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India's growing network scenario

29 October 2009

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India’s giant leap towards virtualisation, unified communications, and cloud computing will help bring technology to the masses and reduce associated costs, says Harshal Kallyanpur, correspondent at United Business Media. Successful transition from wired to wireless technologies will fill in the gaps in IT infrastructure, he adds.

A few years ago, for India Inc, the Internet meant a dial-up connection, which would facilitate communication between the geographically dispersed offices of an organisation.

To the consumer this meant access to e-mail, Instant Messaging, etc.

India has come a long way since then. The growth of IT called for better communication technologies; this, in turn, saw the advent of broadband into the country.

While broadband is inching towards greater utilisation in urban areas, its penetration in the semi-urban and rural areas is low. On the other hand, there is an increased focus on wireless technologies to fill in the infrastructure gap that has been limiting the growth of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) across the country.

While global recession has slowed down the Indian economy, it has also opened up new opportunities on the Indian IT scenario. Industry verticals which have been infamous for adopting IT on a large scale are today under pressure to improve their IT mechanisms while keeping costs in check. Now, even untapped verticals are geared to digitize their infrastructures extensively.

Such developments have opened up adoption opportunities for various ICT products and services which offer a higher cost-to-performance ratio. This has also fuelled the need for a faster, better equipped and highly available network infrastructure which will support these technologies on both the host and the client side.

The growing network

The increase in the data center population in the country has led to a demand for a highly efficient network infrastructure. Among the various segments, the BFSI and IT/ITeS segments in particular have been steadily looking at upgrading their network infrastructure.

With ATM centers across multiple locations in the country and the availability of online banking facilities, the BFSI segment is required to have a robust and fast network infrastructure in place.

The growth of the IT industry in the country has led to an increase in the data center population. This, in turn, has created a demand for faster networks. Organisations are increasingly virtualising their infrastructure to save on costs related to capital investments and resources.

Organisations would eventually need to look at moving virtualised infrastructure across physical locations. As a result of the economic slowdown, organisations are increasingly adopting Unified Communications technologies such as web conferencing, video conferencing and audio conferencing to improve communications and reduce associated costs.

All this activity has led to a growing demand for a robust network infrastructure. While most organisations have managed to set up LANs that meet their IT connectivity requirements, WAN connectivity remains an issue.

In smaller towns and villages, the availability of bandwidth is still a problem. Due to other challenges such as consistency, latency and downtime, quality bandwidth is still a concern for most organisations.

The networking scenario today

Owing to the economic conditions, IT products and services in general have taken a hit in terms of overall adoption. During the last year, there have been fewer shipments of IT products.

Projects are being undertaken only on a priority basis and many projects have been deferred. As a result, organisations have delayed their hardware refresh cycles, or have gone in for certain products only to meet specific business requirements.

"The market is moving to bigger bandwidth switches which help in remote application delivery"

Many organisations are increasingly moving their infrastructure to a managed or hosted model. There is also a need to meet business demands while reducing operational costs. Owing to these factors, WAN optimisation or application acceleration devices have seen better adoption.

Due to the need for faster connectivity, organisations are opting for Gigabit switches which offer speeds of up to 10 gigabit.

“The market is moving to bigger bandwidth switches which help in remote application delivery. We are seeing a lot of growth in the adoption of products such as 1G switches, both manageable and web-managed. We are also seeing a growth in the adoption of 10G switches,” says Subhodeep Bhattacharya, Country Manager, India and South Asia, HP ProCurve.

Bhattacharya also observes that there is an increase in the adoption of devices with Power over Ethernet switches. These devices would help reduce consumption while simultaneously providing optimum power and bandwidth availability.

Along with faster bandwidth switches, there is an increase in demand for network devices which not only offer better speed, but also better network security and threat management at the network level. On the connectivity side, most organisations have shifted to MPLS-based connectivity owing to the flexibility and redundancy that it promises to offer.

Wired vs Wireless

While there has been a steady growth on the wired side of the network, wireless technologies such as WiMAX have also found acceptance. This is especially seen in areas where deploying a physical network infrastructure poses a challenge. With a growing mobile workforce, wireless technologies such as Wi-fi are in demand.

There is an increase in the number of users who access information via mobile devices such as laptops, PDAs and even mobile phones which offer internet connectivity.

Wired networks offer faster speeds, lower latencies and can be secured using various techniques.

"Positive steps towards making technology available to the masses, the growth of 3G in the country can be expected to take off soon"

When compared to wired technologies, wireless technologies have several limitations which hinder the possibility of mass adoption. How successful the transition from wired to wireless technologies will be, remains to be seen.

The future of networks

While the country gradually rises out of the economic slowdown, there is an increased focus on IT especially in the government and education verticals. With several international institutions coming to India, and national institutions looking to digitize their campuses, there will be an increase in adoption of both wired and wireless network technologies.

The government vertical too has been on the forefront of IT adoption. Through several citizen-facing projects, the government aims to make information available and to improve connectivity to several parts of the country.

Keeping in mind the low levels of broadband penetration, the government has recently partnered with HCL to increase the broadband and PC penetration in the country. With a few public telecom companies promising to offer 3G and the government taking positive steps towards making the technology available to the masses, the growth of 3G in the country can be expected to take off soon.

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