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Indian Railways’ RailTel to create Edge Data Centres for efficient digital delivery in rural, semi-urban areas

To accelerate digitalization and provide efficient digital delivery in rural and semi-urban areas, Indian Railways’ PSU, RailTel has decided to create several “Edge Data Centres” across the country jointly with partners. This new initiative aims to give a boost Modi Government’s Digital India. Edge data centres can be referred to as small data centres situated at the network edge, where they are nearer to end-users as well as devices. According to a RailTel statement, having such a facility at the edge would allow faster performance as well as lower latency as the data will not have to be moved to far-flung data centres to process it.

The PSU is seeking partners to set up such Edge Data Centres in the Indian Railways land/premises across as many as 102 locations especially Tier-2 and Tier-3 towns. However, the prospective Business Associates or partners should be registered in India. This activity is expected to entail an investment opportunity of over Rs 500 crore. Expression of Interest (EOI) has been floated to establish these Edge Data Centres, inviting the industry to partner in this exercise. Under the proposal, envisioned Edge Data Centre’s initial capacity at each location can be of about 20 Racks (5 KW to 10 KW each). However, at individual locations, Edge Data Centre with variable rack and power density can be explored too as per the requirement as well as availability of power, space along with other factors.

The PSU has over 9300 Points of Presence and extensive optical fiber connectivity along the rail tracks and across the Indian Railways premises, which makes the basic infrastructure readily available for establishing Edge Data Centres. The railway PSU will be responsible for providing the internet connectivity to the chosen Business Associate. Use of data centre for Railway critical application such as TCAS, LTE, etc. shall be met on priority. Along with selected partners, service offerings based on market requirements including sectors of health, skill development, education will be jointly devised, which may cover one or more basic service platforms e.g., Rack Colocation, Managed Colocation, Platform-as-a-Service, Infrastructure-as-a-Service, etc.

The upcoming Edge Data Centres will allow RailTel to deploy IT infra for ‘caching’ of popular contents in order to improve and enhance RailWire broadband customers’ experience as then cached contents will be locally served instead of travelling a long network stretch. Similarly, IT infra for ‘peering’ with content players can be deployed as well in these centres which would improve cost economics for content delivery.

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