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Data Centres on RLDA Land Parcels to be a Game-Changing Prospect, ET Infra

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<p>Apurva Agnihotri, General Manager/Security &amp; IT, Rail Land Development Authority RLDA</p>
Apurva Agnihotri, General Manager/Security & IT, Rail Land Development Authority RLDA

In today’s digital age, data has become the lifeblood of businesses across industries. The exponential growth of data has created a need for efficient and secure storage solutions, giving rise to the development of data centres.

These centres act as a geographic place where businesses can keep their mission-critical programs and data, providing a network of computing, storage, and networking capabilities.

The concept of data centres revolves around three main components: compute, store, and network. These centres involve a substantial cost of capital expenditure (CAPEX) in various areas such as land and shell, building fit-out, electrical systems, HVAC/mechanical systems, and IT system setup.

The power requirements for servers, network equipment, air conditioning, generators, and power conditioning further contribute to the CAPEX. Additionally, data centres require investments in security systems, operational manpower, and IT infrastructure.

Data centres cater to a diverse set of businesses, including email services, gaming companies, e-commerce platforms, artificial intelligence (AI), and the Internet of Things (IoT). Each business has specific prerequisites for its data centre, including physical infrastructure customized to their requirements, suitable hardware and software options, reliable connectivity through fibre-based networks, and robust security measures encompassing multi-layered checks, permissions, and CCTV surveillance.

Ensuring data security is crucial in data centres, with protocol-based setups implemented to protect sensitive information. Power and cooling are critical factors in maintaining the efficiency and reliability of data centres, with careful monitoring and management of consumption.

Citing the example of the Chennai data centre on the NTT campus, which consists of two towers and requires 35 MW of IT load from a six-acre land parcel. On average, data centres occupy around 0.2 million square feet and have a 13 MW IT power requirement.

The setup of such data centres involves building design with cooling, power, and physical security in mind, installation of hardware and network equipment, networking planning, and software implementation, including operating systems and data security measures.

Maintenance of data centres is an ongoing process that includes managing hardware, network equipment, and software, conducting upgrades and patching, monitoring environmental factors like temperature and humidity through sensors, and ensuring power monitoring, storage, and backup. Data centres must also incorporate fault tolerance and redundancy measures to withstand disruptive events and continue operations seamlessly.

Regular audits and assessments, including Data Centre Infrastructure Management (DCIM) evaluations, are essential to evaluate scalability, assess the need for upscaling or downsizing, and maintain 24/7 service efficiency and security. Data centres must keep their core competency programs, financial data, research, and other secretive types of information under control while ensuring business processes remain undisrupted.

Data centres also serve the purpose of storing legacy data, with newer data being stored on the cloud. They act as disaster recovery (DR) sites, mitigating risks such as earthquakes, floods, power disruptions, and cross-border issues. Data centres play a crucial role in handling big data and can take advantage of emerging technologies like edge computing to enhance their capabilities.

Additionally, legal requirements, such as keeping data within a specific country, need to be addressed, especially for multinational corporations (MNCs). The development of data centres comes in various forms to cater to different business needs. These variants include co-location data centres, enterprise data centres, managed data centres, virtual data centres, micro data centres, hyper-scale networks, and hybrid data centres. Each variant offers unique benefits and solutions for businesses seeking data storage and management.

However, developing data centres also poses several challenges. Cloud platforms, such as Infrastructure as a Service (IAAS), Platform as a Service (PAAS), and Software as a Service (SAAS), introduce complexities in management, especially with PAAS and SAAS offerings. Public cloud services raise concerns related to security, transparency, and visibility, prompting some companies to prefer maintaining their own data centres.

Managing software updates, license renewals, data and physical security issues, hardware upgrades, and meeting Service Level Agreement (SLA) conditions are additional challenges.

Running expenses, especially cooling and energy costs, can be significant for data centres. The tight timelines of application deployment and migration add pressure, and the trend toward mobile data centres and the miniaturization of storage further complicate the landscape.

To overcome these challenges and promote better marketing of data centres, several trends and suggestions can be considered. Implementing energy-efficient designs, using renewable energy sources like solar power, and adopting green technologies and liquid cooling systems can reduce carbon emissions and overall running costs. Offsetting strategies such as nature-based solutions can contribute to sustainability.

User utility packaged solutions that offer comprehensive power solutions, uninterrupted connectivity, and planned design and technology choices can enhance the value proposition for businesses. As the Indian market is concentrated and faces challenges of high CAPEX costs and low availability of resources, major players are expanding their customer base across foreign countries. Medium to small players are also striving to expand their client base.

Rapid technology adaptation, such as edge computing and AI supporting servers, along with continuous innovation, including underground and above-ground data centre designs, are important for staying ahead in the market. Leveraging government support, such as the Digital India initiative and specific incentives provided by states, can further boost the development of data centres.

The Indian data centre market is witnessing substantial growth. According to JLL research in 2021, it recorded a strong absorption of 116 MW, reaching a total capacity of 565 MW. The market is expected to reach 1369 MW by 2024. Mumbai and Chennai are projected to experience higher growth due to their infrastructure advantages, accounting for 68% of the total capacity in 2024. The demand for data centre space in India is increasing, with Mumbai leading at 6.18 million square feet, followed by Chennai at 2.03 million square feet.

Investment commitments for data centre spaces in India are on the rise. Global players like Digital Realty, Oracle, AWS, Yotta, Webworks, Microsoft, ServiceNow, and Princeton are actively expanding their presence in India through partnerships and investments.

Equinix Inc. recently announced plans to build its third International Business Exchange (IBX) data centre in Mumbai, showcasing the growing interest in the Indian market.

In conclusion, the development of data centres in Rail Land Development Authority (RLDA) land parcels presents a promising prospect. Data centres have emerged as a significant market globally, offering solutions for secure data storage and management.

The challenges associated with developing data centres can be overcome through innovative solutions, technology adaptation, and leveraging government support. With the increasing demand for data storage and the growing Indian market, the development of data centres in RLDA land parcels holds immense potential for both businesses and the overall economy.

(This article is written by Apurva Agnihotri, General Manager/Security & IT, Rail Land Development Authority RLDA)

  • Published On Jul 19, 2023 at 03:03 PM IST

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