Data Center Interview News

Western Digital Gung Ho about Data Centre Growth

Jaganathan Chelliah

Mordor Intelligence has published a report recently, which says data centres industry is going to grow at a CAGR of about 11.4% between 2023 and 2028. This is a great news for the storage vendors including Western Digital.  Enterprise it world spoke to Jaganathan Chelliah- Senior Director – Marketing, India, Middle East & TIA, Western Digital to understand his perspective. Excerpts.

“Our constant endeavour is to figure out how we can drive capacity build out in the same footprint.”

Jaganathan Chelliah- Senior Director – Marketing, India, Middle East & TIA, Western Digital.

What is your play in data centre storage and vis-a-vis other players?

If I were to put it in one line, I would say data centres are mission critical infrastructure for the growth of digital economy. If you go back a decade ago, it was a very nascent industry and you had few data centres, probably with 10 to 20 Mega Watt and operating in silos. Today, you have a fairly robust ecosystem, which is growing fast. Last count, approximately about 140+ data centres are in India and with the active enablement of policies, both at the central and state level. Today, the growth of India’s core business is intertwined with the development of the data centre ecosystem in India. If you look at the latest report from Mordor Intelligence, it says data centres industry is going to grow at a CAGR of about 11.4% between 2023 and 2028, this is just fairly healthy, and all these factors are coming into play to fuel this growth.

What is their observation or the outsourcing happening from outside? Any insights you can give?

What I know of is the rapid increase in creation and consumption of data at the consumer level is one very important factor that is driving this. If we look at the latest, Nokia report, they are talking about average per user consumption of about 19.6 gigabytes per month. It is a significant volume per user. If you look at the smartphone user base in India, it is about 670M+, they constitute roughly about 4% of the population. So, this is one part, the other part is the digital transformation that is happening in the business ecosystem. Clearly, everybody has moved from digitization of their business to digitalization of their content. It is all about providing the right user experience through digital transformation. And, COVID has only accentuated that adoption. People can do most of the things virtually – it could be your banking needs, shopping needs, governance needs, etc. Today, most of the community services can be   done through your device – be it a phone or a computer. Plus, a lot of important initiatives undertaken by the government to really fuel the creation, usage and consumption of data. All these require a very strong data management backbone using a robust cloud infrastructure and that’s where data centres come into play and they’re clearly making a difference and that is fuelling this growth. Coupled with the fact that right now, connectivity also getting better and better by the day. So, all these things are kind of playing together to drive this growth.

Whether the GDPR impact on the data centre business in India?

The very fact that the entire country is adopting digital led interactions means no matter how you tried to build all the infrastructure, the need for having a very strong cloud architecture is only going to grow and that architecture will need to have a very strong scalable model to manage and analyze data that you’re trying to store. This is not going to be limited or enabled by any specific initiatives, the growth is going to probably vary a bit, but fundamentally the basic parameters that are fuelling the growth of the data centre economy is not going to stop. So, clearly, I see good consistent growth for the data centre market.

Energy efficiency is the biggest challenge for the Data Centre Industry, how as a storage provider alleviate the concern?

Data centres need to have a very good model to maximize energy efficiency. That is very critical for us to build scale. From Western Digital perspective, we consider ourselves as providers of fundamental building blocks for the storage needs of data centres. In our organization, one of the core aspects is we focus on to build out innovative solutions that will complement overall energy efficiency of the data centres. To give you a few examples, the enterprise hard drives that we produce today are helium filled drives, which means in the same drive, you can pack more data. All these drives have spinning disk so, you can have lesser space between these disks and ensure that it is packed in a manner that it is able to accommodate more data with the far better power efficiency. Not only that, when you look at our other portfolio, which are JBODs and JBOFs. These are like large containers, which deliver capacities in petabytes, specifically meant for data centres. Here we have two specific innovations called ArcticFlow and IsoVibe. ArcticFlow is basically about keeping the system cool so that the cooling needs are not high. Similarly, the IsoVibe model ensures that there is set of vibration in the overall system again thereby reducing wear and tear, and lesser heat dissemination. So, at every step we are looking at options and models to build out energy efficiency – both in terms of power and cooling resources.

This is one aspect of it. The other aspect which is our constant endeavour to figure out how we can drive capacity build out in the same footprint. For example, if you take a 3.5-inch hard drive, how do you increase the capacity of that hard drive within the same footprint. Now, the latest product that we launched which is our 22 terabyte Western Digital hard drive comes with a technology. The fundamental benefit is the drive occupies the same space but delivers more capacity. Typically, if there is a data centre, which has 10 racks or 100 racks filled with 18 terabyte hard drives, if you replace that with 22 terabytes hard drives, it is going to occupy 18% lesser footprint. That is saving in space. That is one big benefit that comes into play. The other thing is an interesting technology called OptiNAND. OptiNAND is an integration of flash in place of D-RAM inside the hard drive to store metadata. With Flash coming in, metadata storage can be moved from the spinning disk into this, which means that more data can be read and stored on the drive that is lot more power efficient. So, we are looking at all ways and means to help data centres to achieve better efficiencies when it comes to power and cooling.

