Local demand for data storage in doubt

Bhutan Telecom has requested the government to host data with them

IT: Four months after Bhutan Telecom (BT) launched its Tier III data centre in Phuentsholing, the centre’s chances of drawing government agencies as domestic clients looks bleak.

The centre opened for business mid February this year. BT officials in Phuentsholing said the centre has received a client each from within and outside the country to host their services with them. The equipment of an autonomous institution in the country has been currently installed for service at the new centre, while the equipment of the international client is en route.

But it is the government’s plan to build its own data centre that could affect BT’s domestic market. It has been learned that the government of India (GoI) has committed a funding of Nu 120 million to the government to build its own centre, in a project tied assistance.

Data Centre Services Private Limited (DCSPL) housed at the IT park, Thimphu TechPark, operates the existing government data centre. The new funding would be spent on equipment, an official from the Department of Information Technology and Telecom (DITT) said.

Although BT officials in Phuentsholing did not say this would weaken the state of the overall market, Kuensel learned the company has written to the government to rescind an executive order that was made before the BT centre was launched. The government agencies were instructed to host their datas with the government’s data centre.

BT had also requested the government to host government data services with them. So far, nothing concrete has transpired and whether the government will host datas with BT remains uncertain.

DITT director Phuntsho Tobgay said during the 10th five-year plan (FYP) the government had prioritised building its own centre focusing on the ICT infrastructure development in the country. BT was also planning to build a centre since 2005.

The director said the information and communications ministry and BT had then exchanged dialogues in which BT had declared to the ministry it was not looking at the government as clients. After the IT park was established, the government later built its data centre.

The government then formed the Bhutan Computer Emergency Response Team (BCERT) in order to ensure security as a part of the government’s e-governance strategy. The BCERT mandate doesn’t allow government agencies to host data in other centres. The government data, Phuntsho Tobgay explained has to reside within the government infrastructure.

“If a particular infrastructure of the government extends beyond the defined government intranet and government ICT infrastructure, the BCERT cannot provide its service,” he said. “This actually means government information has to reside within the defined government infrastructure by default.”

Telecom has spent Nu 167M in building a data centre in Phuentsholing. Individuals, entrepreneurs, and organisations across the country can avail the facility of Tier III design for the first time. Phuentsholing was chosen because of its location that has point of interconnection with international fiber connectivity.

The centre will provide 99.98 percent availability of services to its customers with required facilities of safety, maintenance, and other services. The centre will also provide services to national and international customers at a minimised cost and excellent reliability.

The centre will offer three major services to the customers. It offers rack space for both single phase and 3-phase power, in which organisations could keep their servers. Cage and cloud services are the other two services the centre will provide.

During its launch, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay made it very clear the service reliability of 99.98 percent services should be maintained as per the tier III design certification. He also said the government would support the centre.

With regards to BT having made a request to host in their centre, information and communications minister, Lyonpo DN Dhungyel said the ministry was currently exploring ways and means of using BT’s centre.

“The ministry has explored possibilities on storing government data recovery site at BT centre, while primary centre was in Thimphu,” lyonpo said, adding it was, however, not confirmed. “We are discussing how feasible it could be.”

At present, the DITT has also not taken any stand as to whether or not government agencies can host their data outside government the data centre.

Meanwhile, BT’s regional manager for the south western region in Phuentsholing, Jichen Thinley said it would take time to gain more clients. He said telecom is at an advanced stage of discussion with more clients, while some have agreed, and needed signing of Memorandum of Understandings (MoU) to start business.

“We will have more clients in the next couple of months,” he said, explaining clients need time to understand and analyse before hosting with us. “It requires understanding technical and financial aspects.”

Although BT is exploring the regional market, domestic market is the priority, Jichen Thinley said. The centre will also be able to start cloud services in about a month’s time.

By Rajesh Rai, Phuentsholing

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