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There Is No Either Public Cloud Or Colocation, The Two Will Always Be In Tandem: Jatinder Singh Pabla, VP - Sales & Marketing, STT GDC India

Jatinder Singh Pabla, VP of Sales and Marketing, STT GDC India, spoke to BW Businessworld about the roadmap for data centre services in the wake of COVID-19.

Jatinder Singh Pabla serves as Vice President of Sales and Marketing for ST Telemedia Global Data Centres India (STT GDC India), one of the foremost data centre service providers in India. Before this role, Mr. Pabla  spent more than thirteen years in Microsoft where he led the Office 365 Business in India. Given the recent unprecedented turn the market has taken, Ed Nair, Consulting Editor – Technology, BW Businessworld had an interaction with Mr. Pabla to understand his perspective on the current scenario, how he and STT GDC India were combating the challenges faced by this pandemic, and what he thinks the future of the data colocation industry will look like. 

EN: The COVID pandemic has accelerated the adoption of many technologies and the data centre is at the centre of this. How do you see the role of the data centre in the specific context of the pandemic? What are some of the ‘survive and thrive’ stories about STT’s customers?
JSP: I think that’s a very interesting and relevant question. By now all of us agree that this pandemic is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. Business will have to survive and thrive, as you said, through the challenges and threats posed by this pandemic. The current situation has forced every organisation and individual to adopt and carry forward a digital transformation. COVID-19 is pushing organisations towards IT infrastructure outsourcing, to build to business continuity, optimise cost, etc. So, the data centre sector has become so important for the economy to function that it has garnered the status of “essential service”. And then the continued emphasis on “vocal for local” has furthered the importance of data localisation. All this actually has completely sky-rocketed the demand for data centres in India specifically. This sector is now serving as essential backbone of the new digitally enabled economy.

We are definitely committed to continue serving the customer and to maintaining this leadership position in the market. The pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation of the market, and pushed us to ensure the efficacy of the digital tools we use. Regarding ‘survive-and-thrive’ stories, I can’t possibly pick and choose. But one should know that when the lockdown was first imposed, it came with restrictions for businesses, but only on the physical world. The digital world was boundless and faced no restrictions. There was a major surge in the use of online applications and services. And there was a 100% reliance on digital infrastructure, because of which there was a requirement that these services be available without any form of disruption. This sounds very simple in theory, but implementation of this was very tough. Our organization and affiliated entities such as vendors, partners, customers etc., had to significantly ramp up on available infrastructure and processes and work consistently to meet increasing demand and reliability requirements. Meeting these requirements during a lockdown was not easy, but we made it happen. Our employees, our vendors and their employees and our customers all worked beyond the call of duty to make sure the lights are always on. I think that in itself is an amazing ‘Survive-and-Thrive’ story.

EN: What is the kind of spread you have across the country with regards to infrastructure?

JSP: We are present in 8 cities, with 16 data centres. If a customer wants to choose a colocation data centre, it will be in the city located nearest to them. These cities include Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Pune, Chennai, Hyderabad, Delhi and Bengaluru. We are present across these cities, with more than 105 megaWatts (mW) of IT power capacity. IT power capacity is only a part of the overall capacity, which is typically double off the former. That is our footprint. We are the market leaders, holding 1/3rd of the market share, and the plan for us is to double this 105 mW in to more than 200 mW in the next couple of years.

EN: Do you have managing third-party data centres as an offering?
JSP: About 95% of our business is maintaining our own data centres, where the space, floors and in some cases the entire building is dedicated to the customers. But there are examples of managing the business for some of our customers. We’re of course open to be doing more of this, but as of now this is the way our business works.

EN: Cloud computing cases such as IaaS, SaaS, PaaS; DR and BCP; edge computing uses cases like IoT; and many others …. Which are the ones you see as the major drivers for data centre consumption? Please outline the business use cases attached to these technical use cases.
JSP:  There are multiple drivers for data centres in India. That is the beauty of this business and why are so bullish about this business. Firstly, cloud is a definitely a big driver for even colocation services in India. The cloud itself is growing at 33% in India, and this cloud use is high across computing cases such as IaaS, SaaS, PaaS, etc., and it will continue to excel. In fact, the work-from-home culture has further accelerated the usage of cloud services such as user productivity, business application, etc. Secondly, we’ve seen that enterprises are outsourcing their IT infrastructure to data centre players, beyond cloud, to leverage cost optimisation, improve reliability and to leverage business continuity. Some enterprises are choosing cloud, whereas others are using colocation models, and some are even using both in tandem. Thirdly, many other drivers such as BFSI, E-commerce, etc., are setting up their data regulators and data centres in India. There are data regulatory requirements such as RBS guidelines, latency requirements, and these things are driving both new and existing players to set up their infrastructure in India and expanding it. As all of us are aware, the internet and network boom are pushing more TELCOs, OTTs, E-commerce units to set up and expand in India and leveraging colocation services. Lastly, the new generation use-cases applications such as IOT, AI, ML are continuing to proliferate and data centres are being used to leverage that, specifically EDGE, which is pushing the workload outside of the centralised cloud sectors, and closer to clients to prevent further delays and to improve the application performance.

EN:  What are the key differentiators of STT GDC in the data centre space?

JSP: Like I mentioned earlier, we have 16 data centres across 8 cities in India. Along with this, we also have an international presence in 5 countries, with 90 data centres, with hundreds of mW and with many international clients. We are the market leaders, with a 1/3rd share of the market. For us, we try to use colocation centres to bring clients closer to their data, and that is a major USP for us. We are the only data services providers that give our customers the option to pick a size that best suits their strategic endeavours, while lowering their total cost onus. Customers also benefit from our economy of scale. We bring such a large footprint and they also benefit by riding on our growth plans to decrease their Capex. When we go from 105 MW to 200+ MW, all this capacity will be available to our customers on consumption basis, which significantly reduces their Capex requirement. This means the capacity is available for the customer’s need without waiting. Because we are growing at such a fast pace and investing heavily in the market, that definitely makes another important USP for us. We are a very financially stable yet profitable company. It is a very important for a colocation service provider to be financially strong, because only then will you be able to pay their own AMs, be able to manage the service levels and serve the customers’ needs. We take pride in our financial stability. We’ve had a market presence in India for almost 2 decades now, we are trusted by some of the top companies which offer cloud services, social media enterprises, etc. Over these years, we have built an extensive number of checks and measures to eliminate risks and redundancies and that has ensured that we are able to provide almost a 100% guarantee. All these services we have built over time are offered to our customers.

EN: Why should businesses consider STT GDC against public cloud options such as AWS, Azure, etc. and vendor-centric DCs such as IBM, Oracle, etc.?

JSP: There is no either/or between public cloud and colocation, it will always be in tandem. Enterprises are looking to outsource their IT infrastructure. And the factors such as PCO, business continuity and reliability are the same across the board. Their outsourcing plans leverages the best of both worlds based on the demands of applications. There are certain applications that work well with cloud but also some that are not suited for a cloud-model. The reasons could be latency, performance issues or even geographical location. There could be a multitude of reasons why a cloud model might not be best suited to your needs, and this will keep on changing. Which is why enterprises are going to continue to leverage both cloud and colocation services to meet their IT infrastructure requirements. The projection is that the demand for both services is expected to grow at the same pace. There is a collaboration model rather than a competition between the two models. When cloud grows at 33%, it has a direct impact on colocation service providers, allowing them to grow. There is no need for panic among data centre providers over the growth trend of one or both services’ demand.

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Jatinder Singh Pabla STT GDC India