My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: Digicel Cloud Backup Service and future Cloud-Based Services - V.S Naipaul's A House for Mr Biswas

Monday, May 16, 2011

Digicel Cloud Backup Service and future Cloud-Based Services - V.S Naipaul's A House for Mr Biswas

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature

Abraham Lincoln Inaugural Speech

On Wednesday May 11th 2011, Telecom Provider Digicel launched their Digicel Cloud Backup Service as stated in the article “Digicel launches Cloud Services in Jamaica”, published Friday, May 13, 2011, The Jamaica Observer  and “Digicel takes to the clouds”, published Friday May 13 2011, Mark Titus, Gleaner Reporter, The Jamaica Gleaner.

Telecom Provider Digicel had upgraded their much vaulted Data Center, located in Caymanas, St. Catherine with Tier III Certification as stated in the article “Digicel Data Centre receives Tier III Certification”, published Sunday, May 15, 2011, The Jamaica Observer to provided this new Cloud Backup Service

Which in IT and Telecoms speak (yes, that’s right!!! BOTH!!) is an indication of the level of redundancy or backup systems to ensure adherence to the five 9’s i.e. 99.999% uptime, in terms of:
  1. The operation of the Servers
  2. Ensuring Data Integrity after Data is backed up the Servers
  3. Power Systems (JPS Co, Standby Generators, UPS Systems)
  4. Adequate insurance coverage against Acts of God that result in Data Loss e.g. Hurricane, Earthquake
For those who came late, this is the same Data Center mentioned by The Jamaica Gleaner Reporter, Mark Titus, in his article “Digicel diversifies - $500m data centre opens November”, published Friday August 28, 2009 by Mark Titus, Business Reporter, The Jamaica Gleaner.

Specs for the Data Center (yes I like Telecoms Provider specs, not computer specs by the way!!) are as follows:

  1. Four thousand square feet (4000 sq. feet)
  2. Three (3) storey bunker-style building, built to withstand hurricanes and earthquakes
  3. Halogen-based fire suppression system
  4. Two (2) 1400 KVA back-up generators 
  5. Has Air Conditioning System to keep temperatures not only constant Temperature of 22 degrees Celsius but at a Constant pressure, humidity level and dust and particulate level, which does affect Servers.
  1. Physical Access requiring Biometric Identification and RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) Badge Readers, worn visibly all the time!!
  2. Levels of access to only qualified personnel to which even the CEO and ICT have no access
  3. 24/7 365-day Armed security
  4. Cameras and microphones in front of every Server Access Terminal and on every floor
  1. Head-end redundancy with two (2) fiber Optic Connections, one (1) from Triple Play Provider FLOW and the other from JPS Co (they have a Telecom License)
  2. The Servers rest on a raised Plenum with space for power cabling. 
  3. Heavily encrypted Remote Computer Access to the Servers requiring Biometric Identification
  4. The Servers are mounted in rack cabinets forming rows and columns (think the Matrix!!!)
I actually mentioned their Data Center first in an article in the same breath as DigiTV and Digicel WiMaX (IEEE 802.16d, e) entitled “Suggested low cost high impact Launch of Digicel WiMax 4G Mobile (IEEE 802.16d) Broadband Network and DigiTV”.

At the time, the buzz was about Digicel WiMaX (IEEE 802.16d, e) as stated in the article “Digicel all set to unveil 4G Broadband offering”, published Friday, August 13, 2010 by AL EDWARDS, The Jamaica Observer, now Digicel Broadband, with a side interest in DigiTV.

More on this later!!

Digicel’s Data Center had been operating as a Cloud Backup Service since November 2009AD with JMMB (Jamaica Money Market Brokers), ICWI (Insurance Company of the West Indies) and NCU (Northern Caribbean University) among their many guinea pigs ….er…I mean first Customers to whom they provided backup Services.

