Data centres have become a basic necessity in the post-pandemic world, along with water, electricity, gas, and telecoms.
The data centre revenues are projected to hit $948 billion by 2030, up from $466 billion in 2020, growing at a CAGR of 6.7 per cent, according to an Analytics Magazine report.
The COVID-19 crisis has brought about years of change in the way companies in all sectors and regions do business. According to a new McKinsey Global Survey of executives, companies have accelerated the digitisation of their customer and supply-chain interactions and of their internal operations by three to four years. And the share of digital or digitally enabled products in their portfolios has accelerated by a shocking seven years.
Nearly all respondents say that their companies have stood up with at least temporary solutions to meet many of the new demands on them, and much more quickly than they had thought possible before the crisis. Respondents expect most of these changes to be long-lasting and are already making the kinds of investments that all but ensure they will stick.
“The balancing act between capex and opex. In some cases, it depends on the, it varies from situation to situation in some cases to get a capex deal in some cases to get a better opex deal but still, it depends on the size. So there’s a trend of some of the people coming back from cloud to the latest roles,” said Sharad Kumar Agarwal, CDIO, JK Tyre & Industries Ltd during South Asia Digital Week India edition 2022.
He further explained that there are different angles to it one’s own data centre, one is a co-located minus data centre and the other one is hyperscale data centre so what to choose and what not to choose have to be properly and deliberately taught upon with the long term vision, but for some cases, short-termism also works for example in COVID we had a health inquiring app through which wanted to check the health status of our employees. So, we would, it was easier for us to move it to a club.
“At JK Tyre luckily we moved to a co-located data centre back in 2016 with companies managed services complete. So that was a blessing in disguise because when the COVID19 pandemic struck, we were not found wanting to provide uptime services to the business, business was running as usual.
While some of our peers were facing difficulties. So this sort of became a guiding path for our group companies also and we also advised and moved some of our sister concerns to cloud to data centres in various capacities,” added Agrawal.
He further pointed out that now the data centres are getting a bit obsolete with edge taking over whatever you need for smaller workloads to do it there and move it to a data centre or to cloud.
So there have been multiple sorts of different views of how to take care of data, and data centres, but these are interesting times so now we have various choices, one can do it in various ways.
Selecting an appropriate DC Partner
This naturally raises the question- of how to select the right data centre partner.
“I think, the way to get started is by seeing that selection of data centre partners and data centres, cannot be a black box approach I mean you cannot go in with a very generalised approach saying that there is a cookie-cutter data centre out there and let me go ahead and fit my workloads and get ready with my business. For all mature businesses, this can both be an important enabler. And the choice of data centres, and also a critical pitfall right, it can go either way,” said Utkarsh B, Chief Architect, Flipkart.
He further pointed out that the starting point for any one of us has to be to characterise the business accurately for today and for iterations to follow capabilities that require scalability, resilience elasticity, and the nature of it right, that backs your business is a very important meta consideration.
“I would say that we are a digital-first company operating with immense agility, and secondly we constantly innovate. I think I have been in for about a decade and almost every year has been a year of innovation in a different paradigm. So when you’re constantly innovating with agility, I think those DNAs also come into consideration, with a 400 million-plus consumer base of 15 million products and a daily shipment run rate of around a million shipments right in a dose, putting stress on our infrastructure,” added Utkarsh.
He further pointed out there is a bit of nuance to how Flipkart operates. There is a flash sale kind of a construct where mobile phones get sold out in a matter of seconds, and the compute requirement for it scales up from x 20 to 20 x and that is only for a few seconds, and then we host a big billion day
There are a few important considerations that go into first to understand the business, and how it operates and go ahead and make it super in terms of the choices to think about what kind of infrastructure requirement within a data centre that you require.
“I would probably think about six criteria. One Does it help you with business agility right and pandemic more than ever as soon as the need for it right we were required to be really agile and more.
As for the changing landscape around us, data centres have a critical role to play in the capacity, agility, and maybe some of the managed services that you can leverage to probably unlock new business lines or some new capability that the end consumer might need and you have a very small time frame and in those times in the early period of the pandemic we will be churning out new features which consumers required in a matter of weeks. one week to week was the maximum time frame that we were looking at,” added Utkarsh.
Second is flexibility and a lot of variabilities which means provisioning for dynamic business growth. The Peak compute varies from anywhere from 6 to 20 X and not just one month but in seconds, a flash sale is a peak of 20 x and then you come down.
“Third important and I probably place the most emphasis on it is, how does your workload get optimised to these enabling infra elements, namely CPUs, storage networks and any specialised hardware like GPUs. Speaking of CPU, to start with for our data centre we need to understand its architecture and features of it. That will potentially impact your workload.
Do you go in with a homogeneous deployment where the same kind of CPU caters to all kinds of your variable needs or do you need different CPUs for different use cases, then extending that thought to storage solutions in Flipkart probably 90 per cent of our portfolio is a large database right big data right and they’re the requirement is more on availability rather than performance. about more availability than performance, you need to support live migrations,” added Utkarsh.
He further explained that single-digit portfolios would be data stores where you require low latency and where performance will trump over availability and then you would probably need SSD and so on and then about the network at peak, our payload is massive. We are talking about image content, user-generated content and so on with every click that the user does on the Flipkart app.
The amount of traffic going to that network fabric is immense so if you have not designed for the right network fabric. You can choke it out and overlay on top of it would be the concept of traffic prioritisation, not every traffic is equally important. There might be enough payload which is more catering to analytical reporting kind of needs versus a need which sells the life use case for end consumers.
“So if you are contesting for a certain bandwidth, then the live content you’re serving to consumers will be more important and prioritised than the reporting needs. So that is the third important feature, which is, does your workload and get optimised to the enabling environments.
Other elements include one is business continuity. We are a 24×7 shop. So, we need to be highly reliable, reliable and infra is a backbone for all of us. When we started way back, probably we were operating out of tier two data centres and over a period of time when we matured, we became one of the poster boys of this part of the subcontinent,” pointed out Utkarsh.
Flipkart needed to graduate to a minimum of tier four quality data centres with enough time, and fault tolerance backing it to probably around 99.9 and five percentile and then beyond that, thinking about holistic security posture. It’s not a self-contained application ecosystem within data centres for the company. They have a very expansive supply chain network.
Flipkart has devices that Edge operates with no people on the ground and these devices are of heterogeneous nature this could be automation constructs are to be handled devices, so security the Paramount construct rated right from that edge device to the data centre based lot of sensitive data travelling.
So having a holistic security posture is also very important and finally overlaying all of it obviously cost-effectiveness of doing business is what will make a Flipkart as a business sustain.
“So whenever we approach any data centre partner, these are some of the fundamental things that we keep at the back of our mind. And, you know, remote a black-box approach and, you know, the conversation actually goes on into each of these pivots and then we create a magic metric and you know everything, you know, has to fit well,” said Utkarsh.