Cable disruption: need for secure telecom network

ROUGH WEATHER: An undersea cable laying ship at work.

ROUGH WEATHER: An undersea cable laying ship at work.   | Photo Credit: — FILE PHOTO

Shanthi Kannan

The larger IT and ITeS companies will face lesser threat compared to smaller ones due to redundancy in capacity

Damage to industry is still being assessed

Companies should have disaster recovery strategy

CHENNAI: Inter-connectivity has been the backbone of globalisation, which links all economics in the financial market, communication, manufacturing and trade. Any malfunction or cut in this connectivity will impact the economy largely. One such disruption has occurred with the severing of under-sea cables that carry voice and Internet traffic between Europe and the Middle East and Asia in the middle of the sea between Alexandria and Palermo (off Egypt).

The undersea cable disruption is happening for the third time, causing a heavy damage and a threat to the economy. This time three cables, routed through Trans-Atlantic Ocean, have been damaged. Two cables — SeaMeWe-3 and SeaMeWe-4-owned by a consortium of telecommunications companies and operated by France Telecom — and a third cable, known as FEA, is under separate ownership and operated by a unit of Reliance — have been damaged.

Though the restoration works are underway, the extent of damage to the industries and economies across the globe is still being assessed. Internet today is the main nerve of the economy. Though companies in the IT and ITeS (IT-enabled Services) space rely on Internet to a maximum extent, other sectors, too, have no fewer users.

The larger IT and ITeS companies will face lesser threat compared to smaller ones. This is due to redundancy in capacity. Most large players in this space would have taken connectivity from Internet service providers who have capacity in Trans-Atlantic and Trans-Pacific regions. This, however, would not be the case with smaller players, says T. K. Saji, Senior Vice-President, Global Information, Sify.

“Sify, as an Internet service provider, is having 3 giga bytes traffic that is split between Trans-Altantic and Trans-Pacific equally. Due to the cable disruption problem, the entire load is now on the Trans-Pacific route,” said Mr. Saji. This is indeed a cause for concern for all the IT and ITeS companies. “If the traffic is entirely loaded on the single cable, which is through Trans-Pacific, there are issues such as delay in data and voice transmission,” according to K. P. Nair, Head of Support Services, Sutherland Global Services. Mr. Nair felt that “disruption in cable can be managed to an extent only. Generally, all the production works are routed through both Trans-Altantic and Trans-Pacific. Under such circumstances, the production works are given more preference compared to non-production works. In the current situation, the entire production work goes through a Trans-Pacific route, which can be a cause for concern to the industry, as it may cause delays and non-connectivity issues”.

Mr. Nair said the impact of cable disruption on the companies’ revenues would not be seen immediately. It all depended on the time taken to restore the damage.

However, the impact could be as high as 50 per cent for the companies which had split the load equally between Trans-Atlantic and Trans-Pacific.

Most larger players such as Cognizant have taken adequate redundant capacities. “Cognizant has chosen wide area network (WAN) technologies which ensure automatic re-routing in case of failures or faults,” says K. Chandrashekaran, Vice-President (Network and Systems Support), Cognizant. “We have built adequate redundancies and back up to address any exigency, including the recent one near Alexandria. For example, the redundant MPLS (multi-protocol label switching) architecture actually ensures that it is business as usual for us”.

The worst affected lot would the smaller players. R. Jagadish, Chief Executive Officer of Allsec Technologies, felt that there had to be affordable redundant connection for the small players. He said fortunately the disaster had occurred during the lean period of the year.

Mr. Saji felt that in a given situation like this, any company — be it IT or non-IT — should have a clear disaster recovery strategy. In addition, alternatives such as satellite links could not take up the load because of capacity issues and satellite communication had more latency than optic fibres, Mr. Saji observed.

All the disruptions in the past, it is pointed out, have been due to accidents. Nation states and world bodies should take cognizance of this and ensure that the communication networks are safe and secure.

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