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Cloud Computing

with T Srinivasan, Managing Director, VMware India

 
Cloud computing is expected to be as transformative for business as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) was or as e-commerce has been in recent years. Almost all the major IT companies have started to integrate cloud computing in their business models. VMware is a global leader in virtualization and cloud infrastructure. In this interview with T. Srinivasan, Managing Director of VMware for India and SAARC region, we explore the opportunities, issues and challenges associated with cloud computing.

    Concept of Cloud Computing

    tejas@iimb: While cloud computing is widely seen as the ďnext big thingĒ in IT, companies are still not quite sure of its implications. It has also divided the industry into two camps. Companies like IBM strongly advocate it, while others like Oracle call it "simply the latest fashion"1. What is your take on the way cloud computing would transform business?

    TS: I donít think there are two camps. It is just a question of whether you adopt it early or you adopt it later on. Adoption is guaranteed. Fundamentally, one shouldnít worry about why is it called cloud or what it signifies. Businesses look at it as a way to reduce cost, complexity and time to implement IT systems.

    tejas@iimb: One of the major concerns regarding the cloud computing environment is security. How are the service providers ensuring data ownership, IP rights and other legal issues associated with cloud computing?

    TS: I think security as a threat is overrated. There are enough safeguards that companies have built to provide security. Even if you look at the pre-cloud computing era, people were hosting their machines outside their companies. There were adequate measures to ensure security by building firewalls. I donít see it any differently now. The word Ďcloudí signifies that it is something there, out in the open. But, all the big software security companies like Symantec, Trend Micro and RSA are ensuring that security should be given proper attention for cloud based projects. Also remember that there are 3 types of clouds, namely private, public and hybrid. The private cloud is anyway within the firewall. I think that the issues are being addressed and I canít foresee any problems due to it. Of course, every technology is susceptible to threats, and cloud is no different. I donít think it is any more susceptible as compared to the pre-cloud era.

    Trends in Cloud Computing

    tejas@iimb: A recent report by management consultancy firm AT Kearney2 said that the cloud would undermine the traditional outsourcing model of Indian IT providers. What is your take on this comment?

    TS: I think it is an opportunity for the outsourcing companies, more than anything else. All the big outsourcing companies we are aware of are setting up their own internal clouds and developing ability to provide cloud based services to customers. The reason outsourcing has become popular is because of its cost-effectiveness. It will further give more opportunities to save money. So, I see it more as an opportunity rather than a threat.

    tejas@iimb: We wanted to know a bit about the technology. How is this cloud computing model going to affect virtualization?

    TS: Virtualisation is the better half of cloud computing. In fact, I donít think you can do cloud computing without virtualization. This is because one of the key components of the cloud is the ability get up and running quickly, which means you can provision services quickly and you can change the platforms quickly. You canít do these without virtualization. Well, technically you can, but it is going to be very cost ineffective. So, as the founding stones of whether it is Software as a Service or Platform as a Service or Infrastructure as a Service, you would need virtualization.

    Opportunities for Entrepreneurs

    tejas@iimb: We would like to know a bit about opportunities for Indian entrepreneurs. Indian entrepreneurs are considered rich in ideas, but they generally struggle to find funds to implement those ideas and convert them into successful business models because of the financial handicap. Does cloud computing actually solve that handicap by reducing the costs?

    TS: One of the premises of cloud computing is that it is on a pay-as-you-use basis. So, for entrepreneurs this is the best thing that can happen because you donít need to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars upfront, especially when you are a small entrepreneur. So, you choose what you want to use and you pay only for the facility or application that you are using. Thus itís pretty much like virtualization. The reason why virtualization became popular in the first place was because it reduced cost. Cloud computing would do exactly the same thing to customers.

    tejas@iimb: As you said, cloud computing has reduced barriers to entry for small Indian entrepreneurs in IT, do you see a surge in entrepreneurial activity in the IT computing domain in India?

