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THE BUSINESS OF STORING BITS AND BYTES

When it comes to IT infrastructure requirements, data centers are a top priority now. It is seen as a key business parameter, and not as an external facility for storage of information and business operation models. Cashing on this thriving need for storing data, Bangladesh too is witnessing a boom in data center business.

As of now, there are some private organizations which are providing commercial data center facility services. Among them, the Colocity of Ispahani group and ColoAsia of Mir Group are functioning in the market. Few other data centers are going to be established within the next one year.

Large corporate groups like Summit Communications, Square informatix, fiber@homes, Kazi IT are investing to build data centers as they data business to be the next big business idea.

Beside the private sector, the government is also going to establish the largest tier-4 data center for the commercial and industrial data business in Gazipur Kaliakair Park. The government is going to rent out that center to the industry and earn money for the national exchequer.

A new business scope for the private sector

Talking about the data center business, Atiqullah Sayed, Manager of the lone Colocity said that they had established the entity back in 2007 to meet up the demand of the growing need of data storage market.

“We have over 40 clients including commercial banks, multinational companies (MNC), insurance companies, telcos and others.” He said that their data center is located over a 10,000 square feet space and has around 160 racks. Explaining about the racks, he said that a data center rack is a type of physical steel and electronic framework that is designed to house servers, networking devices, cables and other data center computing equipment.

This physical structure provides equipment placement and orchestration within a data center facility, he added.

Sayed said that Colocity is the lone commercial data center service provider now. “There are others data center owned by some of the large commercial banks and telecommunication companies but those are not being used for commercial purposes.”

About the advent of new players in the market, he said, “This market will grow in geometric manner in near future. There is business for all.”

Meherun Nasir, Director of Coloasia said that they already have five data centres. Two in Dhaka, one in the Red Crescent Borak Tower, the other is in Gulshan 1. They also have one in Bagura, one in Sylhet and the DR centre is in Jessore.

“Our data center business is quite big. All these clients are entrusting us with their data. The next step for us is cloud computing. At the present the clients are bringing in their own racks and their servers. We are already running cloud based server hosting on a small scale.”

She said that they are doing software solutions like prep server, email server. “We can host and clients can come in and share. This is 24/7 service. We are providing software solution of all kinds.”

“We are providing the infrastructure. You just have to pay the monthly rent and we take care of the rest. With cloud computing you don’t need to bring your racks and server to us,” she added.

The commercial plan for national data center

Tareq M Barkatullah, director of National Data Centre said that the current storage capacity of the national data center in Bangladesh Computer Council (BCC) at Agargaon is two Petabyte.

“When the National Data Centre was inaugurated back in 2010, its storage capacity was 30 terabyte. It took nearly four years to expand that capacity up to 750 terabytes another two years to increase that up to two Petabytes.”

“This capacity of two Petabytes is being used to meet up the demand of the government entities. The increase of data flow from different government entities had been increased by manifold, in the past couple of years. Starting from the taxpayer information to files from different ministries, regulatory bodies- the volume of data being stored in the data centre is huge.

Besides, financial data of Bangladesh Bank and the commercial banks are stored in the data centre which raises the demand for increasing the capacity of the data centre, he added.

Barkatullah said that to ensure that important data is not lost during natural calamities or any such emergencies; a National Disaster Data Recovery Center (NDDRC) is being set up in Jessore to keep a backup of the National Data Centre.

The Recovery Centre will be housed in the Software Technology Park (STP) which is under construction in the south-western city of Bangladesh. Following preliminary assessment, the Jessore site has been declared low risk for natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, wildfires etc factors that are very crucial for setting up recovery data centres, he said.

Investment Corporation of Bangladesh (ICB) along with state-owned commercial banks Sonali Bank, Janata Bank, Agrani Bank, Rupali Bank, Bangladesh Development Bank and Sadharan Bima Corporation provided funding to establish the NDDRC, he added.