How competitive are you? 

Firstly, we are an innovation led company. Our focus is to ensure maximum ROI on multiple parameters. ROI is just not about cost. The data management infrastructure that the CIO is putting in place should be scalable one. It should be flexible and it should be agile also. What I meant from agile point is, it should have a very low level of latency and all these aspects need to be delivered at a cost, that’s the key. So, it is about the best possible experience at the right cost. That is our TCO. We really focus on product innovations to deliver high level on all these parameters, the product innovations on JBOD that I spoke about. The IsoVibe technology in particular ensures that it reduces the failure rate of the drive, which means that the availability of the infrastructure is going to be higher, which is very critical for a CIO. The other aspect is in the HDD space. We have an industry leading enterprise class drive – Ultrastar drive with 22 terabytes, which means with the same footprint, we can actually build out a data centre, which has a much larger storage capacity. That is a significant saving in terms of cost. The third aspect is in terms of performance, we have NVMe based Gen four SSDs, which deliver top notch performance when it comes to fast data. Depending on the need, whether it is to do archival of data, do big data analytics, or to have some real time best in class experience for consumers, we have our enterprise class SSDs. There is no other storage vendor, who is capable of providing a solution both in terms of hard drives and SSDs because we own both HDD and flash. So, this brings an enormous benefit for a CIO. It is like, one partner who can deliver his needs both in terms of big data and fast data. So, to me it is a big differentiator. 

In case of Co-location, do the CIOs take storage solutions vendors into consideration?

Depending on their business case, they will determine what type of solution they would want. For example, if as a CIO I will need to actually create a solution for interfacing with customers, it could be a bank or a FinTech or a telco. I need to provide real time experience. It should be very seamless for all those people who are logging in. I need to ensure that there is no glitch in the entire experience. The system should be reliable. I should be able to provide a personalized experience to the customer depending on what they are actually looking for.

The CIO need to work on a model which makes a relational database, and you are in-memory computing to deliver this experience and analytics. So now, that can happen only based on Western Classes as the platform.  So, this is something CIO will need to work with the data centre to determine what type of storage solution is required. If the CIO was looking for some deep analytics to derive some very strong insights based on data, it will call for a much larger storage at the backend, over a period of time, where the data is stored. And then you do some deep analytics on that data. For that you will require very high-capacity storage where cost-per-gigabyte comes into play. So then, the CIO will need to look at a holistic backend solution that optimises data backup retrieval and application of some artificial intelligence t derive insights. So, this calls for a different type of architecture. So, clearly the way I see it, the primary decision making will be a function of use case and how the storage is going to impact that use case. 

How do you see the growth in Edge data centers?  

Edge is going to be critical.  You cannot go to the central warehouse for every requirement. I would be a customer who is sitting in Guwahati, or any other part of Northeastern states and I actually trigger an experience with a D2C e-commerce website. Now if that command has to travel all the way into a centralized data center, which is far off, the experience is not going to be good. The customer is going to see a very high level of latency in terms of response. To avoid that, definitely this setup of core cloud data centers at the backend and the edge data centers, which are nearer to customers to provide a far better experience in terms of responsiveness will evolve as the quality of connectivity improves. 

5G roll-out has happened, but if you look at the experience of 5G, it is not that great. 

That is how any new technology roll-out happens. We have seen this in 2G, 3G, and 4G. Over a period of time, as scale builds out, infrastructure roll-outs happen, the overall experience grows. I am confident of time, as the 5G infrastructure evolves, and as 5G rollouts get into the deeper parts of the country, clearly, the quality of experience will continue to grow. And that in turn, will fuel the growth of data creation and consumption, which in turn will drive the need for more back-end data centers to store, manage, and analyse the data that is being created. 

How much is your data center business and how is it growing? 

Western Digital is a fundamental building block provider for data centers. So, from that perspective, we are agnostic to the segments. We are more focused on enabling the data centers and to build a scalable model – both in terms of capacity build-out and high-performance needs. We educate the data centers to adopt the latest technologies, which enables them to provide the right services to customers. One thing that we are doing is actively advocating for the software-defined storage adoption. SDS, we believe, is extremely important for having a scalable model. The traditional storage models have their own limitations in terms of scale, and it becomes very inefficient to build up. So, what we are doing right now is driving a constant education on the importance of having an SDS – led storage architecture so that it provides the flexibility of architecture to CIOs to pick and choose what they want and how they want to build their storage architecture. Incidentally, India is one of the last markets where SDS adoption is happening. The matured markets have already moved on to SDS, but India is fast growing in that direction, and I am sure that we will catch up. We are doing our best to educate the data center customers in that aspect. 

What is your expectation from the Indian market from a data center perspective? As a marketer, what are you doing? 

Two things. One we are doing a very strong customer education on adopting the software defined storage. The other thing that we are doing is that we are actively engaged with the system integration community to prep them up on how they should work with storage solutions providers like Western Digital and software applications providers in the marketplace so that they form a very important link in the overall ecosystem. They are the ones who are going to aggregate different technologies and offer a complete solution to the data-center customers. So, we are working very closely with them in that regard as well.

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