    TS: It will take time. As I said, it is not an immediate phenomenon. People take slow steps with any technology. Most people that we have spoken to will have hybrid approach. They will test a little bit of public cloud and maybe build a private cloud over time. Again, you must remember that there are investments that the service provider needs to make or the organization needs to make even to implement the private cloud or the public cloud. As an end-user, you are only paying for what you use, but there are investments that need to be made by the service providers. I think it will take another 12 to 18 months before the technology matures.

    Awareness and Challenges in India

    tejas@iimb: Analysts say that in India, you need to send a person to the customer to convince him about using the cloud and collect payments, unlike in the US where these things could be done online or over the phone. Is a different model required here? Could you please share your experiences where you have found it hard to make your customers accept cloud computing?

    TS: I think any new technology, whether itís cloud computing or anything else, requires both education to be imparted and somebody to experiment with it before others would adopt it. I think it would take a bit of time, but if you look at the small and medium business (SMB) market place, they should adopt it first because they canít afford to hire IT personnel. They donít want to invest in hardware and other expensive equipment. The way cloud computing is envisaged to be, I see it as a sure win case. It may take different forms and it may take different times, but it will happen.

    tejas@iimb: We know about the cost advantages and business agility that cloud computing provides. But, according to a recent survey by marker research firm Gartner, 42% of Indian companies have no plans to use this infrastructure throughout 2011. Is it the lack of awareness or technological immaturity that is inhibiting them from using it or are there certain issues in this model? One of the concerns might certainly be security. What are other challenges for organizations to embrace the cloud computing model?

    TS: I donít think it is immaturity, but it will take time. If Gartner calls it the inverted-U Hype curve, as the adoption increases, there would be more noise and there would be more acceptance of the product. At the same time, you must remember that it is not even a year old in terms of concept and implementation. It came through during the recession days and now it has come into the limelight. These are still the early days in cloud implementation. I have seen many other surveys, who report a higher percentage than that and different companies choose what works best for them.

    tejas@iimb: Would you like to share any example where cloud computing has had a transformative impact on business?

    TS: I think there are examples of Infrastructure as a Service, which is basically the ability to get more server space. We have several partners like Sify, HCL, Airtel etc. who have been providing these services to the customers. We also have collaboration tools like email which are becoming popular, being available on the cloud. You donít need to set up an email server, do Sharepoint, etc. You can buy it all off the web or chauffer a service, so as to say. So I wouldnít say there is any one example of it making a significant impact but there are several examples of small impact that are beginning to happen in the Indian industry.

    I would sign off by saying that this is not a magic wand. Like any other technology, it will take time. But I think that this is a technology for the end-user. It allows him to save a lot of money and makes him do things quicker. It even makes exiting quicker. Therefore, I would only urge you to be patient and not expect miraculous results overnight.

    Conclusion

    From the interview, it is quite clear that cloud computing is one of the most revolutionary technologies in the IT Sector. But it is still in a very nascent stage in India. According to Mr. Srinivasan, the Small and Medium Businesses can get a lot of benefits from this technology due to its cost-effectiveness. Also, according to him, safety concerns are overhyped. It will take some time for people to adopt and understand it completely, but it is surely a win-win situation.

    Profile

    Mr T Srinivasan is currently the Managing Director of VMware for India and SAARC region. He is responsible for running all aspects of VMwareís business operations that includes sales, marketing, services and channels in India and the SAARC economies. He joined VMware from Oracle, where he served as the vice president of technology sales. Prior to this, he has held senior management positions with Informatica, HP Software, Mercury, EMC, Wipro and HCL. He has overall 28 years of sales and management experience in the IT industry.

    References

    1. http://news.cnet.com/8301-13953_3-10052188-80.html, Last accessed June 08, 2011
    2. http://www.atkearney.com/index.php/Our-expertise/organization-a-transformation-outsourcing-the-next-generation.html, Last accessed June 08, 2011

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