Dr Deepak B Phatak, Professor, KReSIT receiving the Skoch Challenger Award for Lifetime Achievement from Dr S Narayan, Economic Advisor to Prime Minister of India
While our IT Man of the Year Ajai Chowdhry was lobbying the government to cut excise and other duties on computers, Dr D.B. Phatak of the Kanwal Rekhi School of IT in the IIT Mumbai, was finding a technical solution to the same problem. Over 80 per cent of a computer’s computing capability, he argued, is never used. So, why not aggregate all the excess computing capacity in one place in an office, he argued. And from this was born the concept of the ‘thin client-fat server’ – have individual networked PCs with very little computing power, and let them dip into the main server to do all computing. But, while that’s theoretically appealing, does it work in practice, doesn’t work in the office slow down dramatically.. the questions keep rolling. To answer this, Dr Phatak set up an Affordable Solutions Lab at the IIT Mumbai, and actually got companies to test what he was preaching.
Today, the LIC has bought 10,000 thin computers and saved about Rs 10 crores. While the amount looks small in real terms, when you see it in terms of the original budget, the figure’s significant, especially when the project gets scaled up.
Today, as testimonial after testimonial will tell you, Dr Phatak’s associated with most big computing projects, right from SBI’s modernization to the Maharashtra government’s e-governance initiatives. Maharashtra’s IT secretary Mukesh Khullar, for example, talks of two projects – to link 972 police stations across the state and another to allow e-filing of returns by assesses – and points out that had it not been for Dr Phatak’s innovative solutions, the projects would have become so costly, they’d never have taken off.
And, apart from just coming up with technical solutions, Dr Phatak keeps visiting sites of projects he’s working on, to figure out glitches. An SBI funds e-transfer solution he came up with several years ago just didn’t seem to work until, a visit by him showed, branch officials were still waiting for a couriered copy of the transfer-request even after they received it on the mail! Dr Phatak is currently on a sabbatical, preaching the gospel of affordable solutions to those who haven’t yet seen the light. May his tribe increase.