Dr B. Sundar, Special Secretary, Department of Information Technology, Electronics and Communications, Government of Andhra Pradesh

Over the past few years, the Indian data centre market has been evolving at a rapid pace. In a bid to leverage opportunities in this space, a number of state governments have been offering incentives for setting up data centres in their states. Andhra Pradesh is one such state that has been attracting investments riding on a conducive policy environment. At tele.net’s recent conference on “Data Centres in India”, Dr B. Sundar, Special Secretary, Department of Information Technology, Electronics and Communications, Government of Andhra Pradesh, spoke about key data centre projects being rolled out, various incentives being offered and future plans. Edited excerpts…

Existing data centre footprint

The state data centre for the united An­dh­ra Pradesh is located at Hyderabad, Ga­chi­bowli, with a server farm of 2,500 squa­re feet, and a total built-up area of 9,000 square feet. The total rack capacity is 67 and this data centre is of Tier II quality, which is the minimum standard required for a data centre. The data centre went live in August 2011, and was constructed on the three-tier network topology of core-distribution-access layers with a network backbone of 10 Gbps in the east-west, that is, intra-data, centre. For managing the data flow from outside (north-south), we had a connectivity of 1 Gbps.

The division of the united state of Andhra Pradesh into Telangana state and the residual Andhra Pradesh state occurred in June 2014. This resulted in the construction of a new data centre at Mangal­giri, Guntur, to cater to the new needs of the divided state. The server farm area is 1,440 square feet, but we have increased efficiency. This means we have gone from Tier II to Tier IV, the highest in the data centre category. We have adopted the spine- and -leaf network topology, which is a contemporary technology. Our bandwidth in the east-west (intra-data centre) has inc­re­a­sed 20 times to 200 Gbps, whereas the north-south traffic bandwidth has increased 40 times to 40 Gbps. This means we are able to host more applications and provide much better efficiency and speed for existing applications.

The existing data centre was built in 2019 under the public-private partnership (PPP) model with a firm called Pi Data Ce­n­tre, located in Mangalagiri, Guntur. Spread across 10 acres, its capacity in the current phase (Phase I) is 10 MW. This required an investment of about Rs 38 crore as capex, and it is currently employing about 34 resources. It has a power usage efficiency value of 1.6. In comparison, the po­wer usage efficiency of Google’s data ce­ntre in Silicon Valley is around 1.25. We have invested the data centre with a virtual extensible LAN fabric in the spine- and -leaf architecture. The data centre also has an autonomous system number adoption from the Indian Registry for Internet Names and Numbers. This means we have a full-fle­d­ged IPv6 and the latest IP address mapping system, which is being followed globally.

We operate on both IPv4 and IPv6 as a dual stack and operate over 1,200 virtual me­mories, hosting over 300 government applications. We have both network-atta­ched storage (around 900 TB) and storage area network, which is a wired form of storage (around 700 TB). The data centre also has standard, redundant firewalls and a network intrusion prevention system, which is integrated with a cybersecurity operation centre so that both monitoring and audit of applications can happen in a seamless manner.

Key benefits

The key benefits involve a smaller carbon footprint, integration with the state security operation centre, and good backup in both enterprise categories – disk based and tape based. This translates into good savings on storage operations. We have conso­lidated databases using the Oracle Ex­adata platform. We also have a MySQL data­base cluster and support the Pos­t­gr­e­SQL database. By consolidating these databases, we have made considerable savings on licence costs.

Andhra Pradesh – A snapshot

We are also positioning ourselves as the information technology (IT) gateway to the east. This is primarily because we are pl­a­ced first in the category of ease of doing bu­siness. Our economic growth rate is 12.73 per cent, which is higher than the national average. Our industrial output is quite high, implying that we are a strong economy bas­ed on both the secondary sector and the services sector. We also have a separate plan for electronic system design and manufacturing. Over 40,000 acres of land is available for industrial development, supported by good power and water resources.

Policy measures and incentives

As far as policy thrust for data centres is concerned, we do have provisions for private sector participation in the Andhra Pra­desh Information Technology Policy, 2021-2024. State data centre and private partners who want to build data centres are eligible for general incentives, which are already in place. Data centres are not huge employment generators, but we have secondary and tertiary support if a big data centre of the size we have planned takes root.

We have provided some special incentives as well. Big players are eligible, th­ro­ugh a special route, for incentives on land, power and taxes. As a special package of incentives, we provide incentives for land at concessional rates, assured power supply, water at competitive prices and external infrastructure support.

The state government is also offering special packages for start-up companies in terms of technology, and assistance for end-to-end set-up such as workspace (including work-from-home incentives). One can visit our website, www.apit.gov. in, and check the current policy incentives. We also offer incentives through a special society, called the Andhra Pradesh In­novation Society, which specifically looks at helping start-ups. We have also provided work-from-ho­me cubicles in designated colleges and ins­ti­tutions in each district. We recently laun­ched this service. If a com­pany wants, say, 20 stations in Tiru­pati, or 20 stations in Vi­sa­khapatnam, or 20 stations in West Go­da­vari district, one can visit the website and make a choice based on availability. This is a work-in-progress, and we will roll out sp­e­cific guidelines on the operationalisation.

Key challenges

One concern could be that if you already have a big business partner, there may not be space for the smaller players. So, we have adopted a wait-and-watch method. Another challenge is the lack of complete knowledge about the economic potential of data centres, from the government’s perspective. From the government’s point of view, the citizens and their centricity are the most important. Commercial considerations take a secondary seat. So, we are trying to maintain a fine balance between the two.

Future investment plans

We have partnered with Adani for an integrated data centre park in Visakhapatnam. This facility is spread across 130 acres of land. This area has been allotted not only to set up the data centre but also to build an energy park, a university for IT skills in the private sector, and social amenities in the form of entertainment zones, residential spaces, etc. The capacity is massive, with 200 MW planned over seven years, with an investment commitment of Rs 146.14 billion. The employment potential is around 25,000. Further, we plan to build a state data ce­n­tre in Andhra Pradesh via the PPP mode. Under the PPP mode, we will be providing certain incentives as spelt out in the IT policy, such as land concessions. We will also be providing 24×7 power at competitive rates as well as water facilities. Over and above these three basic incentives, if the private partner has anything special to give to the state in terms of operational efficiency or bringing in more partners, we are open to providing more incentives. We are planning to have the state data centre built across 10 acres with a nominal capacity of 2 MW to cater to government applications. We are starting as a Tier III data centre and will eventually progress towards a Tier IV centre.

Moreover, we will shortly be inviting partners to help us create a primary site in Visakhapatnam and a disaster recovery site in Kopparthy, which is also one of the electronic manufacturing clusters in Cuddapah district.

Concluding remarks

We hope to catalyse industrial growth in Andhra Pradesh through the above-mentioned strategies described in this literary segue. Data centres, while being a focus of growth within the IT industry, can support a wide variety of industries in the primary and secondary sectors, as it ensures high data velocities between and within the revenue generating units. We hope to improve the e-government rankings of our state and the country indirectly through the above strategies.