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Leveraging on Technical Innovation – State Data Centre

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Introduction
Indian Government is investing heavily on e-Governance initiative with a prime objective of making the IT enabled services available to the common man. As a part of this initiative, series of projects are being launched at the center and state levels. State Data Center (SDC) initiative is one of such initiative in which various states across the country are setting up facilities and infrastructure for the State Data Center. The State Data Center will host the IT infrastructure for hosting citizen services.

State Data Centers have been identified as one of the important elements of the core infrastructure for supporting e-Governance initiatives of India’s National e-Governance Plan (NeGP).

Design and implementation of the SDCs is one of the major tasks at hand for various Indian States. There are many parameters to be considered while designing a Data Center. These parameters include the civil infrastructure, hardware, software, data storage, management, administration and security parameters.

This article discusses challenges of today’s data center design and various design parameters, which can address these challenges. The paper also discusses various innovations in technology, which can be utilised in designing the State Data Centers. Theses recommendations based on the technical innovation, can be very useful inputs for State Data Center design and implementation.

State Data Center: Business Drivers
The objective of State Data Centers is to host citizen services in a cost effective and efficient manner, with desired service levels and at the same time taking care of external eco system. The following are key business drivers and requirements for designing a State Data Center:

Citizen Services: Making the Citizen Services available to the citizen through IT. These services may include utility services, vehicle registration, e-Learning, school admissions, municipal services, employment services, health care services and more. The easy, quick and seamless availability of these services is one of the aims or business drivers of  the SDCs. Optimisation and integration of these services is also a key requirement.

Cost:The Government to Citizen (G2C) and/or the Citizen to Government (C2G) services should be enabled using Information Technology in a cost effective and efficient manner. The total cost involves cost of infrastructure, power, cooling, space, hardware, software, management and administrative. The design should ensure accelerated Return on Investment (ROI) and lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).

Service Levels: The services being hosted out of the SDC should meet certain service levels in terms of high reliability, easy manageability and easy administration, high availability, high performance, utmost security and interoperability.

External factors: The Data Center design should comply with external requirements like adherence to government regulations and compliances, technology reuse, and disaster protection.

These drivers result into some key data center design requirements. These requirements are also voice of the Chief Information Officers and State Government officials who are involved in designing and architecting the SDCs. The same are summarised below:

Minimise Power and Space: The SDC should be based on the infrastructure, which should be least power consuming and should take minimal space.

Easy and Rapid Deployment: The infrastructure should be easy to deploy. Also one should explore innovative options, of having ready-made Data Centers.

Highly Reliable Infrastructure: The equipment used in the data center should be highly reliable with minimal components and least or no failures.

Very Secure: Security should be systemic and built-in not bolt on.
High Performance: The infrastructure components including servers, storage should be high performing devices.

Easy and Secure Access: The access to the data in the SDC should be secure with proper authentication, authorisations and auditing capabilities.

Easy Management: The components within the SDC should be easily manageable remotely.

Flexibility: The design should be flexible and reusable. There should be provision to design and redesign based on the application and end user requirements.

Modularity and Easy Scalability: The components should be modular and easily scalable, as on need basis.

Minimal Initial Investment: The design should not involve heavy investment and should grow with the growth in application and user base.

Enterprise Architecture: Best Practices
Based on recommendations by various researchers and best practices being followed by various IT giants like Sun Microsystems, following rules and IT Architecture principles are recommended in designing and setting up a State Data Center.

(i) Choose Open Systems: Open Systems succeed in scale and continue well over a long life span. Open Systems help interoperate in heterogeneous environment. Open Systems are good for planned and unplanned growth, unlike proprietary systems, which must be redesigned for unplanned growth.

(ii) Choose Open Source and Open Standards Infrastructure:Open Source and Open Standards systems do not tie one to a particular technology or platform, and can meet new technology requirements with minimal effort. Open Source infrastructure has community endorsement. As an example, Solaris Operating System, which is the best operating system available today is open source, with an opensolaris community (www.opensolaris.org) and SPARC CMT which is the fastest processor available today has its source code openly available (www.opensparc.org). Open Standards and interoperability are key factors in ensuring systems integrate and interoperate and will continue to do so in future.

