, accelerated move towards 5G and with proliferation of internet, and SaaS, there is an explosion of demand growth for IT Infrastructure within Indian enterprises, the government and foreign companies in India. This is leading to huge amount of data being generated, which results in a surge in demand for our data centre facilities in India to house them. As enterprises go colo to avoid the complexity of building and managing large scale datacentres, it is resulting in enhanced customer interactions, better customer service and richer customer experience. The Indian data centre landscape is going to witness hyperscale facilities that offer critical IT power of > 50 MW, with Mumbai leading the way followed by Bangalore, Pune and Chennai. Such large facilities will demand innovative infrastructure solutions for design, construction, engineering and operations. Industry will offer high-density racks setups enabling efficient utilization of space, while bringing down inter-rack cabling requirement and associated delays. In the coming years, more and more enterprises (Indian and international) will use high-quality third party data centres to deliver end to end services.

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