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Data Centers – A New Industry In Pakistan

Our Thinking

Data Center Pakistan

Dawn Images interviews Mr. Raja Jehangir, Director Strategic Planning, Center-X Solutions Pvt. Ltd, Pakistan, bringing in a new wave of data center solutions in the country.

Q. What’s the big deal about Data Centers and why the hoopla surrounding them now?
Well, the “hoopla” has been around for a while, but only now is the industry truly examining the complexity of the data centre. The last two decades have seen a paradigm shift in the way we do business. Companies have always risen and fallen, based on the level of service or need on offer by an organisation. In the last two decades, the “computerised” environment has played a bigger role in the level of service offered, and the pace of this has been accelerating at break neck speed.

Now, It’s pretty clear that there’s an architectural shift going on in the industry. Previously businesses relied on the client-server relationship internally, processing of data for internal use, but now we are at a stage that the services a company offers are not “at the counter” but online. This has resulted on the greater dependency on ensuring uptime, right about the time where certain elements within the Pakistan infrastructure, power delivery, cost and security are being stretched. This has resulted in a greater demand for reliability, which in turn has placed a greater demand on data centres to deliver the uptime required.

The flipside of the “hoopla” is that companies are now evaluating the cost of the data centre far more closely. It is a cost of business. What this trend means is that your servers can be professionally managed by a data centre, so you can actually have a weekend and not spend all your time trying to manage your servers. It’s like having banks manage your money rather than you managing your money. Also since the networks now have become secure and the computers have become fast enough that this is possible.

Q. Why do we need data centers? Isn’t it better that companies keep their own information safe?

This is the mindset that has hampered the industry to an extent in Pakistan. This can be attributed to the early data centres in the country not maximising the business potential, and also the “client” not willing to let go of the perceived control. The issue of “information safety” within an external data centre is actually a non issue, but it is the physical parting that often creates angst. Till now, the cost associated with providing a service through ICT infrstructure has not come under scrutiny, but as costs of power delivery and reliability rise we are seeing a shift in opinion in Pakistan. Only about 30% of the CIOs in the U.K., for example, are held to account for the electricity bill, this is a trend we see here, but we forecast that we will see costs associated with data centres being audited more efficiently and commercial data centres focusing on such costs to increase their margins. What companies did not realize is that for every kilowatt-hour of IT electricity use, you have more kilowatt-hours for supporting equipment — cooling, fans and air flow. This is just overhead that doesn’t result in more computing, and the more you can reduce it the better. This is a large over-head per Kw/H most companies are paying for their Datacenters. IT departments should be looked at towards treating and managing IT as a strategic resource subject to the same cost controls as any other department. Efficiency is the key.

Q. What do you consider when running a data center?

Environmental influences play a crucial role and require in-depth analysis in advance of planning and implementation. A critical point to note is the matter of security and availability requirements. When defining objectives, it is essential to establish which hazards can potentially occur, external influences include natural disasters and accidents such as fires, while internally, it could be data security or attacks . In Pakistan, things like Uptime, Power Delivery, Cooling as in line with international flags in terms of requirements. However, we also have to contend with civil disorder, security threats and flooding, when considering a data centre.

Q. Aren’t large enterprises or mainly large companies customers have use of outsourcing their data centers or smaller companies have this need as well?

Ans. Pakistan is increasingly joining the ranks of countries with a sizeable population of Web 2.0 companies and business units of large enterprises with zero-tolerance for IT failure. Industries such as Telecom, Banks with their ATM machines for example, credit card machines, m-banking and so forth are increasingly relying on IT to be the core of their business. In shipping email is a legal document. These are the first industries that have migrated to the outsourced data center model. Moreover as more Pakistani companies become export oriented and start becoming global companies, they will need their processes to be up and running at all times. This mission criticality will lead to a bigger boom in Data Centers in the country.

Q. What is the Quality of Data Centers In the Country and are they up to global standards?

Ans. Whilst we do have some excellent data centers in Pakistan, the up and coming data centers are the ones to watch. They’ve learnt from the lessons of their earlier pioneers and are truly bringing in global standards in this country. However it is end users who must ensure that the supplier they choose is able to cater to their reqirement, on Uptime, Connectivity and items such as Civil Disorder or Terrorist Threat. Setting strict SLAs and outlining exactly what measures are expected of the data centre, will go a long way to preventing a downtime and delivering a quality service.