A Tier-4 National Data Center on the way

Meanwhile, the government is planning to establish a Tier-4 National Data Center-the sixth one in the whole world-at Hi-Tech Park of Kaliakoir. It is well on course to be finished by June 2018, official with the ICT Division said.

Tier-4 is the largest type of data center and currently, there are five Tier 4 data centres in the world. They are located in Madrid (Spain), Alcala de Henares (Spain), Las Vegas (USA), Olathe (USA) and Guelph (Canada).

Abu Sayeed Chowdhury, Project Director of Tier-4 Data Center said, they are anticipating finishing the construction work by March 2018. Bangladesh has already got design certification and construction design review from the US based Uptime Institute for its Tier 4 National Data Center, he said.

Uptime Institute consultants review 100 percent of the design documents, ensuring each subsystem among electrical, mechanical, monitoring and automation meet the fundamental concept and there are no weak links in the chain.

The Project Director of the Tier-4 Data Center project said a four-member committee with local consultant visited China on February 18 this year for pre Shipment Inspection (PSI) test, including individual test of generator, chiller and cooling system. The team conducted a rigorous test of all the equipment.

“We received positive results on PSI test from China and have also recommended some additional improvements,” he said. Chinese companies ZTE Holding Company Limited and ZTE Corporation are lined up to build the Bangladesh’s Tier 4 National Center at an estimated cost of Taka 12 billion ($155.4m). The project is being funded by China Exim Bank.

Earlier, experts concerned have questioned the selection of hi-tech park of Kaliakair in Gazipur for the establishment of the fifth largest data centre in the world. According to the geological survey reports, Gazipur’s Kaliakair is an earthquake zone and establishment of such highly sensitive facility over an earthquake zone might prove to be a wrong decision, experts feared.

About that fear, Abu Sayeed Chowdhury said, a total of 739 pilings have already made on the twenty acre site for resisting earthquake. “Experts from the Civil Engineering Department of BUET are working on this project. We have made the center earthquake-proof we believe.”

Dr Liakot Ali, director of Institute of Information and Communication Technology (IICT) of BUET however said, even if a building is modern and meets the current code, it is common for at least some equipment to lack sufficient seismic restraint. “As storage process is interconnected with telecommunication network, failure at one part could potentially bring the whole system down”.

He further said, even if the building and equipment are seismically resistant, lifeline failure in earthquakes is common. For example, many critical facilities rely on an HVAC system that uses evaporative cooling, using water from the community water supply. If that supply is disrupted, an otherwise undamaged facility may be inoperative for days or weeks, he added.

Dr Ali said that having a backup facility reduces the chance that an earthquake will interrupt operations. “But if the backup is located close to the primary site, both sites can be rendered inoperative by the same earthquake”.

Tarique M Barkatullah however said that the Kaliakair was considered as a location as other alternative sites would cause a significant rise in the cost.

“Kaliakair hi-tech park would become Bangladesh’s silicon valley. So it would be better, if a tier-4 data centre is established there”, he said adding that appropriate earthquake-related measures would be taken in constructing the centre in Gazipur.

What lies ahead?

Data center specialist Mahbubul Haque who worked in Morgan Stanly’s Data Center in Seattle for over a decade told The Independent that in Bangladesh, the market for data center will witness exponential growth.

“Growing e-commerce businesses, startups and large enterprises alike expect data centre companies to host their IT infrastructure so that a company uses whatever is needed (like real-estate, connectivity, IT systems etc.) on a subscription basis,” he said.

He said that more and more companies are becoming aware of disaster recovery, resulting in them approaching data centers. “There is an accelerating shift of IT services from traditional enterprise data centres into the co-location, managed services and consuming IT as a service.”

He said that consumption of IT as service is driving new technologies, which can be broadly, referred to as software-defined everything (SDE). “This (SDN) is changing the way networks are built and managed. It is enabling agility and security with reduced operational cost and complexity, in networks,” he added. ■

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