Local hosted content shines in Internet connectivity crisis

Last few weeks werea challenging time for users and providers alike who use the internet. Three international sea cables (SEMEWE4, IMEWE and EIG) that provide the majority of digital communication between Asia to Europe were cut. The two Pakistan international communication gateway companies that provide internet backhauling services to all the ISPs of Pakistan, PTCL and TWA, both depend on these cables for international communication and therefore internet bandwidth coming into Pakistan dropped to 40%. It is expected to take up to 3 weeks or more before the ships dispatched to fix the problems are able to get the cables operational again.
This event coupled with the recent global DDOS attack attributed to a company in Amsterdam which almost crippled the global internet puts a spotlight on the risks involved with internet companies that cater to Pakistan’s 30 million strong internet community but host all their content internationally.
Until recently, hosting internationally made sense – Pakistan’s internet community was not big enough to justify focus on the market, the datacenters and support facilities were not at international standards and costs were 3-5 times that available internationally. Therefore most content providers hosted their content abroad and many did not even bother to setup caching or backup-sites domestically.
However recently, as the broadband market developed in Pakistan to where according to PTA, over 2.2 million homes are connected to the internet by licensed operators, there has been major investment in improving data center facilities by most major licensed broadband operators In Pakistan. These new data centers can compete with any international facility and the costs are also comparable. For instance, managed datacenter services cost only 20-30% more than equivalent services acquired in California’s silicon valley, the global hub of all datacenters. Compare this slight cost to the advantages of hosting locally and it is hard not to see why it makes sense to host content locally if your business wholly or partially caters to the Pakistan internet community.
“When you look at the high quality of datacenter facilities now available locally, and the recent decline in prices, factor in average internet connection latency reduced from above 300ms to sub 20ms, and add in the advantages of local access and support, the case for international and domestic content providers to host in Pakistan becomes too strong to ignore”, says Salman Ansari, President SAATC, one of Pakistan’s foremost IT and telecommunication consultants.
Zulfiqar Qazilbash, the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Transworld Associates, one of Pakistan’s two tier 1 internet providers talks about why a company that provides internet backhauling services to most ISPs in Pakistan built a datacenter in their landing station. “The TWA Landing station is the defacto internet hub of Pakistan. It is the automatic peering point of all operators that use TWA bandwidth directly or indirectly and is peered with the other internet provider. The Tier 3 datacenter located inside the premises, provides unmatched value proposition to Pakistani operators who has collocation needs. For one thing, by collocating at the Landing Station, you have dramatically controlled your last mile vulnerability, since you are connected to the internet gateway note in the same building. Secondly, there is no better peering location both for international and domestic traffic. Thirdly, you get to leverage the infrastructure and engineering support that powers Pakistan’s internet. Who else can offer that?”
A case in point is the popular job portal, ROZEE.PK.  It is visited by over 60% of the country’s Internet users annually. To service its 16 Million annual unique visitors, it requires 45 fault tolerant load balanced servers. Previously, it used to collocate its entire server farm between Silicon Valley and Germany since datacenters in Pakistan were expensive and did not offer the required worry free support. “Transworld’s decision to provide datacenter services at their internet gateway node was a game changer for us”, says Monis Rahman, Chairman and CEO of ROZEE.PK. “The world class facility allowed us to lower latency by a factor of 10 and we have the ability to service our Pakistan clients even if there is a major internet crisis such as the one that occurred last week.  Our servers have stayed humming while providing a better usability experience to our customers”.
With local and international content providers that focus on Pakistan’s internet community now able to leverage advanced hosting platforms like the TWA Datacenter, it is hoped that more internet based applications and services will henceforth be available to the population. Internet can be a powerful and cost effective medium for solving the education, health, e-commerce, e-government and other problems of Pakistan.