Quite a long two (2) year testing period, which I suspect, was part of getting Tier III certification; live test with real guinea pigs [Corporate Customers] to ensure that their Services work under the vagaries of Jamaican Weather and the unreliability of Jamaica’s sole PUC (Power Utility Company), JPS Co. (Jamaica Public Service Company).

Not to mention a great sales pitch, in the same vein as Taste-and-buy, summarily interpreted from Digicel CEO Mark Linehan, quote: “Cloud is suitable for all businesses, with solution for small, medium and large companies. From an economic perspective, the benefits are immeasurable. Cloud platforms in general are creating a new level of infrastructure that global developers can exploit, especially SMEs. This will enable SMEs to run their business more effectively and more efficiently, as they are now able to afford products that historically only large businesses would have access to.”

For those with an eye for details, yes, I did mention guinea pigs again – the Data Center did not have Tier III Certification at the time, just Telecom Provider Digicel’s good name backing them up.

Hence the lack of a wide ranging offer to small businesses back in 2009AD for the use of their Digicel Cloud Backup Services, which is a Static Hosting Service i.e. Data uploaded to the Server and stored for posterity.

Simply put, it’s is a type of Web Hosting, with the requisite Dynamic Hosting Services i.e. Data traveling back and forth and changing constantly, as in the case of a website e.g. Facebook or Service Platform e.g. iTunes

With Tier III, Telecom Provider Digicel are able to provide Cloud-Based Services as they can guarantee the five 9’s i.e. 99.999 percent uptime when Telecom Provider Digicel eventually rolls out other Services than just Data Backup.

Cloud-Based Services, which are type of Web Hosting Services in that they tend not to be Static Web 1.0 Services i.e. plain HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language).

As more and more websites become Web 2.0 i.e. interactive support from a SQL (Structure Query Language) Platform to receive and give Data to visitors or hosted websites, Tier III Certification becomes more attractive to provide Cloud-Based Services.

So Digicel CEO Mark Linehan sales pitch rings true.

Cloud Platforms, especially if they are located in your country and have Tier III Certification, can significantly compete on price with international Web Hosting and Cloud-Based Services with the likes of Go-Daddy or even HostGator.

Data Centers worldwide that traditionally were just being used for backup storage Services such DropBox and Web 1.0 websites thus scrambled in the first decade of 2000 to receive Tier III certification which guarantees their ability to satisfy the criteria of the five 9’s i.e. 99.999% uptime.

Not to mention their being more money in providing a pay-as-you-use scalable Cloud-Based Service with Corporate Customers having only to worry about the content on their websites or Service Platforms, saving the heavy lifting of managing Servers to Telecom Provider Digicel.

Somewhat like a pre-paid DropBox with Web Hosting Services.

Or…and this is a bad comparison by the way……..prepaid Voice Services on your mobile phones, quite suitable for SME (Small and Medium Enterprise) long desirous of Cloud-Based Services such as Data Backup but wary of the cost of purchasing, provisioning an  maintaining their own Backup Servers.

Thus postpaid fixed blocks of storage on Digicel Cloud Backup Service are being provided to Corporate Clients.

To summarize, Digicel Cloud Backup Service will have three (3) sets of corporate clients:
  1. Pay-as-you-go Cloud Storage - SME
  2. Fixed Subscription Cloud Storage – Corporate Clients
  3. Free Cloud Storage (think DropBox or Amazon’s Cloud Drive) - Students
When full provisioned, Digicel’s Data Center can offer Cloud-Based Services, such as:
  1. Email Server Platform
  2. BlackBerry Server Platform (BB Messenger and email for Blackberry Clients)
  3. Virtual Server e.g. MMORPG, Gaming Platforms such as Steam and Onlive, Music Streaming such as the Amazon’s Cloud Drive with its associated Amazon Cloud Player Service and Google Music, etc
  4. Cloud Telephony Platform e.g. Skype
  5. Cloud Computing Platform e.g. support for Google Chromebooks and Tablets running Chrome OS
David Bates, head of ICT sales at Digicel puts it best, quote: “To me, cloud is simply hosted IT Services, provided reliably securely over the Internet on a pay-as-you-go model. Essentially, think of it as a large hotel, where every company that comes along gets its own room, its own key. They are all availing of the underlying of the supportive structure - the power, the lights, the security, the front desk, the room service, the TV; but within that room each person can customize it to their own need”

