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The Dynjeeling Unlimited Part 4: Finding A Data Center Home In India

(Dyn Chief Scientist Tom Daly recently traveled to India looking for a new DNS data center. Check out Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.)

Mumbai, the Indian city often associated with Bollywood films, is located on the west coast of India. Formerly known as Bombay, Mumbai is the most populated city in India with more than 20 million residents claiming the metropolitan area home. Mumbai is the capital city of the state of Maharashtra.

As Mumbai is the landing site for a variety of undersea cables, it represents a strategic hub for Internet traffic in India. Combined with Chennai, roughly 50 percent of the country’s Internet traffic enters and exits through Mumbai. The undersea cable systems extending from Mumbai give India a reach to Dubai, Egypt, France and the UK.

Network Infrastructure in India

It’s important to know the background of India’s primary telecommunications operators, which at one point were all government operated public sector undertakings in India:

  • VSNL (Videsh Sanchaar Nigam Limited) – India’s government-operated international telecommunications operator, now privatized by Tata Communications.
  • BSNL (Bharath Sanchar Nigam Limited) – India’s most well known government-operated fixed wire line service provider for dial tone and residential broadband services.
  • MTNL (Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited) – The same as BSNL, but focused only on the markets of Mumbai and Delhi.

Beyond these government-operated entities, there are other private, nationwide ISPs in India, including, but not limited to:

  • Bharti Airtel – Providing ADSL, GPRS and 3G services throughout India.
  • Reliance Communications – Providing ADSL, GPRS, 3G and metro Ethernet throughout India.
  • D-VOIS – A broadband cable provider.
  • Sify – A broadband cable provider.
  • SpectraNet – A broadband cable provider.
  • Vodafone – GPRS and 3G

Together, these networks form the majority of fixed wire line services throughout India, with other providers such as Aircell, Idea, MTS and DoCoMo providing mobile broadband services. By analyzing BGP path data from Renesys Routing Intelligence and Hurricane Electric’s BGP Toolkit, we are able to drill into the provider relationships throughout India to isolate what we consider to be the most important, most captive networks in India.

I saw some interesting and varied levels of physical network engineering in India and not all of it was pretty. For one, the same standards to protect the physical network that we are used to in the United States are not in place in India. I witnessed significant amounts of cable bundle running above ground, fiber optic lines strung through trees and fiber splices protected from the environment by water bottles.

Raj Vysetty (left) and Tom Daly (right) visited Mumbai.

In data centers, the quality of cabling between ISP hand-off racks to the data center itself left much to be desired (I’m a bit of a cabling fanatic), to the extent that one data center now mandates that only their own staff is permitted in ISP patch rooms – because they are sick of some of the messes too!

It’s a cause for concern to me and it’s why Dyn will be getting multiple backbone connections at our future POP.

From a routing perspective, a particular challenge of India is getting consistent routing and latencies between points based upon which side of the country traffic exits.

From testing on the ground in India back to points in the United States, I tended to see a latency of 300ms via Mumbai to the US East Coast and a latency of approximately 300ms via Chennai to the US West Coast.

This sheer differential of routing is a cause for concern as the difference in pure capacity between Atlantic and Pacific cable systems on various networks is a wide gap.

When disruptions occur due to various environmental situations (tsunamis, underwater earthquakes, ships dragging anchors), routing in India can be significantly destabilized and it’s something Dyn is taking into consideration as we build out our DNS data replication path from our core sites in Newark, NJ and Sunnyvale, CA, into India.

In the same light, I don’t want to sound critical of India’s Internet. It’s a different set of circumstances – geographic, economic, and financial — than I am used to in the United States. In my experience from various hotels, restaurants, and airports, the Internet was very accessible, available and reasonably fast.

India’s particular challenge as its Internet grows is getting content localized to users. With 300ms of latency back to the US, TCP bandwidth is limited, meaning a slower user experience for users.

Content and ecommerce operators will need to make a conscious decision to bring their sites to India and be ready to play with the realities of the market in India – one of the reasons Dyn is deploying an in-country POP.

Conclusion: Where’s Dyn Going?

In my 10-day tour of India, I visited major cities including Chennai, Bangalore, and Mumbai. We searched for the Internet hubs – cities with good network connectivity, power infrastructure and data center space. We visited 15 different data centers, each with a different approach on providing physical security, rack level power and Internet bandwidth. We explored the peering relationships between ISPs in the country and how traffic enters and exits the country.

At this time, we’re pretty sure we will be placing our first India POP in Mumbai on the west coast of the country. We had originally thought that Chennai would be our first location, but after surveying the available service options, Mumbai is able to offer us a more stable power service than the other cites are able to.

Combined with a semi-aging data center infrastructure in Chennai and Bangalore and with major data center build-outs occurring in Mumbai, we have located a few candidate data centers in Mumbai that we would be happy customers at.

We’re now finalizing telecommunications quotes to gain access to the important networks of India and then we’ll begin our deployment. We’re looking forward to bringing our Managed DNS services to India, so, keep an eye on our Anycast Network Map for updates!

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Whois: Tom Daly

Tom Daly is a co-founder of Dyn, a pioneer in managed DNS and a leader in cloud-based infrastructure that connects users with digital content and experiences across a global internet.