By Nishant Arora
New Delhi– To connect the next billion, India must establish micro-data centres — which can even run on a laptop from any location with a cell tower — and shun gigantic data centres that can cost a bomb in terms of building physical infrastructure, a global HP Inc executive has emphasised.
Data centres, to a large extent, have not succeeded as 60 percent of the world is yet to be connected and the micro-data centres can do this job better when it comes to India — by connecting schools, hospitals, small scale industries, etc., in a specified area, thus bringing digital transformation at a fraction of the cost.
“India needs Mangalyaan-scale thinking to connect the next billion and the effort has to be indigenous, not borrowed. We need to go back to fundamentals, know the hardware better like learning how to build a power plant with the help of the latest technologies, including jugaad,” Chandrakant Patel, Chief Engineer at HP Inc, told IANS in an interview.
An inventor with 151 patents to his name, a pioneer in thermal and energy management, and a visionary when it comes to the application of IT for sustainable growth, Patel is in town to address the two-day Global Conference of Cyber Security (GCCS) that will commence in the Capital on Thursday.
“Rather than looking at other countries, we should look within, to find solutions which can help more people book rail tickets online, get an appointment with a health care provider or get his complaint registered in case of no electricity — with the help of technology,” stressed Patel.
Patel has done his math when it comes to India.
“Let us think that there are nearly 20,000 data centres in the US and each needs one megawatt of power to run. It translates into 20 gigawatts power for running those data centres — roughly what we need to run 20 nuclear power plants,” Patel contended.
“Let us emulate this model back home and we need a gigantic proportion of power, say 80-100 gigawatts if we keep the population here in mind. India’s total installed power generation capacity is about 300 gigawatts. Can we afford a third of the country’s electricity production to run those massive data centres?” Patel asked.
The supply-demand conundrum is very significant in the India’s context. Technology like Artificial Intelligence (AI) can play a big role in the supply-demand mismatch, said Patel, but in order to do that, everyone needs to be connected.
“In the next three years, just like India did in going wireless, we need to connect every citizen by creating Mangalyaan-scale indigenous topology with jugaad mindset. India must create a talent pool with domain knowledge in data management if it wishes to succeed. The initiative has to start with infusing the domain information in school and college curriculum. We have to go back to fundamentals and come strong,” Patel noted.
Patel is an IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Fellow, an ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) Fellow and an inductee of the Silicon Valley Engineering Hall of Fame.
According to him, the edge devices in a peer-to-peer network will connect all.
“It will happen south of the Internet, maybe even at the cell towers where our country is very strong. Whenever I visit my wife’s village where the leopards still roam, I get better connectivity than Hanover Page Mill as there is a cell tower nearby,” Patel said.
The role of AI in the services towards the supply side is the next frontier the training has to begin keeping the Indian context in mind.
“We are in the cyber-physical age where real world melds with digital — so who have to tread carefully, not digressing from the path. The 21st century is all about the integration of cyber and physical, and India has to find answers within the country,” Patel emphasised.
Hackers, he said, will keep coming but we need to first secure end-point devices.
“Apart from being resilient, we need to be able to react fast in case of an attack, especially on a physical facility like an airplane or an autonomous vehicle. The game is no more about cyber security; it is cyber-physical security. We have to be both proactive and reactive when it comes to securing our world,” Patel emphasised.