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.

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