Hitting the Cloud
Each one of us understands the potential of the Cloud and how it can benefit people at large. Th e government also understands and appreciates the technology, and it is also making use of Cloud in a big way. We, at NIC, have been operating data centres since 2002, though we officially started using Cloud about a year ago. In terms of technologies, which enable the Cloud, including virtualisation, was there with us for quite some time. We adopted virtualisation in 2008, and started implementing the same for all examination results for the children using shared infrastructure.
All the online counselling, whether the children go for admission to professional courses, including engineering, medical and management courses, are also being done through a kind of virtualisation. In a way, the preparedness for technology and its under- standing had been there. In February 2014, following an initiative of the Government of India, the Meghraj policy was launched by our department. We officially launched the first National Cloud under the Meghraj policy on cloud.gov.in platform. We have slight edge over the normal Cloud technology providers, because when we make any virtual machine on the Cloud, and before that machine goes into production, it has to comply with all security guidelines. Security to a certain extent is assured when a person starts using services on the Cloud.
Edging out the traditional
Cloud Computing is the biggest wave sweeping the industry. It’s going to change the whole dynamics of how business is done by various IT companies. If you look at the traditional way of applications being implemented on-site and customers’ premises, the challenges are that when the software goes obsolete, it needs to be updated at high costs. Likewise, there are numerous other challenges related to hardware. But Cloud Computing provides new services via delivery models.
It offers integration, automation management, problem resolution and security management facilities in a cost-effective way, based on actual usage. So, in terms of characteristics, the various heterogeneous systems and applications can utilise the strength of different platforms and software components, modifiability (important, as modifications need to be carried out every now and then) in a short time, scalability to handle many clients, integrated data access, etal. The data can be accessed from several sources.
So, various types of eGov applications—administration, control monitoring and distribution for G2G services, tenders, contract management, commercial taxes and eProcurement, for G2B services; and registration, land records, revenue services, health and agriculture services, etc., under G2C services category—can be operated through this technology. Moreover, Cloud architecture is based on service-oriented architecture principle. eGovernance applications face data outburst and Cloud Computing can be scaled better. It can also support eGovernance for providing efficient management of disaster recovery.
Look before you leap
There are certain parameters that one needs to look into before choosing Cloud services, and when there is a Cloud platform to be hosted, there are five or six major parameters which need to be considered and analysed, based on the NIST Cloud Computing standards. Firstly, it has to offer the service one requires. Secondly, one should be able to pay charges for the Cloud platform based on actual usage.
Thirdly, it has to be scalable and elastic, as the biggest advantage of the Cloud platform is that it is scalable and asks one to build own applications, business, citizen-engagement, etc. The fourth point of consideration is that it has to be shared, or else one would not be able to utilise the platform on a broad network. It has to be available to varied forms of connectivity. Moreover, Cloud brings in an automation platform monitoring what all people do there or what an administrator usually does with the help of a software. The automation of data is what exactly the Cloud is all about despite being in a shared environment, so that one gets cost-effectiveness, scalability and sharing on network facility in the least possible time using automation.
BSNL, the ICT services provider
The benefits of Cloud Computing can reach the masses only when we have proper connectivity within organisations, and here lies our strength. We, at BSNL, are actually present in every nook and corner of the country and connecting Cloud with various organisations. We are the leaders in landline as well as broadband connectivity. Also, we are working closely with the National Informatics Centre (NIC) in extending their applications across the country. We feel the Digital India dream can be realised only after proper integration of the Cloud plat- form with the customers through robust connectivity channels.
For extending these services, we have also got a strong Multi-protocol Label Switching (MPLS) network, which is required for connecting different institutions across the country. At present, we already have around one lakh customers on our MPLS network. All the government organisations and even the banking system are totally working on our MPLS network and we are further strengthening it through large-scale expansion. Looking at the requirement of the country, the MPLS network is being doubled. Another strength of BSNL is that we have the largest optical fibre network in the country. BSNL was largely known as the telecom service provider for the landline services only. We are now transforming it into an ICT services provider and adding more services. For this, we have joined hands with Dimension Data, who are a proven global leader in Cloud Computing in the data centre business.