We Create Distinct Solutions For Clients: Sridhar P, CtrlS Datacenters

CtrlS Datacenters is growing at 40 percent Y-o-Y, double the rate at which the industry is growing. In a freewheeling discussion with Yashvendra Singh, Sridhar Pinnapureddy, Founder and CEO, CtrlS Datacenters, throws light on the reasons behind the fast growth, and the road ahead.

With players like Microsoft and Amazon eyeing the Indian market, the datacenter space is getting very competitive. How are you differentiating yourself from competition? There is always space for players that offer innovation, differentiation and a unique value proposition. CtrlS differentiates itself by adding value for its customers. Our strong value proposition lies in offering organizations a three-way DR architecture with a four copy architecture, stringent internal compliance, and high uptimes with zero data loss. We are unfazed with the entry of multinational players. When we started around eight years back, we were competing against the country’s largest companies but we were successful in creating a successful business model. This is what we intend to do in the cloud business as well. Today corporates view datacenters as not just provider of facilities and equipment. They expect them to offers various other skills. How do you meet your customers’ expectations on this front? When we started our business, the industry was called Internet Datacenters. Clients used to take up colocation space and then manage it. For us, right from day one, the colocation, server, rack space, connectivity etc was incidental. Our focus was to provide turnkey solution to our customers. For example, we came up with a disaster recovery service that became a market leader. We offered Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO) commitment to the customers, and that too at a fraction of the cost. The same trend continued in all our future offerings. By taking the end goals of our customer into consideration, we are able to meet their expectations. The datacenter is becoming more software-driven. Going forward, DCIM would gain more eminence as it will help in improving resiliency, efficiency and decision making. How software enabled are your offerings? DCIM has been there for some time but it has not yet matured to the level of commercial usage. Not only is it expensive but it is also tough to implement. DCIM doesn’t integrate with existing billing management systems. This challenge is not only in India but also globally. On our part, we have established new processes and automated them. We have a team of 40 people that does only software automation. Some of our automated customized solutions enable customers to view temperature, traffic etc on dashboards. Prefabricated modular (PFM) datacenter designs are fast finding favor among CIOs. Will they emerge as the new benchmark by virtue of their greater predictability, speed and agility than conventional approaches? The operational hazard of a PFM is more and less the same as that of a traditional datacenter. However, there is definitely a huge savings of time and effort. There are definitely advantages of setting up such data centers especially in border areas for army, remote camping sites etc. We did India’s first container based DC about seven years back but since this is not a services business we don’t focus on it. CtrlS provides datacenter design consulting. For instance, we provided design consultancy to NSE for their DR center in Chennai. We also built their datacenter in Mumbai. But design consultancy as a business may not be growing too much. There are few enterprises building their own datacenters. Yes, that’s true. There are very few customers like ONGC and Hero MotoCorp that are building their own datacenters. It is for this reason that we are doing this at a global scale. So, we are establishing datacenters in South East Asia, Middle East, Australia and New Zealand. What we have achieved in this space is phenomenal, and it makes sense to monetize it.  About 10% of our overall revenue comes from consulting. The rest 90% is from data center services. What have been your learnings from the Open Compute Project? There have been a lot of learnings for us and we have made significant progress on several fronts in the last three years. The Open Compute Project has the potential to significantly (by as much as 60-70%) bring down costs. However, it is not easy as the industry is dominated by a few very large players. This is a very energy intensive business. Are you looking at other nonconventional sources? We are already doing some studies around setting up our solar plant. It is not just social responsibility that is driving this. It could also be highly profitable. Solar or hydel any non-conventional energy could make sense for a datacenter service provider. Our Delhi and Hyderabad facilities are highly expensive commercial real estate properties. We would have to look at certain other locations. For the BFSI vertical, you are the preferred choice. What attracts them to CtrlS? BFSI is the toughest vertical because security requirements here are 100 times more than any other industry. The complexity is also too much. CtrlS has several inherent advantages. We are the only tier IV data center. From a colocation perspective, we are 30 percent less energy consuming, which entails lower costs for clients. We create distinct solution packaging for our customers. For instance, Axis Bank has a huge deployment in our Mumbai datacenter. They were looking to set up their captive data center when we came in. We told them that we would do a customized design and implementation of infrastructure for them. We did a lot of innovation and brought the cost 30-40 percent down for them.  CtrlS extends the highest SLAs in the market. We offer them uptime guarantee at the login level not at the data center, server or network levels. Why haven’t you made a mark in the e-commerce space? We were busy with growth in other sectors. E-commerce traditionally has been centered around Mumbai and Bangalore, where we earlier didn’t have any presence. The e-commerce players were already somebody’s customers and there is resistance to change. However, it is not that we don’t have ecommerce players as clients. Where do you see the datacenter space heading in the next two years? Given the data getting generated, there will be a massive growth in the datacenter market in the near future. With the entry of cloud, the industry has changed. The players are looking at colo, infrastructure services, and cloud niches. It is a very interesting mix and companies are free to choose what they want to do. But someone who tries to do everything will fall flat. We are betting big on the cloud business. We want to bring a differentiator for any company here.


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