Asia in next phase of cloud readiness: Tata Communications

  • Malaysia, India and China rank in the top 10 economies on the cloud readiness index
  • Key to success lies in choosing right services and carefully architecting cloud computing infrastructure

Asia in next phase of cloud readiness: Tata CommunicationsENTERPRISES have no option but to consider cloud services for their corporate IT infrastructure and strategy.
 
However, the goal now is to move beyond basic adoption and deployment, and have a cloud-based IT strategy that plays a meaningful role in improving business processes, entering new markets and geographies, and increasing overall efficiency.
 
Ovum has predicted that 2013 will see the adoption of cloud services becoming less tactical and more strategic in nature.
 
C.R. Srinivasan (pic), vice president of Global Product Management, Data Centre Services for Tata Communications, said that in Asia Pacific, while there are still a lot of conversations around the cloud, things have reached a point where these conversations have moved to separating the relevant from the ‘not so relevant’ cloud services.
 
“In emerging markets, people are asking the same questions about the cloud that they are asking in developed markets. They are asking, ‘What does this mean to my business? Where is the value?’ It is not about ‘How it works, or can it work for my business?’ anymore,” he said.
 
Of all the IT vendors tackling demand which goes with the migration to a cloud-based architecture, telecom service providers such as Tata Communications boast the best understanding of cloud computing characteristics that are most important for enterprises – availability, accessibility and performance, he argues.
 
“Considering that service providers have always supported enterprises 24x7 in their highly mission-critical infrastructure, service providers are better placed to support cloud infrastructure in their data centres,” he claimed.
 
In an email interview with Digital News Asia (DNA), Srinivasan goes deeper into the state of cloud readiness in Asia and what companies need to be mindful of when addressing their cloud strategy.
 
DNA: What is the state of cloud readiness in Asia?
 
Srinivasan: In Asia, the developed markets like Hong Kong and Singapore rank high on the cloud readiness index in relation to the rest of the region. The cloud initiatives in these countries have seen a boost from government policies and infrastructure development.
 
The governments in these economies are supporting cloud initiatives and driving the use of cloud in the public sector. Other positive factors include high broadband quality and intellectual property (IP) protection.
 
Malaysia, India and China also rank in the top 10 economies on the cloud readiness index. Growth in China is being driven by state-funded cloud projects; India has strong international connectivity and Malaysia has made some headway by way of cloud on-boarding programmes for small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
 
DNA: What are the key inhibitors in Asia when it comes to cloud management and integration? Is it a question of budget, timing or lack of relevant in-house expertise?
 
Srinivasan: Despite clear economic, managerial and functional advantages to using cloud computing for corporate computing, many IT managers and business executives may still have unresolved issues in moving their business applications or workloads to a cloud infrastructure, either at their premises or at a third party data centre.
 
There is now much better understanding of what workloads can move to the cloud and what should stay where they are. With this understanding, IT managers are beginning to time the movement of workloads to the cloud with a hardware refresh cycle, application upgrade or move to a third-party facility.
 
DNA: What would be your advice to organisations seeking to move beyond adoption/ deployment and leveraging on the benefits of cloud computing for their business?
 
Srinivasan: Chief information officers (CIOs) should start adopting cloud services if they haven’t done so already, as the business benefits are compelling.
 
CIOs should look at a structured approach of starting with a three- or a five-year plan on cloud sourcing. This process will include identification of core business services and the relevant workloads that deliver the most value and are most adaptable to the cloud. It is not necessary that every workload should move to the cloud.
 
A suitable cloud model should then be selected for each requirement. These should be matched with cloud-governance models that have representation from across the enterprise.
 
It is important that necessary due diligence is done to select a provider with the experience, reliability and expertise to help assess changing service needs and   adapt to increasing cloud adoption within an enterprise. Choosing providers that employ best practices, have the necessary building blocks like networks, data centres and local presence, offers the greatest assurance of performance.
 
The fundamental requirements for great cloud performance are still network connectivity and high quality data centres, combined with robust operations and support practices.
 
DNA: What are your thoughts on customer priorities versus vendor innovations -- do the two remain vastly unaligned?

Srinivasan: Customer priorities and business innovations are fairly aligned, with the latter remaining ahead of the curve. The innovations around the cloud, mostly from an application capability, and the infrastructure readiness to support such complex applications, have been consistent and are in tune with customer priorities.
 