Q. What is trend-setting?

Telecoms traditionally had large investments in network infrastructure rollouts. We’re seeing next generation mobile and fixed networks being planned, 3G and fiber rollouts. Telecoms are increasingly fearful that they cannot survive on micro-margins in commoditized markets which is a boom to industries like ours. The great thing that’s going on in IT is automation. Anything that’s related to automation is what we will be looking back on as transformational. Also there are the additional demands on business infrastructure which are going to be coming from online video and social media, a growing B2B software-as-a-service market (SaaS) market, and the exponential growth of web-enabled mobile devices and other Internet-based offerings in our country.

We’re also seeing the beginning of Virtualization and Managed Services Model of business as Data Centers move from being a merely a ‘Cold Room’ towards adding more values to their clients. The days of getting a single million dollar client may be coming to an end and the future could very well be about serving the larger net communities over the cloud and net services. Now it will be about a million customers deliver one dollar each.

Q. What is your recommendation for companies that have decided to not outsource but to build their new data center or modernizing their existing one? Is there a rough guide?

Every organisation is different, but every organisation should be looking at bottom line operational cost. When evaluating a move ahead with in house development of data centres, do question, “What is more core business? Is it building and managing my data centre or is it about delivery of a promise to your clients?” When looking at your in house data centre, do factor in not just the construction cost, but also the cost of maintenance and power costs. The quickest and easiest way to save money and get efficient either in-house or outsourced is by using the latest energy efficient hardware at enterprise level coupled with the right power and cooling upgrades to your data center.

A good way is to drive down your energy use in your office is through the use of Smart-PCs which have a rated-power of 40 Watts, and can cater to 95% of the business user’s needs, with higher end machines used to the remaining 5%. This has the twin benefit of lowering your generator set costs and increasing the output of your UPSs leading to massive savings.

Q. For Disaster recovery, where is the best place to have your DR site?

That is a tough question as there is an element of personal choice. In my opinion, the preference would be what the Financial Services Authority in the UK advises, namely “not too close but not too far away”. There is a number of people who believe in DR sites being in a different city, I believe this to be a mistake, as the reasoning is for a city wide disaster. City wide disasters are rare and by their very nature prevent travel out of the city. I would prefer having the core team, the key element in any disaster being close to my DR site. Outside your city, at a reasonable distance, may be the answer.

Q. Which are the key characteristics of the data center of the future?

The data center of the future will be modular, expandable, flexible, with a higher level of integration between the IT equipment and the infrastructure. The two systems have to be better integrated to allow for optimum efficiency. I see the servers themselves telling the cooling system how much cooling they need, and all of this in a well controlled space with excellent airflow segregation.

Originally Published: Dawn, Images, Page 10, Sci-tech, 2nd January, 2010

To Contact Raja Jehangir for Data Center Services:

About Raja Jehangir:

Raja Jehangir Mehboob, Director Strategic Planning: After completing his education in Business Information Technology in the United Kingdom, he joined Lehman Brothers’ management trainee program in 1987. He has experience in the International Foreign Exchange, Money Market, Equities, Commodities, Derivatives, domestic Asset Management and Data Centre industries. After Lehman Brothers, he rose through the ranks within 2 years to hold the position of Senior Dealer and Chief Dealer for Po Sang Bank, one of the 12 sister banks that comprise Bank of China, where he was instrumental in Po Sang’s first Treasury in the United Kingdom. This was followed by setting up and heading the Foreign Exchange department of Sucden Financial, the World’s largest Coffee, Cocoa and Sugar Broker followed by setting up of the Institutional Foreign Exchange desk for Archer Daniels Midland, a company listed on the NYSE.

During his time with Lehman Brothers and Prudential, he was instrumental in the first steps taken by the organisations in computerised trading and pricing platforms, including the development of the first “Exchange for Physical” trading program, giving the organisations a 20 second advantage on price discovery on Futures<->Spot. He has developed mathematical trading models based on Fibonacci, Moving Averages, Momentum indicators and divergences in the market which was applied to a highly successful fund in FX, Precious Metals, Commodities and Equities trading.

The depth of knowledge skills have resulted in a concept paper being co-authored and presented at Harvard Business School titled “Quasi Equity Islamic Finance”. Additionally, he has written/contributed to concept-theoretical papers for mutual funds based on carbon credits and wind generated power, Gold and Inflation Tracker Funds. He was instrumental in developing the Dawood Islamic Fund, which based on the criteria set in the guidelines remained the top performing Islamic Equity fund with the lowest standard deviation in Pakistan while he was with the organisation.

His time in the Data Centre Industry in Pakistan as Head of Sales, and then Strategic Planning saw a growth in profits of over 500%. He is registered with the Financial Services Authority in the UK as an authorised investment adviser.

He is currently Director Strategic Planning at CentreX Solutions (Pvt.) Ltd., a company specialising in Disaster Recovery, Business Continuity, Energy efficient desktop computing and VDI.