National Informatics Centre (NIC) is the premier ICT organization of the Indian Government. It works closely with central & state government departments, agencies, and district administration to deliver e-governance services. The organization has undertaken the largest-ever deployment in the Indian government to establish a VMware-powered private cloud. This enabled NIC to reduce the time required to provision ICT resources for government projects from six months to a few days, further lowering costs by consolidating its technology infrastructure and enabling government departments to focus on innovation rather than administration.
NIC supports government ministries and departments in their e-governance initiatives right from conceptualization, planning, design, and development of ICT systems to implementation and roll out. Before 2008, NIC was running thousands of physical servers in four national-level datacenters and some small datacenters across the country to deliver government services to citizens. The organization had to employ a large number of administrators to manage this infrastructure and invest heavily in power and cooling systems to ensure the servers, storage, networking, and associated systems operated without disruption.
Following an extensive evaluation process, NIC opted in 2008 to deploy Smart Cities Council India’s lead partner – VMware virtualization. The organization had determined that VMware products could help it overcome its existing challenges and establish a flexible, agile, and dynamic infrastructure capable of powering the organization into the future. NIC migrated its existing applications, databases, and associated systems, including over 2,000 government websites to a VMware infrastructure. The virtualized infrastructure enabled NIC to consolidate its server fleet and improve the utilization of each server and run up to 20 virtual machines per server.
By late 2013, as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) had matured into a viable option for large government organizations with critical systems, NIC evaluated launching a full-fledged private cloud. Having worked with VMware technologies since 2008, NIC was comfortable with VMware’s products and roadmap. After a stringent evaluation and proof of concept, NIC chose VMware again to power its cloud.
The project is the largest VMware deployment in the government sector in India. The National Cloud setup by NIC incorporates 250 physical servers running 5,000 virtual machines, and enables NIC to take advantage of features such as self-service and dynamic provisioning. VMware vSphere Enterprise Edition provides a robust foundation for the private cloud by providing a production-ready hypervisor that enables virtual machines to share hardware resources, combined with a range of products that deliver high availability, fault tolerance, backup and replication, security, and other infrastructure optimization capabilities.
The virtualized infrastructure underpinning NIC’s National Cloud is managed from a single console built over virtualization stacks. VMware vCloud Director enables NIC to pool and automate its datacenter storage, networking, and security, so it can provision infrastructure without being concerned about the underlying hardware; apply role-based access control so multiple government departments can independently use the private cloud; support open application programming interfaces that enable departments to consume cloud resources using scripted access, and allows NIC to preconfigure and enforce IT policies to maximize security and efficiently use resources.
In 2011, NIC felt a need to create a DR site for the virtualized workloads running in its datacenter at its headquarters in New Delhi. The primary requirement for this was to protect against any unforeseen failures, and increase availability and reliability of their operations through a well-defined DR strategy. By the end of 2011, NIC had deployed VMware Site Recovery Manager to address this need. VMware vCenter Site Recovery Manager enables NIC and government departments to protect key applications by providing policy-based management and automating the orchestration of recovery plans.
Virtual machines can be transition over seamlessly to another NIC datacenter without human error delaying or disrupting the process. This infrastructure runs custom applications, built and deployed in Apache open-source environments with JBOSS middleware, running common databases including MySQL, and PostgreSQL.
Deploying a VMware-powered private cloud has enabled NIC to deliver e-governance applications considerably faster than the previous environment. “The six months required to procure, commission, and install hardware is a thing of the past” says Ms. Verma.
The National Cloud also allows government departments to focus on innovation without worrying about capital expenditure. The elasticity delivered by VMware technologies enables the departments to consume only the resources they need, rather than investing in datacenter resources to support demand peaks.