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Airtel Preparing For A Bigger Enterprise Play; To Set Up 10 New Data Centers

Bharti Airtel is preparing for a bigger enterprise play through its new cloud and data centre strategy with an aim to become the country’s largest data centre company by providing its infrastructure to global players like Microsoft and app makers, among others.

As part of this strategy, Airtel’s wholly-owned data centre unit, NxtraData Ltd, is planning to set up 10 new data centres with four being planned immediately in Pune, Chennai, Mumbai and Kolkata. The data centre business expects huge demand from over-the-top (OTT) content players and big cloud service providers, amid a clamour for data localisation in the country.

“We signed with large global partnerships with all the big cloud companies. We are creating a marketplace for the cloud…some of the big 4 are using our infrastructure, while for some we are offering their services even if they are not sitting in our infrastructure,” Ajay Chitkara, CEO of Airtel Business, told ET.

He said that all large OTTs, global players with app-based service, and even large cloud players are driving this growth exponentially for the company. “Any big content company is working with us.”

Also, 70% of the data is actually stored outside India currently.

“And that data has to come to India, and if it’s coming, it needs to be stored somewhere. That’s one big reason for this big push growth which is happening in the data centre market,” he said, adding that the data localisation policy would drive the growth.

The data centre market in India—data centre infrastructure, public cloud services, and private cloud services—is expected to reach $4-5 billion by 2020, from $1.8 billion in 2017, as per third-party estimates.

Airtel is offering managed services, cloud services and private and public clouds, besides providing data centre as infrastructure and co-location services, said Chitkara. Airtel is also offering cloud optimisation on top of these data centres and other services.

The Pune data centre, being set up in the special economic zone (SEZ), will be operational from February. “We have a few global clients already pre-sold into it,” Chitkara said.

In addition to these new full-fledged data centres, the Airtel subsidiary has also converted its 120 mobile Core sites (MSCs) into edge data centres. These edge data centres are at close locations to customers, enabling easier and seamless access to data by its enterprise customers. All these data centres are being set up using green energy, the executive said.

He said that the business is growing very fast, and is adding 30-40% growth over the current customer base year-on-year. “The capacity is also being expanded.”

Airtel is also one of the empanelled partners for the state and central government’s cloud-based projects.

Nxtra Data is creating an ecosystem with an internet exchange kind of a model that comprises data center, submarine cable and wireless network. Chitkara said that the company is attracting OTT content companies through this data centre ecosystem wherein global content can be brought to the country through submarine cable and be stored in a nearby data centre like in Chennai.

Airtel’s enterprise business currently serves around 1200 global customers, around 1000 enterprise customers, and almost half a million SME customers. Chikara said almost all these customers have requirements for cloud and data centre services. – ET Telecom

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