Sunday, January 2, 2011

What can IRCTC Learn from redBus Cloud Implementation?

Every day n number of individuals, sitting somewhere in the world or standing in serpentine queues, battle to reserve berth in the world’s 4th largest railway network - ferrying 20+ million passengers daily.

What happens at IRCTC website - one of the largest B2C websites in India?

Peak Hours at IRCTC During Tatkal Booking follows
[Image Sequence – From Left to Right || Clip Art Credit - Microsoft Office Online]
IRCTC-Alarm Wakeup IRCTC-eTicket-Tatkal-Booking
IRCTC-Tatkal-Message Clock8IRCTC-eTicket-Try2 MM900284000[1]
ajax-loaderScr1 IRCTC-eTicket-Try4  MM900336537[1]
IRCTC-Service-Unavailable-Error Clock-8-30  MM900282753[1]
IRCTC-eTicket-Regret IRCTC-Server-Unavailable1
Everyday the above sequence is repeated with clockwork precision

Director Consulting - BroadVision (Asia-Pac Region) - the company which looks after IRCTC website - informs:
“…The bookings & enquiry requests are 6-7 times higher during the peak hours than the rest of the day. So while the existing infrastructure is well equipped to handle the daylong traffic, it is the peak hour traffic that clogs servers…

What is IRCTC’s current peak hour traffic?

As per this Medianama report, IRCTC had a total (successful + failed) of 10.8 million transactions in the month of August 2010. A little Arithmetic & it can be derived that it is approximately 7 transactions/second.
Now consider the following multiplication factor:
7x i.e. the peak hour traffic
Total number of transactions during peak hours = 7 * 7
49 transactions/second
Though it’s NOT fair to compare IRCTC with Google yet for a  stats conscious reader, transaction per second numbers are as follows:

Please Note: IRCTC has a locking algorithm i.e. one seat can’t be allotted to two individuals while Google can share the same information to multiple users.
IRCTC  [peak hour]
                      49                   34,000

What will happen after 5 years?

2015 Statistics projects the number of Internet users increase to almost 5 fold. [Source: McKinsey Quarterly – Sept 2010]

Nandan Nilekani - Chairman of UIDAI; in an interview published in TOI  on Dec 26; 2010 informs:
“… Number of Bank a/c holders in India is 20%. … A large number of Indians don’t have acknowledged existence (No identity) … UIDAI is targeting 600 million Aadhaar numbers in next 4 yrs … every Indian should have this number by 2020…”

Fast economic growth & ongoing implementation of UID (Aadhaar) project may lead to explosive growth in number of Bank Accounts, Credit/Debit card in rural India. Mr Nilekani informs, considering the pace of enrolments for Aadhaar, there is a very real possibility that the number of bank accounts issued in the next four years will exceed the number of accounts banks have issued since India's independence.

Also add the following direct/indirect contributors to IRCTC traffic:

Web savvy - Facebook generation - now in school - will grow up to become active netizens.
IRCTC 2015 normal hour traffic > 2010 peak hour traffic

Is Indian Railway & IRCTC prepared for the day when the Internet is accessible to even 50% of the following?

Interestingly, the 5 fold increase in number of Internet Users is just 28% of the population. Currently, US, UK, Japan & a few other countries boasts 75%+ Internet penetration.


Optional Info: Until the number of trains/seats increases dynamically based on demand, there’s no guarantee that you would get a seat. With automated systems in place Indian Railways can initiate some extensive study on the IRCTC traffic pattern. Though the physical infrastructure on the ground (staff, track, signal etc) may prove a bottle neck yet I think trains/seats vis-a-vis number of passengers can be optimized.
Here I am trying to figure out how to provide a better user experience.

Barring Agent Login during peak hours?

Recently IRCTC has resorted to this myopic solution to reduce the server load during peak hours. Though it has made the difference, yet I think this is an un-democratic, un-justified & a temporary solution.

redBus, a small start up – and the largest online bus ticket booking service, has shown vision in resolving the issue wisely.  They moved to a cloud based infrastructure provided by world’s leading IaaS provider Amazon. An excerpt from the case study at Amazon website:
“…The biggest problem was that the infrastructure could not effectively handle processing fluctuations, which had a negative impact on productivity. Additionally, the procurement of servers or upgrading the server configuration was an extremely time-consuming endeavor. Over time, redBus realized that a better solution was imperative—a solution that offered scalability to handle the company’s processing fluctuations. redBus looked to Amazon Web Services (AWS) for a solution…”
Check the following Pre-Cloud & Post-Cloud Stats of redBus.
[Stats source: Forbes India. December 17, 2010 – Print Edition]

What’s the best & most Cost Effective Solution for IRCTC?

Public Cloud (IaaS). May be Yes as the data handled by IRCTC can not be categorized as confidential or sensitive.

What may prevent Indian Railways (IRCTC) to opt for public cloud?

Data in cloud can travel across national boundaries may raise a few security concerns. This free travelling of data may not be in sync with the existing law of the land.
Why can’t Indian Railways have its own Community Cloud? Considering its size & number of services it can offer – it may prove to be a wise decision & viable solution.

What do you think?

Cloud Articles at Techno-Pulse


  1. Can increase in Servers can solve this problem?

  2. Nice article. Really shows everyday frustations that millions face. If they (IRCTC) really want to do something about it, they can definitely do. Budget should not be a constraint for them. Its just the will to do it good. They just need to get proper professional help and should be able to sort it out.
    Also, I have heard recently that IRCTC will not be operational in few months as their contract is over. Online booking would be mostly moved to or so.
    So, not sure what does the future hold for online rail booking.

  3. Hey, nice and a very good piece of share. Keep up the great work. promoted the post.. Thanks

  4. What a nice article about this problem , I faced this problem lots of time and then I had to book flight tickets

  5. An above comment states that the contract of IRCTC with BroadVision is coming to an end and the booking will move to How true is this information ?? Is there any official news about this ?

  6. I can not comment on the IRCTC BroadVision contract as I've no idea of any official confirmation.

  7. awesome man, very intuitive article,,,

  8. Very interesting article. We at 8KMiles cloud solutions did a similar study of the IRCTC architecture and gave some recommendations.

  9. one of the best social responsible article.

  10. For PNR status:

  11. a good piece of thought which is to be implemented as soon as possible. . .

  12. Ha Ha Hahhahahahahahahaha.......... for last 2 days we are trying to book a tatkal ticket in IRCTC..... I was not able to login into IRCTC. Went to the Ticket counter and got to see 100's of people waiting to book ticket...... Tried with Bus ticket, which use to be 800 for Volvo now costing 2000.... We now made up our minds, not to travel.....This is the way all Organizations working together to save our money

  13. passengers can check there current status of pnr number at one click at IRCTC PNR STATUS

  14. nice to read..
    this is what we called reality :)