(iii) Separation of Logical Layers: Separate technology layers like presentation, business logic and data, to ensure flexibility, modularity and independent scalability of each layer.

The Government to Citizen (G2C) and/ or the Citizen to Government (C2G) services should be enabled using Information Technology in a cost effective and efficient manner. The total cost involves cost of infrastructure, power, cooling, space, hardware, software, management and administrative. The design should ensure accelerated Return on Investment (ROI) and lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

(iv) Keep it Simple: Simplify the design and deployment of the web/network services through innovative products and solutions, thereby cutting costs of operation and ensuring better return on investment (ROI). As an example Sun products like Sun xVM Ops Center, Sun Java Enterprise System Software (with Sun Portal and Identity Management), SPARC Technology, Solaris Operating System, Sun Grid Engine and Sun Java Desktop System Software helps reduce complexity and cost, by ensuring easy management, higher flexibility, Virtualisation and Consolidation.

(v) Efficient Infrastructure: Choose for Systems and Storage, which is energy efficient, requiring less power and cooling. Power and cooling should be major deciding criteria in deciding the SDC infrastructure. Ultra SPARC T1 and T2 based systems from Sun are highly efficient in terms of Power and generate very less heat compared to other systems.

(vi) Save Real Estate Space: Real estate space is expensive. While designing the SDC, one should ensure best utilisation of the available space and should choose the systems, which are compact, take minimal space and are easy to install and configure. Most of today’s systems and storage is rack mountable. One should look for systems, which meet the requirement and also take minimal Rack Unit (RU) Space. As an example 8 core high performing systems like T5120 from Sun takes just 1 Rack Unit (RU) Space. About 32 or more systems can be installed in one rack, giving about more than 250 cores in a standard rack.

(vii) Easy Manageability  and Administration: The infrastructure being used should be easily manageable, and should support both in-bound and out-bound management. The Servers and Storage should have integrated Lights Out Management Controller (ILOM) for in-bound and out-bound management using a remote console. Most of Sun Systems come with Bundled ILOM.

(viii) Virtualisation and Consolidation: Virtualisation at server, storage and network levels have been recommended for dynamic design of a data center. By using virtualisation and pooling, users can avoid dedicating groups of resources to specific applications, and share their environment dynamically. This enables consolidation and repurposing, as well as dynamic allocation to support desired service levels.

The Government data center design need to take care of delivering present and future applications at lower cost, increase performance but at the same time, reduce the number of systems to manage. The design should utilise the best available servers and operating environment and should be able to change and provision operating environments on the same infrastructure at a very short notice. The design should be flexible, allowing consolidation of multiple applications and different operating systems onto the available Infrastructure.

(ix) Built-in Security and Compliance: The security should be built-into the design of data center. There should be security at every level, including the operating system, middleware software, and even at hardware level. This is apart from the perimeter security involving secure networks, firewalls etc. A secure operating system like Solaris can form a solid foundation with built-in features like user and process level privileges, labeled control, firewall, cryptographic framework and secure by default features. Middleware stack like Sun Identity Management, can provide standards based reliable ID management access across the government enterprise.

(x) Accelerate Network/Web Services Deployment: The prime aim of the SDC initiative is to make citizen services available to the normal citizen through IT enabled web services. The aim is also to roll out these services in minimal time, in an efficient and effective manner. Java Technology and XML, which are proven technologies for developing and delivering web services, can be very useful for this.

The Government data center design need to take care of delivering present and future applications at lower cost, increase performance but at the same time, reduce the number of systems to manage. The design should utilise the best available servers and operating environment and should be able to change and provision operating environments on the same infrastructure at a very short notice

(xi) Technology Reuse: Government Enterprises should be able to reuse existing supported applications, services and infrastructure. The architecture should be service based, with well-defined services, implemented to enable loose coupling between application components, leading to Service Oriented Architecture (SOA).

(xii) Technological Simplicity: Minimise the number of platforms, ensuring technical diversity being controlled to minimise the cost of maintaining expertise and connectivity between multiple processing environments.

Designing, implementing and deploying technology is a smaller problem as compared to getting people embrace and understand its advantages. ‘Keeping it Simple’ will help the users, both internal and external to adopt it faster.

References:

 

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