Is Cloud Ready for India?

Cloud services is a simple technology with a complicated name. Verticals that predominantly have security aspect on top of the mind are now exploring, this seemingly cost effective and secure system. To a geek it is ubiquitous servers storing your valuable data, for corporate it is a managed service, with complete control. Whatever it may be, it certainly appears to be the next generation technology – A report by Team Inclusion

 

No one wants to come ‘under cloud’. But it is time to change the meaning of this idiom. Since, government, corporate and individual, all want to be under the cloud. That’s the power of cloud service.

In India, this technology and its processes are being closely watched. But, sooner than later, cloud services promises to become all pervasive in the land considered as one of the leading IT super powers.

Cloud services or for that matter any technology is not constant, technology is dynamic, it changes, some slowly and some fast. “You need to see the relevance of that particular technology with respect to your applications,” says N Vijayaditya, Controller of Certifying Authorities.

Despite, the teething troubles, cloud services technology can be used to improve the services like better financial inclusion, to the customers across the country. The challenges are many, so are the opportunities.

One of the virtues of cloud services is the ability to have very nimble and agile infrastructure. This means a reduced pressure on the capital expenditure (CAPEX) that the customers using IT have spent traditionally. We are living in an environment that is conducive for growth; despite the pressures of global economic slow down. Cloud services offer an excellent opportunity under such tiring times.

“From an IT point of view it provides the elasticity and drives down the cost of IT.”
T Srinivasan
Managing Director, VMWare Software India
“It is really something that the government can look at for deployment of e-services in the country, because that is the only way governments can deliver an ambitious project or mission?
D Krishnan, Principal Consultant & Advisor, National e-Governance Division in Department of Information Technology

It is like electricity. The consumer does not bother, where it is generated, how it is getting transmitted. To the end consumer, it is the availability and usage for a fee. T Srinivasan, Managing Director VMWare Software India, a leading player in the virtualization and cloud space says, “from an IT point of view it provides the elasticity and drives down the cost of IT.”

This makes the cloud services responsive to the requirement, while providing the control to manage the relevant security and service models.

So, enterprise customers are exploring the private cloud and public cloud seriously. It has been established that the private cloud increases utilization.

But are Clouds Ready for the Enterprise?

Neeta Verma
Senior Technical Director, NIC

Cloud services in an enterprise environment apart from increasing the utilization, it increases the automation, which allows surplus money and infrastructure at the disposal of companies. It also means, companies could channel the same investments for better gains. That offers two advantages- one is to increase the utilization and increase the automation.

There will be a time when telecos would offer hybrid services. Even enterprises will need to avail of services from cloud service providers on a demand basis. A need to have standards, in terms of interoperability between every individual internal private cloud and the external service providers, is the next big investment.

These standards could be drawn up by the industry or let the telecom regulator examine it.

“Yes, we definitely are ready as far as technology is concerned but we need to do lot in terms of policy, in terms of jurisdiction and definitely in terms of application of these technologies.”

Neeta Verma

The whole opportunity that a cloud is offering today has a paradigm, it is really something that the government can look at for deployment of e-services in the country, because that is the only way governments can deliver an ambitious project or mission, says D Krishnan, Principal Consultant & Advisor, National e-Governance Division in Department of Information Technology.

An operator can amortize costs as well as save costs. Because an operator can run fewer servers which leads to lower cooling requirements, resulting in lower power demands. Once servers are freed up, those servers and services power can be used to run new applications as well.

He points that the National e- Governance Plan, has some 27 mission mode projects. About 11 projects are in the State sector, five each, that States can choose, which makes it 16 projects in the State sector alone. When these 16 projects are executed across 35 States, it will become something like 600 projects. Further, a single project in the municipalities, that itself send the number of projects to thousands.

There is a huge opportunity in the government, due to the amount of time and the resources are wasted for doing a standard way of procurement, as no alternative is available. Cost cutting is another issue. “The way forward is to have a private cloud,” says Krishnan.

If it can address a few parameters like how government looks at every such project, how much of control does the government has, over what is actually the data, the applications and procedures, there is a huge opportunity.

A few successful projects in the recent past have happened. They have happened entirely through outsourcing. Today the government has got stuck with those program because it just does not know what is there in the programmes.

As a result, the decision making is all in the hands of the private vendor. So, if government were to resort to a different paradigm like cloud it has to fulfill this essential prerequisite that it should provide the sufficient strategic control over the application and data.

Therefore, wherever it may be, the data may reside or the infrastructure may reside, as long as the strategic control is there with the government you have solved a big part of a problem. We have a good story going here in terms of cloud services.

Alok Bharadwaj
Sr Vice President, Canon India

But, even today we have over 6000 websites but out of that 4000-5000 websites are being shared across a very small number of servers. With each department having a direct control over their data, direct control on their websites, but they are really not concerned on which computer are they putting on which particular database server.

Government departments follow their own course. They have a simple form where they come and put their request in terms of platform, in terms of their requirement, indicate their traffic and the infrastructure is provisioned to them. They don’t even have a cloud. They do have a management service available. So, please understand when we say that self provisioning of cloud is good but for many of the smaller organization the costs get increased and that is where government departments have to really look at the cost.

Cloud services enable what is called server consolidation. Umesh Bellur, Associate Professor, IIT- Bombay is not confident of successful roll out of cloud network. However, he is quick to point, “I am not saying no solutions exist, but I believe we can do far better in this space.”

“First is the digitisation of information that can be sourced from anywhere and second is the deployment of the content management system. Both are crucial links in a cloud services management.”

