India is poised to emerge as a superpower in the global data centre space. Although the country’s data centre consumption, at about 1 MW per million population, is significantly lower than that of Europe (21 MW) and the US (8 MW), it has valuable resources such as skilled manpower, land and power, which are driving the growth of the data centre market. The government is playing a key role in this growth.
An enabling business landscape is attracting investments from global players, and the categorisation of data centres as essential services is driving digitalisation across sectors. Policies such as the draft Data Centre Policy, the National E-Commerce Policy and the Smart Cities Mission are further facilitating the expansion of data centres.
Nxtra, a subsidiary of Bharti Airtel, serves as one of the largest inter-connected digital platforms to serve the digital aspirations of India. Currently, Nxtra by Airtel serves around 450 customers through its 12 data centres and 120 edge data centres across the country. These facilities also serve next-generation applications such as artificial intelligence and machine learning. Nxtra’s data centres play a significant role in India’s digital growth.
The surge in real-time applications underscores the importance of technology-ready data centres, both at the IT and utility layers. Nxtra has a workable model that allows it to plug in and give viable solutions to address customer requirements.
Headwinds and suggestions
Despite growth projections, the data centre industry faces some headwinds. The industry requests a single-window clearance mechanism to further accelerate the pace of the deployment process and seek additional incentives for green energy supplies, wherever possible. Overall, we see more opportunities than issues/challenges for the data centre industry.
In addition, power is the food for hardware. Green energy development with reliable supply is crucial to meet the power demands of data centres. For seamless management of the digital supply chain, independent data centre companies, telecom service providers, cloud service providers, OEMs and software-as-a-service companies must be interconnected. New stakeholders such as peering partners, internet exchanges and other relevant vendors also need to work in tandem to ensure smooth growth. Further, the scale and number of upcoming data centres will be difficult to manage at the physical layer. An integrated and automated layer, including control systems, robots and QR-based methods, will be required to manage the scale of data centre operations.
Nxtra has two main focus points for the coming years. The benchmarked target of IT capacity is 2,100 MW by 2026 compared to an estimated 700 MW in 2023. Nxtra aims to be at the forefront of this growth and plans to invest Rs 50 billion by 2026 to further scale up its industry-leading network of hyperscale and edge data centres. The company is aiming to increase its capacity by 2x, to 400 MW, in the next three years.
The company plans to develop six new hyperscale data centres in India. across key metro cities – Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, NCR and Kolkata. Further, Nxtra aims to develop technology-ready data centre infrastructure to cater to AI and new-age applications with higher floor loading and innovative cooling technologies. The second goal is to achieve net-zero emissions by 2031. The company is focusing on driving the Digital India initiative in a sustainable manner by adopting innovative green energy technologies. Overall, the long-term growth of data centres will be possible through the combined efforts of all stakeholders.
Based on a presentation by Gaurav Singh, Product Head, Nxtra by Airtel