In Local vs Cloud: Most Smart Cities take to data hyper-localisationhttps://indianexpress.com/article/india/in-local-vs-cloud-most-smart-cities-take-to-data-hyper-localisation-5506579/

In Local vs Cloud: Most Smart Cities take to data hyper-localisation

So far, the 12 cities that are the furthest along have already created hyper-local silos to store data within their cities.

Smart City, Smart City data, local storage vs cloud storage cloud storage, data storage, Amazon Web Services, IBM, Microsoft, smart cities project, indian express
Cloud storage in this context effectively means that the data is not stored on a local server, but still remains on servers in India with one of the IT Ministry’s empaneled cloud service providers like Amazon Web Services, IBM, or Microsoft. (Illustration: CR Sasikumar/Representation pupose)

Fifty tier-II and tier-III city administrations are shopping for ways to store the increasing amount of Smart City data across the country. Firms and consultants are rushing in with their products of local storage, cloud storage or hybrid models even as most municipalities remain unaware of the technological options before them.

So far, the 12 cities that are the furthest along have already created hyper-local silos to store data within their cities. A scrutiny by The Indian Express of such decisions reveals that these plans will lead to local servers initially ranging between 2,000 and 6,000 TB. Further, many Smart City chiefs remain either unaware of untrusting of cloud technology.

Cloud storage in this context effectively means that the data is not stored on a local server, but still remains on servers in India with one of the IT Ministry’s empaneled cloud service providers like Amazon Web Services, IBM, or Microsoft.

Launched in 2015, the Smart Cities Mission will spend over Rs 16,000 crore — 8 percent of the total Rs 2.04 lakh crore investment — on information technology. After digitising municipal operations, such as waste flow, water supply, traffic patterns, and surveillance systems, the aim is to feed all data into an integrated command and control center (ICCC).

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While Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Surat, Vizag, Kakinada, Pune, Naya Raipur and Nagpur have stored data in city borders, Vadodara, Bhopal, Bhubaneswar and Ujjain have kept a backup on the cloud.

Kunal Kumar, Mission Director for Smart Cities and MHUA Joint Secretary, said, “(IT Industry) is divided between local versus cloud. That’s why it takes time for us at a mission-level to take a stand,” Kumar said. “Today it is more on the data center and less on the cloud, but going forward it’s going to be quite equally divided.”

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Why hyper-local may not be best choice for cities

The municipal trend towards storing data in city premises takes the national push for data localisation to a hyper-local level. While the Centre has controversially begun to mandate storing Indians' data in national borders, cities have taken it upon themselves to keep Nagpur’s data in Nagpur, Pune’s data in Pune, and so on. Critics say that the usual arguments for national data localisation — such as security, access and monetisation — are being illogically applied to Smart City projects in knee-jerk and ill-informed decisions. The result will be siloed data storage across the nation rather than server sharing across cities.

However, an analysis by The Indian Express of 15 upcoming tenders shows that only three had instructions for cloud-based data storage. All others had some form of localisation. Four refer to state localisation with a common data center for all the state’s smart cities.

According to the MHUA, 28 cities have awarded and 21 have floated tenders so far. Kumar said the ministry is meeting IT stakeholders, consultants, and the cities to develop an advisory — set to come out next month — regarding data storage, open source data, etc.

Many Smart City chiefs remain unaware or untrusting of cloud technology. “This is the city government, and the city government would like to have data in its own domain,” said Nagpur’s Smart City CEO Ramnath Sonawane. “Elsewhere, it is difficult to manage. People feel that data is secure when it’s in the local body.”

Tumakuru’s Smart City General Manager Swami said it is more cost-effective to store the data in Bengaluru along with data of other smart cities of Karnataka. He said storing on cloud outside the state was not discussed.

A professional involved with smart city infrastructure at a construction firm said city administrators remain risk-averse and want to build local infrastructure as a symbol of pride.

However, some city administrators say their choice depends on awareness. Pune Smart City Chief Knowledge Officer Manojit Bose said all the data, including the backup, is being stored in the city because cloud services were not well-known when the tender was floated in 2016.

The Indian Express found central government white papers and projects related to cloud beginning in 2013.

Kochi’s Smart City General Manager R Raji said that cloud storage is a more appropriate long-term solution. “The future is in the cloud… There is no point in building a data center that we may or may not need in the future.”

full report on www.indianexpress.com