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SGI to Test Indian Internet Backbone by November

Silicon Graphics India (SGI) will begin testing of the first phase of the national Internet backbone (NIB) across 45 cities in India in November.

SGI has recently bagged the first phase order of high-performance computing systems for the NIB project being implemented by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).

The backbone is scheduled to be inaugurated on January 26, 2000 (India's Republic Day). SGI, which bid in a consortium led by Crompton Greaves, will supply all servers for the project. A total of 552 SGI Origin 200 servers and four SGI Origin 2000 servers will be installed.

The contract was awarded by the DoT after the lowest bidding consortium led by ITI and IBM failed to go ahead with its bid. The next highest bid for NIB, led by Wipro and Sun Microsystems, was made for $13 million. Other top consortia, numbering 15 in all, included Hewlett-Packard, Digital Compaq and Tata Lucent. SGI consortium members include Cisco and Netscape.

The $10 million contract, of which SGI's component is $ 2.5 million, is the single-largest servers contract won by the company in India and the largest IT and Internet contract in the country, claims Prasad Medury, managing director, SGI.

A total of 105 access points in 45 cities, including metros and large cities have been planned across India and the total project is estimated to cost about $ 300 million. The tendering for the next phase is expected to be over by this month. The entire NIB is to be set within two years.

"We are quite hopeful of bagging the mandate for the second phase, too. We have spoken to DoT about this and in principle they are amendable to the idea as DoT would like the technology to be compatible across the entire project," informed Medury.

DoT will be using the NIB to offer a complete suite of Internet services to its customers. Though the consortium has been asked to implement 'quality of service' technologies on the network, providing guaranteed service level agreements to users will still lie with DoT.

DoT has already reached an agreement with America Online/Netscape Communications to offer messaging/e-mail solutions to 300,000 users initially. DoT will also be offering FTP, Proxy, Telnet, Web serving, Web hosting and enterprise communication solutions through this initiative.

Apart from acting as an ISP in 45 cities in the first phase and 60 more cities in the second phase, DoT will also use NIB to provide convenient and easy access point to corporates looking at leasing virtual private networks for business use.

NIB is also geared to support voice over Internet protocol (VoIP), although the application will be used only after the ban on Internet Telephony in India is lifted.

Agendra Kumar, SGI's sales director, said the company was looking at the project as an investment, which it could leverage in contracts with private ISPs who would be hooking on to NIB. Sources informed that SGI has already bagged contracts from seven small ISPs and hopes to rope in more, particularly from bigger ISPs once the NIB takes shape.