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India's data boom: Homegrown players join global giants

From importing capacity to fostering homegrown operators, India’s data centre industry is booming. Meet the key players driving the country's digital transformation

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VoicenData Bureau
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Data centre

Every year, India’s data centre industry goes from strength to strength. The most apparent reasons are easy to see—data consumption among consumers and enterprises is increasing rapidly, driving the demand for data centres in the country. However, of late, the influx of artificial intelligence (AI) to every industry imaginable has kicked off rapid growth in India’s data centre industry. Projections hold steadfast in this regard—last month, individual reports by industry and real estate trackers JLL India and CBRE estimated separately that the data centre market in India, which currently has a net capacity of around 850MW across key operators and facilities, might nearly double to around 1.7GW by the end of 2026.

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While these estimates are tall, it is understandable why they hold ground. Nascent Indian startups are eyeing the generative AI bandwagon to create and introduce large language models (LLMs) proficient in Indian languages and contexts. However, developing LLMs requires vast data combined with robust cloud services that are available ubiquitously across the industry. This, in turn, creates a roadmap for multiple established and small players to enter the industry and contribute to building India as a major data centre hub for Asia and the rest of the world.

 

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With dedicated data privacy regulations, policies like the India AI Mission, and more, the country now has a favourable regulatory framework for global data centre operators to cater to the market. On this note, here is a look at some of India’s prominent data centre companies, what each offers today, and their plans for the near future.

 

Note: The following list does not make a qualitative judgement on any data centre service provider in India. All firms are arranged in sequence by their year of establishment in India, derived from their year of registration with the Registrar of Companies, Ministry of Corporate Affairs.

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Tata Communications

 

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Year of commencement/registration: 1986 (as VSNL)

Total capacity: 300MW (including planned)

 

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India’s oldest data centre operator is also one of the country’s most well-equipped in terms of its overall services. Tata Communications began its journey as a public-sector, government-owned facility, Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited (VSNL). The company claims it is one of the country’s broadest data centre service providers, having over 44 data centres worldwide. The company’s facilities also provide rack space to third parties, thereby being one of the few colocation data centres in the country.

 

Tata Communications has also been growing at a steady pace. As of FY24, the company grew at 17.5% annually to hit a revenue milestone of USD 2.51 billion. It also owns, operates, and maintains what it claims is the world’s largest subsea cable network, giving it an advantageous position in the industry regarding latency and service uptime.

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NTT GDC India

 

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Year of commencement/registration: 1994

Total capacity: 265MW (including planned)

 

One of the country’s most significant data centre operators, NTT Global Data Centres (GDC) India, has 18 facilities in Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, and the National Capital Region (NCR). The data centre operator’s lineage goes back to Japan-based Fortune 500 company Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT) Corporation, which part-owns its fellow Japan-headquartered firm, NTT Data.

 

Earlier this week, media reports claimed that Abhijit Dubey, of Indian origin, is set to become the first-ever non-Japanese chief executive of NTT Data. The company’s India revenue is expected to be close to USD 1 billion, while its global revenue is around USD 30 billion. It also provides managed IT services, cloud platforms, systems integration, application development, and more.

 

Sify Technologies

 

Year of commencement/registration: 1995

Total capacity: 398MW (including planned)

 

The third-oldest data centre service provider is among the most well-recognised names in the enterprise tech domain for its rich diversity and range of services. For instance, Sify’s Rabale campus specifications can be considered an ideal example—showcasing 10 buildings of eight floors each in which data centre capacities are spread across. With its sheer size, Sify’s data centre is estimated to be one of the biggest in the nation.

 

Today, even though its data centre operations serve a global market with a specific focus on the US, one of the biggest reasons why Sify Technologies is remembered in the consumer domain is its running of a successful ‘Sify iWay’ cyber cafe chain with more than 1,000 outlets across the country. The latter is often credited with improving last-mile internet connectivity in various regions across India and introducing video conferencing into the mainstream internet users’ fold.

 

Web Werks

 

Year of commencement/registration: 1996

Total capacity: 40MW (200MW planned)

 

Web Werks has been one of the foremost data centre operators in India. Still, despite being registered in India for a long time, it has not seen its operations scale up massively. Now, with the advent of data usage, regulations and involvement in almost every business aspect, Web Werks is scaling up its operations in the country. A crucial part of this scaling up was announced last year when the company and US-based IT firm Iron Mountain unveiled a new USD 170 million green-field data centre in Mumbai.

 

This, though, is not all—earlier this year, the state government of Karnataka announced that the Web Werks-Iron Mountain joint venture would cumulatively invest a whopping USD 2.4 billion to build a full-scale data centre park in Bengaluru, Karnataka. A memorandum of understanding for the facility was signed between the Karnataka state government and Web Werks at last year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

 

STT GDC

 

Year of commencement/registration: 2005

Total capacity: 318MW

 

ST Telemedia Global Data Centres (GDC) is no longer a bit-part player and seeks to cash in on the AI and data boom by expanding in tandem with demand. Over the past year, media reports have cited Chief Executive Officer Sumit Mukhija, who stated that the company is looking to invest USD 1 billion in expanding its data centre capacity. Specifically, the company wants to double its existing data centre capacity every four years. This would leave the company with nearly 600MW of data centre capacity by 2027, making it one of the country’s biggest service providers.

 

STT is a portfolio company of global investor Temasek Holdings, thus giving it potentially deep coffers to invest in its overall infrastructure. The company offers outsourced IT services to its clients, including managed cloud platforms.