Alok Bharadwaj

NIC offers ICT services to the government, across central government, state government as well as district administrations and even panchayats for over three decades now. A number of projects that have to be delivered through the various schemes, despite using NIC infrastructure have been slow. One of the reasons is the delay in procuring hardware and software for the projects. For example, in many states, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREA) has not been successful. Despite computerizing the systems for clean monitoring and speedy action, the beneficiaries have felt alienated, due to the failure of various departments to locate the relevant data to offer benefits from other schemes.

Opportunity for Cloud Services

Further, anything which is around document management or information handling is all being done in islands. Many a times the interlinkages are missing. So, it is very important to look at this whole issue more holistically. “Whether information handling, documents, hard copy, images, any multimedia content,” says Alok Bharadwaj, Senior VP of Canon India,

“all information needs to be digitized.” Because, it is only with the digitized information that people can source in any department, that would help them take actions on their issues and concerns. The second thing is the deployment of the content management system. Both are crucial links in a cloud services management.

Reports from Gartner and IDC have highlighted about cloud really picking up in a big way in the country. Today when we talk to service providers etc. one of the key challenges that we see from a small and medium enterprises (SME), about 35 million SMEs existing in the country, the key benefit that cloud can really bring to the table is in terms of reducing the infrastructure set up costs, in terms of service delivery it improves the agility but more in terms of how do I really provision my services for my end customers and have better Service Level Agreements.

“Cloud or any other technology is dynamic. Organizations need to see the relevance of that particular technology with respect to their applications.”
N Vijayaditya
Controller of Certifying Authorities
“Small or medium businesses, in such a scenario, would not require to buy any hardware. SMEs would simply go to a public cloud, so their Capex goes to zero.”
Umesh Bellur
Associate Professor,
IIT-B, Mumbai

It is built differently because of the dynamic pool of shared resources, operated differently. “It is a pay as you use kind of a model and you have a charge back mechanisms,” says Krishnan.

The server consolidation, Bellur explains, if a company has 25 servers today and they are vertically stratified running different applications, can be termed as a virtual pool. Then it opens up an opportunity to run it in 15 or 20 servers because servers are typically not fully utilized.

Cloud services have a critical role to play in connecting the unconnected. It has the potential to reach remote parts of the country. This technology is evolving, but the speed and spread it has, makes it more attractive for financial deepening, not only in India, but also in many developing nations, that are looking for a low cos

“The term is called server consolidation,” says Bellur. By this method an operator can amortize costs as well as save costs. Because an operator can run fewer servers which leads to lower cooling requirements, resulting in lower power demands. Once servers are freed up those servers and services power can be used to run new applications as well. “I can completely eliminate upfront investment,” says Bellur. He explains that small or medium businesses, in such scenario, would not buy any hardware. SMEs would simply go to a public cloud, so their Capex goes to zero.

However, there are a few areas of concern. Issues and demands from customers, on what really makes a user of cloud services decide, whether the application is suitable for cloud services or not. It is a valid concern not only amongst the companies but also the government.

There are issues concerning technology, lot has been spoken about it whether it is privacy, whether it is security, there are issues concerning jurisdiction, administration, legal as well as policy. US government after talking about and favouring was trying to use applications should go to a public cloud.

In India too, the issue of security and privacy are gaining importance. Recently the announcement of release of Aadhar, the unique identifications number was seen with lot of pessimism. One of the reason is, the Aadhar numbers are going to be released digitally, using different servers. These are vulnerable targets for cyber attacks and could cause enormous loss to the individuals and country.

Security is very important. In fact, the more the society moves on to reliance on technology, the more vulnerable society becomes in terms of security. So, security becomes very important. So, is there a way which can help us address accountability speed, archival, retrieval, transparency and security is what we need to now basically deliberate.

No doubt, cloud services in India is a huge opportunity. It is fraught with many concerns in terms of safety, security and management issues. However, the positive outcome of this technology, is its ability to allow and individual in a city or village to access the data that they want through a low cost and easily accessible medium.

Many of the technologies we adopt have originated outside India. Applications need to be local. “The way technology is to be used need to be local, so, that is the important aspect in which we need to deploy technology for security management,” says Bharadwaj.

Venkatesh Iyer
Head (India and SAARC),
Virtual Computing Environment Initiative,
EMC Data Storage Systems

“Security of course is a question that we are all worried about,” says Neeta Verma, Senior Technical Director from NIC. Her contention was, who and how can cloud services guarantee security. There are some questions that they have to ask themselves definitely in order to make the move towards cloud services. “So, things are not as quite rosy,” she says.

However, Venkatesh Iyer, Head (India and SAARC), Virtual Computing Environment Initiative, EMC Data Storage Systems feels that there is no cause for alarm. “Cloud is not a onestep approach, it is a journey. You need to have multiple steps in this journey when you implement your public cloud or private cloud,” he says.

India is ready for cloud. “Yes, we definitely are ready as far as technology is concerned but we need to do lot in terms of policy, in terms of jurisdiction and we really need to be very cautious when you are applying these technologies,” argues Verma.

No doubt, cloud services in India is a huge opportunity. It is fraught with many concerns in terms of safety, security and management issues. However, the positive outcome of this technology, is its ability to allow and individual in a city or village to access the data that they want through a low cost and easily accessible medium.

“Cloud is not a one-step approach, it is a journey. You need to have multiple steps in this journey when you implement your public cloud or private cloud.”

Venkatesh Iyer

The future data of ours would reside in cloud is a reality. There would be elements who would seek to steal such information is also a reality. It does not matter, if it is a private cloud or public clouds.

Cloud services has a critical role to play in connecting the unconnected. It has the potential to reach remote parts of the country. This technology is evolving, but the speed and spread it has, makes it more attractive for financial deepening, not only in India, but in many developing nations, that are looking for a low cost technology.

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