Exploding bandwidth demand can only be met by a combination of wired and wireless networking options
When young IT professionals in Bangalore move into a new flat , they expect to find a few fixtures by default: a telephone socket in every room; coaxial cable television outlets in the drawing room and all bedrooms, and an Ethernet data cable termination in almost every room. All reputed builders in Bangalore are aware of this ‘techie wishlist', and most of them ensure that they meet the data connectivity expectations of their potential customers.
Granted, this is a wireless era where devices connect through Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, WiMax and other ‘unwired' technologies. But the hard fact remains that for a combination of speed and reliability in a scenario where lay users as well as professionals demand and consume enormous bandwidth to access their audio and video content, physical cabling still provides the best option. They may still use a plethora of wireless technologies such as a wireless router that allows them to share a single Internet connection across multiple devices in the home. But, that router needs to be connected to a physical cable — copper and, in some new cases, optical fibre — if it is to deliver the speed the customer demands. An all-wireless solution is still, with current technology, a second-best solution.
That is one reason why gloom-and-doom predictions notwithstanding, the global structured cabling industry is busier than ever before, addressing the challenge of transporting gigabytes of data every second.
India is at an interesting inflexion point, as industry moves slowly but surely, from Gigabit Ethernet to 10G Ethernet and to high-speed networks that transport data at 40 or 100 gigabits per second, the so-called 40/100 GB Ethernet. These transport speeds will remain much faster than any conceivable wireless option, which is why the entire data centre business still swears by structured cabling to keep server farms working optimally and efficiently.
With cloud computing, specifically the private cloud, increasingly being seen as inevitable if enterprises are to meet their data management efficiently, the very design of such data centres becomes a key factor in how good they are and how they deliver performance, with minimum computing and energy resources.
This is why BICSI, the global non-profit professional association supporting all IT systems (voice, data, safety and security, audio and video, and encompassing fibre, copper and wireless distribution systems) brought out last year a comprehensive guide to best practices in data centre design and implementation. In a sense, BICSI had anticipated the global demand for skilled professionals to design and manage new-age data centres to serve as nodal elements of private enterprise clouds.
A few weeks ago, BICSI conducted, for the first time, a data centre design consultant credentials examination to recognise those individuals who demonstrated the knowledge and ability to apply it over the multiple facets within data centre design.
Today's data centre designers are often required to possess knowledge in mechanical, electrical and telecommunications systems, as well as familiarity with the other needs of a data centre, such as reliability, security and building requirements. India has no shortage of such professionals who have what it takes to help meet the burgeoning demand for data centres. The BICSI data centre design consultant credentials will prove to be a valuable passport for those who want to be a key part of the exciting ecosystem that is developing in India around the cloud, particularly private and hybrid clouds. The private cloud in India is expected to deliver up to 50 per cent saving to Indian enterprises, creating in the process 100,000 additional jobs by 2015, according to a study by Zinnov Management Consulting.
For Indian IT professionals and students aspiring for a career in an interesting IT niche, data centre design may provide interesting possibilities, and a chance to work in an environment where wired and wireless technologies cooperate rather than compete to provide the reliable, speedy backbone of information that the world is waiting for.
(The author is Country Chair, BICSI India, and Managing Director, DIRAK India.)