 

CtrlS

 

Year of commencement/registration: 2007

Total capacity: 275MW (planned up to 600MW)

 

This pure-play Indian data centre operator is betting on the country and plans to more than double its data centre capacity in India in the coming years. CtrlS clearly focuses on expanding its presence in India while considering sustainable operations as a key offering to rival others in this sector. One of the key features that it provides is support for private cloud adoption among enterprises—a growing facet of tech spending across various industries today.

 

Going forward, CtrlS is poised to be one of India’s biggest data centre operators alongside fellow global rivals with a strong presence in India. Alongside data and AI, CtrlS’ expansion plans are also driven by a strategy to expand to ‘edge’ markets—where it already has two facilities in Lucknow and Patna. With such facilities at hand, CtrlS is likely to add more small facilities in niche markets—a strategy that was long labelled as the primary expansion strategy for all data centre firms.

 

ESDS Software Solutions

 

Year of commencement/registration: 2008

Total capacity: 5MW 

 

Initially, a smaller data centre operator than many of its rivals, ESDS today has five facilities that offer niche facilities, including cloud platforms for migration, private cloud services, bundled cyber security and more to its enterprise clients. Today, the company has five facilities across Nashik, Bengaluru, Mohali and Mumbai. One of the essential things that ESDS promises is multiple high-bandwidth links between the data centre itself and the host clients, along with 100Gbps backbone links that serve as the primary network links for the company’s data centre. ESDS is a steady, reliable service provider with a growing presence across India.

NxtGen Datacenter and Cloud Technologies

Year of commencement/registration: 2012

Total capacity: 4,200 racks (including planned, NA in MW)

 

Spread across four independent data centres and ready to welcome the fifth, NxtGen Datacenter is a high-density data centre in the country. The company claims to provide dedicated rack data hosting for enterprises, which essentially lets enterprises segregate their data from each other. This could be beneficial since downtime in one server rack would not immediately lead to downtime in multiple services—but just one. NxtGen also claims to provide higher data density, which lets the operator stack up higher data capacity within their facility and improve energy efficiency.

 

Nxtra

 

Year of commencement/registration: 2013

Total capacity: 200MW (including planned)

 

Backed by Bharti Airtel, Nxtra is one of India’s most expansive data centre operators by the sheer number of geographies they are present. A 21MW hyperscale data centre is already functional in Pune, while six more are being built across Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Noida and Bengaluru. It does not just operate hyperscale facilities, though—Nxtra also has 11 core data centres spread across Chennai, Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru, Noida, Manesar and Bhubaneswar. Core data centres are central to a region, more powerful and significant than edge data centres, and form central units that serve an entire circle of multiple states—instead of any singular state or district.

 

Nxtra, however, does that, too; its official website lists over 120 edge data centres spread across 65 cities, making it a key country-wide offering under its umbrella.

 

Yotta

 

Year of commencement/registration: 2019

Total capacity: 250MW (including planned)

 

The Hiranandani Group has emerged as one of the most prominent companies in the data centre domain. Yotta Data Services struck popularity because of its USD 1 billion deal with chipmaker Nvidia. In partnership with Yotta, the latter is supplying GPUs to create the first official Nvidia Network Cloud Partner in India. The entire cloud platform is set to source up to 4,000 GPUs from Nvidia’s H100 range of chips by the end of this year, followed by a total of nearly 16,000 GPUs by next year.

This, in turn, is expected to help build one of the largest cloud platforms in India in terms of AI compute power. Instead of focusing on overall server hosting and generic cloud platforms, Yotta is squarely targeting the generative AI wave to rope in client contracts.

Equinix

 

Year of commencement/registration: 2021

Total capacity: 6,760 cabinets (NA in MW)

 

Equinix is one of the newest entrants in India’s data centre markets, which it did by acquiring two data centres in the country’s Mumbai Metropolitan Region. While its collaborative capacity is at mass, Equinix’s focus is as an interconnect specialist and colocation facility. The mass-scale data centre is pitching itself as a large-scale data hub for streaming services, gaming, and other consumer-end applications. It presently requires increasing low-latency connection points to process data. Within just over three years, Equinix has extended its facilities to four, including active and planned data centre facilities in the country.

 

AdaniConneX

Year of commencement/registration: 2022

Total capacity: 33MW (planned up to 1GW by 2030)

 

Such is the scale of the AdaniConneX data centre joint venture that two months ago, Adani Enterprises raised a net debt of USD 1.44 billion to build a series of data centres. The joint venture between the latter and data centre firm EdgeConneX aims to invest at least USD 875 million in the next three years, with further expansion planned. Eventually, the JV aims to establish its own data centre capacity of 1GW by 2030—a substantial target within the next six years.

 

The move, however, will be critical for Adani Enterprises, a multi-business conglomerate, in terms of maintaining its cost and data sanctity across its various businesses. This would work similarly to how Nxtra works for the telecom operator Bharti Airtel, becoming a service provider to the conglomerate's companies.

 

The company has one operational data centre in Chennai and is setting up two more in Noida and Hyderabad. It plans to build nine more by 2030.

Digital Connexion

Year of commencement/registration: 2024

Total capacity: 20MW (140MW including planned)

 

With two facilities in Chennai and Mumbai, Digital Connexion offers colocation and interconnection services, and built-to-suit as its key offerings. It is a joint venture between Brookfield Asset Management, Reliance Industries Limited, and Digital Realty, making it another strategically crucial platform akin to Adani’s AdaniConneX and Airtel’s Nxtra.

Overall, Digital Connexion has a sizeable expansion plan, which could largely be accounted for by Reliance Jio’s tech subsidiary’s expansion plans. The firm also has an open partner programme that lets enterprises apply to become its business partners, offering key technology and sales exchange initiatives to grow its ambit. However, its net capacity is not yet among India’s most significant data centres.

 

By Vernika Awal

feedbackvnd@cybermedia.co.in

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