Flipkart sets up data centres to handle traffic

By Alnoor Peermohamed , Business Standard, Bengaluru | In Digital | October 04, 2016
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Most of the e-commerce giant's traffic comes from mobile users.

Flipkart co-founder and Chief Executive Binny Bansal has taken another leaf out of Jeff Bezos' playbook. The e-tail major has set up data centres in Mumbai and Chennai to manage traffic from its user base of 100 million-plus.

The Indian e-commerce giant's move to store its applications and data on its own servers comes at a time when global firms such as Microsoft, Google and Amazon look at India as the next battleground for providing cloud services. While most of Flipkart's traffic comes from mobile users, other large firms have built their cloud services for Western enterprises and personal computers.

"We have unleashed quite a bit of computing power for our system to scale up and that has been one big initiative that concluded just a month ago. On the back of that, we have re-deployed our services and have done a fair bit of performance optimisation," said Ravi Garikipati, head of engineering at Flipkart.

The roll-out of Flipkart's own data centres came ahead of this year's Big Billion Days sale that kicked off on October 2, as the company scrambled to beef up its tech platform to handle the immense traffic and order loads. In the first 12 hours of the sale itself, Flipkart and its fashion subsidiary Myntra said they received 2.25 million orders. Flipkart's rival Amazon rents out storage and compute services to third parties to boost earnings from its under-utilised data centres. The concept later mushroomed into Amazon Web Services (AWS), which is today one of the biggest profit drivers for the US-based firm.

Moreover, Flipkart providing its cloud computing solutions to third parties doesn't seem that much of a long shot, given that the company has been opening up other parts, such as logistics, to external customers. The Indian firm's logistics arm Ekart, which is largely the brainchild of Binny Bansal, handles orders from other players such as Jabong, Myntra, Voonik, Hopscotch, Reliance and Madhura, and also services consumers through a courier service. Flipkart has customised its data centres to suit its own technology stack. The firm sees millions of customers browse products on its platform each day, while the increasing number of products its sells also takes up a larger digital footprint.

"We actually worked closely with our partner Intel to ensure they understand our application requirements, and then they along with our platform integrators defined our specifications. After that, we worked with OEM (original equipment manufacturers) vendors that built the hardware to our custom specification," added Garikipati.

Smaller rival Snapdeal recently launched its private cloud platform Cirrus, which it says is one of the largest open-source hybrid cloud deployments in the world. While the company has its in-house data centre, it continues to leverage AWS. The company did not reply to an email seeking clarification on whether it would open its service to outside clients. While Flipkart hasn't indicated that it will begin offering its own cloud solutions to third parties, demand for cloud-based computing solutions has begun kicking off. This has created a mad scramble among leading cloud providers Microsoft, Google and Amazon to set up data centres in India.

Amazon and Microsoft have data centres in India serving local customers, while Google plans to set up a data centre in Mumbai next year.

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