Cloud-Based Services abound. It is projected to be big business if the figures of Cisco, a very important player in the Cloud-Server business are anything to go by. Cisco has seen an increase of one thousand four hundred (1,400) orders on their originally projected four thousand (4000) orders in the First Quarter of 2011 to five thousand (5000) orders for their Servers as stated in the article “Amid Gloom, Cisco’s Servers Approaching a $1B Business”, published May 12, 2011, 9:18am PT By Stacey Higginbotham, GigaOM.

Thus, Telecom Provider Digicel may be onto something here with their Digicel Cloud Backup Service geared towards SME’s. Especially as a lot of the Services hosted on their Cloud-Based Data Center may be international companies or companies seeking cheaper offshore Cloud-Based Web Hosting Services such as Google.

Cloud-Based Web Hosting Services mainly power Gaming Platforms such as the famously hacked Sony PSN (Playstation Network) and Social Networks Platform such as FaceBook and the currently partially down Twitter.

VoIP Platforms such as Skype as stated in the article “Skype’s Real P2P Network”, published April 25, 2011, 4:15pm PT By Colleen Taylor, GigaOM are also examples of Cloud-Based Services or Platforms. Ditto too for Blogging Platforms such as Blogger and WordPress!

Hope they are shielded from hackers too with decent Sun Microsystems Servers running Red Hat Linux Distribution, as International Customers, the main bread-and-butter for Data Centers, once hosted, paint a large target on Telecom Provider Digicel’s now Cloud-capable Data Center.

Especially in light of the recent hack of Sony PSN as stated in the blog article entitled “AWC Fail, PSN Hack and Nokia Layoff - Murphy Law in a Clash of The Titans” and further explained in the blog article entitled “Yahoo Mail and Verizon LTE Failure - The Great Train Robbery with a Chance of MeatBalls”. The AWC (Amazon Webs Services), the Great Web Outage of 2011, cannot be forgotten and is thus mentioned in my article above.

Good to note that Blogger and possibly Twitter were down due to maintenance as stated in blog article entitled “Blogger Outage Ends and Twitter Outage Begins - Server and Switch Resident Evil Afterlife Maintenance” – or so Google claims, coincidentally occurring during Google I/O.

Yahoo Mail Outage may also be due to maintenance as well as stated the blog article entitled “Yahoo Mail and Verizon LTE Failure - The Great Train Robbery with a Chance of MeatBalls”.

Tier III should help build faith in the Cloud to shore up confidence to Corporate Customers, SME’s and College Students wary of these outrages, scheduled or otherwise!

Thus, expect to see in short order a lot of SME (Small and Medium Enterprises) and even Venture Capitalists funding start-ups lining up to take advantage of the Pay-as-you-use DropBox-esque Services in the form of Digicel Cloud Backup Service.

They too, like the big Corporate Players, can peaceably expect to have their own Server and Cloud-Based Backup and Cloud-Based Web Hosting Services on the cheap and move out of the Tulsa Family Home [Telecom Provider LIME?!], much as Mr. Biswas desired in V.S Naipaul's A House for Mr Biswas.

This as in the next five (5) years, Jamaica will be getting a possibly free-access islandwide Fiber Optic Network courtesy of the GOJ (Government of Jamaica) sponsored UAFCL (Universal Access Fund Company Limited) built in partnership by Telecom Provider LIME and Triple Play Provider FLOW as stated in the blog article entitled “LIME, FLOW and the $JA543-million Internet plan - Ebony and Ivory”.

This most likely will occur later towards the end of 2011AD and in the First Quarter of 2012AD – just in time for Streaming Services to be launched to stream London Olympics 2012 come July 27th 2012AD! 

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