Two Areas SMEs Should not Ignore: Data Centers and Unified Communications

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Unified Communications

We spoke to Subir Bhatnagar, Vice President and Global Head - Solutions, AGC Networks on the latest developments in data centers and unified communications.

Subirbhatnagar

NASA has been reportedly closing many of its data centers. Even for the Mars mission by Curiosity, it used the cloud in the form of Amazon Web Services stating that it's current in-house infrastructure in the JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) is incapable of handling the volume and throughput of data. For an organization as large and sophisticated as NASA to say this, do you see this as a discouraging factor for SMEs wanting to explore data center solutions?

According to me NASA isn't closing data centers but consolidating them. Any organization today cannot exist without a secured data storage system. Yes every organization does need a cost optimized solution and when the setup is that of an organization like NASA, the data storage bill runs into billions of dollars.

Secondly, the move to use Amazon Web Services to connect Curiosity with world shows the importance of outsourcing non-core operations to a reliable partner who will help optimize expenses by using Cloud and open source Content Management System and help manage large operations more cost effectively. So in this light, I feel there is no discouragement at all and definitely SMEs need not worry on what NASA is moving to but look at solutions available in market which are customized for their geography and their vertical.

In India so far for the current year, the rainfall has not been as much as expected on an average in some areas. This might highlight the need to think about water usage at data centers. Facebook recently released statistics about its water usage efficiency for the data center. Do you think other organizations will follow suit and share best practices?

Yes rains have been less but this is not the reason why data center should move to better water management practices or energy management practices. A physical 15-megawatt data center can use more than 3 lakh gallons of water every day to cool its systems. This and many more are the reason why Data Centers have been emphasizing on shifting to a Green approach. Today data center operators are looking at using low temperature ambient air, evaporating water and free cooling, etc. as measures to manage server temperature and power requirements. They are working on optimizing power distribution, improvising air flow and constantly monitoring PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) of the setup. Today's need is not just to adopt best practices but also create new ones as per your setup.

Continuing with Facebook, a data center needs to be designed with clinical precision. It is said that a part of the electrical system for Facebook's Prineville data center was designed in the middle of the night on a napkin in the absence of anything else being available. Surprisingly, Facebook has suffered far fewer outages compared to e.g. Twitter. In any case, what precautions should SMEs take while designing their data center?

Data Center is a specialized field and when largest of enterprises are moving to outsourcing data center management services to experts I feel even SMEs should have this non-core activity outsourced. So that they can best focus on business and its growth. And it won't be precaution but a necessity to see where data is being stored, how secure and accessible it is, how the security measures get updated, etc. while partnering with a data center solution provider.

What are the potential benefits and risks for an SME that chooses to go for an out-of-the-box data center solution compared to a more customized solution requiring complex deployment?

Customization is always costly and it should be evaluated from a business perspective. If the answer is 'yes' and business sees value in it there is no way costs would be a hindrance. But like I said, it should be a business need and nothing else.

Given the current turbulence in Indian telecom policy and legislation (especially cellular), what are the challenges that unified communications have to face in order to gain wider acceptance?

Even if we keep the cellular policies aside, two recent articles said August has been a tough month for telecom companies and 3G services will continue to be poor in India. This raises the biggest issue for UC only. If the 3G services have not been really great, will a telecom company focus on improving 3G services which are yet not the main revenue contributor OR will they go out of the way to improvise 3G services which are the backbone of UC from wireless front? Only time will tell. On a wire line, enterprise UC solutions, adoptions are on a steep rise. Enterprises are moving to work-from-anywhere and BYOD concepts and these will ensure UC doesn't get sidelined.

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