For example, any conversation on the cloud revolves around the ability to store vast amounts of data and being able to retrieve it on demand. Capabilities in this space like big data analytics and the vendor support for some of these applications are surprisingly well integrated and will get even better over time.
 
There are many such areas like compute, storage efficiency and security that are seeing vast improvements and are intended to fulfil customer requirements, like cost effectiveness and capability improvements.
 
DNA: What are the key traits of a secure and sustainable enterprise cloud ecosystem? In short, what should organisations seek to address or keep a close eye on?

Srinivasan: A secure and sustainable cloud ecosystem needs to be built on quality building blocks. As applications become more sophisticated and their access ubiquitous, it is important that organisations don’t forget the basic requirements of a high-quality network and data centres for such applications to be highly available.
 
The key traits for considering any cloud ecosystem build should include typical infrastructure characteristics such as availability, performance, accessibility, physical location, quality of the data centres, support infrastructure, skills, capabilities, processes and procedures.
 
The overarching requirement, of course, is to address the security of such an ecosystem. All of the above characteristics are important and organisations need to strike a balance in getting some of the above addressed traits through their service providers and some through internal processes.
 
As would be the case with traditional IT infrastructure, while service providers do provide most of the capabilities, it is the organisation that needs to retain control of its infrastructure.
 
The company should choose such service providers who facilitate these traits, over others where there is little control or visibility.
 
Organisations should also choose services depending on their needs. Some workloads can operate out of a public infrastructure and for some it is a big 'No.' Some of the workloads are better off being run on standalone systems.
 
Organisations need to carefully consider the pros and cons of moving applications to a cloud infrastructure and build a cloud ecosystem that is stable, flexible and highly available.
 
Last but not the least, the ecosystem should allow organisations to implement their own policies and controls the same way they would have done on their traditional IT infrastructure.
 
DNA: Business model innovation via the cloud has offered an opportunity for CIOs to add business value to their organisations. In your experience, has this opportunity been taken up by CIOs in Asia Pacific?

Srinivasan: The cloud has transformed many functions within an organisation and is forcing a change in the way they are looking to enable their businesses. Most CIOs realise that the cloud gives them the ability to reduce turnaround time, which supports business requirement, thereby directly contributing to reducing 'go-to-market' lead time.

Cloud ecosystems, when conceptualised and created in the right manner, help CIOs source in time, thereby improving cost effectiveness. I think this is a trend that is beginning to be well understood and organisations are looking to drive business benefits by creating the cloud ecosystem right.
 
Asia Pacific has seen significant cloud adoption, be it business applications or infrastructure on demand. CIOs are driving the change as organisations realise that with the ability for businesses to consume cloud services directly, it is important for them to have clear policies around subscriptions to such services and their impact on the overall organisation’s cloud security.
 
DNA: What do’s/ don’ts do you have for organisations which are in the process of creating a relevant cloud strategy to be competitive?

Srinivasan: Here are a few tips on cloud computing best practices for companies of varying sizes:

  • Learn as much as you can about cloud computing and develop competencies to take advantage of the new paradigm
  • Select the architecture, services, and level of adoption that suits your business along with the applications that will give you the best returns
  • Pay attention to the differences based on being ‘in the cloud’: there are general IT issues, including data security, compliance issues and regulations, where traditional measures may not work – you need to understand these different points of weaknesses in order to successfully manage them
  • It is not necessary that all workloads should move to the cloud
  • Continue to focus on cloud security, as you would do with traditional infrastructure
  • Consider your IT architecture to maintain tight interlocks and solid processes and always read the fine print to make sure the level of management, service, and support you require is provided and whether these are part of the service or additional charges
  • Choose a provider which has in-country presence, has auditable processes and procedures, and is willing to work with you on your requirements
  • The cloud does not necessarily mean that one size or template fits all

DNA: What do you think will be hot button issues surrounding cloud readiness/cloud computing in the next six to 12 months?

Srinivasan: Cloud computing and cloud readiness will continue to grow in the next six to 12 months. The issues will continue to remain the same – availability, performance and security. These need to be carefully engineered, architected and contracted for.
 
Cloud computing will be more readily available than it was ever before – hybrid configurations will be a lot easier to configure. Organisations will be able to leverage their in-house compute capabilities along with their service provider’s capabilities.
 
As applications start capturing more data, the need for storing, retrieving and archiving will increase. So will the growth of applications that provide analytics around such data increase.
 
There will be plenty of choices when it comes to cloud services. Choosing the right ones and carefully architecting cloud computing infrastructure will be the key to success.

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