Outsourcers apparently don't miss a beat in face of massive India power outage

Outsourcers apparently don't miss a beat in face of massive India power outage

The massive power outages across most of northern India have not affected the software development, back office operations and services work that emanates from the country.

The huge outage, said to have hit more than 600 million customers, shut down much of the northern part of the country's public transportation systems and forced hospitals, airports and other critical infrastructure firms to switch to backup generators for electricity. But it seems the IT services companies were largely spared a major hit.

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Part of the reason the companies were not impacted is that most of their services and development operations are in western and southern India, which were not affected by the power cuts.

Microsoft, for example, has its sales and marketing office in northern India but its software development and services facilities are mainly in Hyderabad and Bangalore in the south.

"We were not affected except for some inconvenience for the employees," said a spokeswoman for Microsoft in India.

Companies that have operations in northern India were able to tide themselves over as they have captive power generation in readiness for India's frequent power cuts. Some of them also transfer work to other locations in India when crisis hits some of their locations.

Cognizant Technology Solutions, a Teaneck, N.J., outsourcer, has about 12,000 of its more than 100,000 staff in India spread across Gurgaon in northern India and Kolkata in northeastern India. But even these software and back office operations were unaffected because the company has extensive captive power generation at these locations, and can also move work quickly to other locations as part of its disaster recovery and business continuity, a company spokesman said.

Dell, which runs mainly customer contact centers in Gurgaon near Delhi and Mohali near Chandigarh in northern India, was also unaffected by the power cut, and there was no dislocation of work as a result, a company spokesman said. The company has software development and contact centers also in southern India.

Some other top Indian outsourcers with operations in northern India also reported that they were not affected by the power outage.

Hariprasad Hegde, global head of operations for the massive outsourcing company Wipro Technologies, told the firm was unaffected by the outage. "Operations at Wipro's facilities across India continued as normal. Wipro facilities have a strong backup infrastructure and contingency plans to deal with such eventualities."

Software development offshored to affected areas of India might not be hurt for a week or so because most facilities have backup power that lasts at least that long, says Sumant Ahuja, CEO of Silicus Technology Services, a consulting firm in Sugar Land, Texas.

The company has backup diesel generators that can keep its infrastructure up and running, and they have enough fuel on hand for a week, so business is unaffected so far. If it the power outage goes longer than that, things could change, Ahuja says.

A separate business entity with the same ownership as Silicus handles the offshored work for Silicus, and it has two locations: Noida and Pune. The Noida site is affected but running on generator power, Ahuja says. Pune, near Mumbai, has not been hit.

He says that if Noida -- which is the backup site -- runs out of fuel and it can't be replenished, key teams of workers could be sent to the main site, Pune, to continue work.

He says it is common for offshoring businesses to have two locations for just such emergencies that could also include natural disasters. It is part of annual contract reviews to assure its customers that Silicus has backup and contingency planning and disaster recovery plans in place. And he says it's a two-way street. Customers detail their own BCP and DR plans to Silicus so business can proceed as usual in emergencies, he says.

ISPs in India also have backup plans that should keep all-important Internet connectivity in place, but there may be some trouble spots at the access portions of their networks that could cut off some facilities, Ahuja says.

"In the past there have been significant outages," he says, "but nothing as significant as this."

The chairman of the Power Grid Corporation of India said the exact cause of the power cut was unclear, but that it appeared to be due to the "interconnection of grids." "We have to see why there was a sudden increase in load ... we will make sure that such a situation is not repeated," according to a BBC report.

The BBC report went on to say power cuts are common in Indian cities because of a fundamental shortage of power and an aging grid -- the chaos caused by such cuts has led to protests and unrest on the streets in the past. But the collapse of an entire grid is rare -- the last time the northern grid failed was in 2001.

India's demand for electricity has soared in recent years as its economy has grown but its power infrastructure has been unable to meet the growing needs. Correspondents say unless there is a huge investment in the power sector, the country will see many more power failures, the BBC wrote.

John Ribeiro of the IDG News Service contributed to this story.

Read more about infrastructure management in Network World's Infrastructure Management section.

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