By Sramana Mitra and guest author Shaloo Shalini
SM: I am asking this from an IT point of view: What is the distribution of the employee base that you are supporting today?
SB: We support both our employees and the franchisees with our IT. We have nearly 3,000 franchisees. We provide connections to them; we provide all kinds of services, including software, to them as well.
SM: Ok. So the 3,000 franchisees are outside of the 15,000 employees?
SM: I assume your headquarters are in Bombay?
SB: Yes, we are headquartered in Bombay.
SM: Out of the 15,000, what percentage of the people are in Bombay?
SB: Bombay has about 2,500 employees.
SM: Two and a half thousand in Bombay, and the rest are distributed in the retail operations?
SB: Yes, basically, that is where we are. Obviously the major metropolitan areas constitute a good chunk of it. But we do have a presence in one or two really small towns in India as well.
SM: All right. So with that context, would you tell me what has been your philosophy of cloud computing at IndiaInfoline? How do you see cloud computing, and what is the level of adoption right now in your shop?
SB: Well, we started with cloud was mainly on the server side. At IndiaInfoline, because we are a brokerage firm, real-time connectivity is an essential part of our service. As part of this service, real-time rates have to be communicated to pretty much every part of India. So, we use a large mix of connectivity, both public and private, to get rate data and other services right up to these offices.
SB: We have a very large bank of servers that send out rates and receive orders from users. We have a few other servers that do various kinds of supporting activities, such as the risk management. We started thinking in terms of the cloud and had for the first time a cloud drive of sorts to convert or upgrade our rate servers. We decided to put those servers that deal with sending out rates and receiving orders from the trading terminal person on the cloud because the demand in such a trading scenario is very variable. We need to be able to add and remove servers as capacity or volume grows. We have a large customer base. If there is a sudden surge in the big up-kick market, we need to make sure that our infrastructure growth is able to accommodate that kind of spike in computing requirements to deal with that volume.
SM: Did you use a public cloud service to achieve that, or did you create your own cloud using available components?
SB: We started out in the cloud by using the cloud-based infrastructure service that our data center provider had just launched – it was a new cloud-based service. He came up to us and said, ‘You know, we have got these clouds, and would you like to be our first cloud customer’? We spent time testing it out. It worked fine for us, so we put it on Netmagic’s public cloud because anyway these applications we are moving to the cloud are public-facing applications. There wasn’t any information security issue in moving those to the cloud. So, we decided to go with a public cloud provider – Netmagic Solutions.
SM: Where is the data physically located? Is it in India?
SB: Yes, it is located in Bombay.
SM: So Netmagic solutions has a private cloud data center operating out of Bombay, and that is what you are using?
SB: No, it is a public cloud data center. Well, they have a private cloud also for us now, but we started on their public cloud offering.
SM: Well, even in that case Netmagic has to have the data hosted somewhere, right?
SB: They are a hosting provider; they have their own servers, data center, and cloud infrastructure.
SM: But what I am asking is whether the data is physically in India.
SB: Yes, it is.
SM: The first thing you did as part of your cloud move was move this variable workload to a public cloud. What other workloads have you moved to the cloud?
SB: After we moved our rate server workload, we discovered that it worked very well for us. Another three or four months later, we decided this is fun, so we need to move more stuff on it. At that point, a lot of our servers were due for maintenance. We had about 84 or 85 servers that were out of warranty, and we needed to buy maintenance contracts for them. Since these were servers that were purchased a couple of years ago, the maintenance contracts were pretty high. At first, we figured that we could buy new servers with some of that money that would otherwise be spent in buying maintenance contracts. Then we figured, Why buy new servers, why not just rent new servers on the cloud from Netmagic, but this time from a private cloud. The company decided that we could do that in a private cloud. So, that is what we did, we took these 84 servers, virtualized them, and put them into a private cloud.