Amazon, a big daddy in information technology’s hottest area – cloud – has 8,000 customers in India but does not have in this country a key element of cloud infrastructure – data centres. That’s because no foreign customers would let their data be stored in centres in India, and only their Indian customers would use it, making it less feasible. Given the state of infrastructure and data security laws in the country, customers did not want to take a risk.
So, instead Amazon stuck with its data centres in Singapore, just like Google, Rackspace, Citrix, and Facebook who all serve their growing number of Indian clients from the city state.
Shane Owenby, Asia-Pacific managing director of Amazon Web Services (the ecommerce firm’s cloud arm), said the company would not comment on speculation regarding the placement of its data centres and that it was always looking at geographic expansion.
Even so, industry observers and participants think that India, the sourcing hub for the world for technology services, has the potential to become a hub for the global cloud where digital information is stored, processed and accessed via the internet. With more and more components of technology being offered as a service, it is only logical for India to be the place from where it could all be delivered to the world.
Thanks to uncertain power supply and patchy infrastructure, India is losing out on the hardware and storage side of the cloud, but can still be the nerve centre that helps stitch together various parts of cloud-based technology solutions and delivers it to enterprises across the world.
India can still become hub for global cloud computing According to Sid Deshpande, a data centre analyst at research firm Gartner, companies such as Amazon, Google and Rackspace have invested significant amounts of money in innovative designs to be able to provide cheap computing services using the cloud. “Unless Indian providers are willing to invest in bleeding-edge technology and skills that enable similar outcomes, I do not see them as viable competitors in the commodity public cloud space.”
But Deshpande does see the Indian IT industry playing a role in helping enterprises manage the various offerings they do buy over the cloud.
The cloud-computing model makes it possible for corporations to not worry about the ingredients – be it computing power, storage capacity or software applications – that go into technology-enabled solutions.
Instead, they can now consume these as a utility and pay for it based on usage. It is for the system integrators such as an InfosysBSE -2.19 %, TCS or WiproBSE -1.05 % to piece together components from a legion of ecosystem partners and stitch it all together seamlessly to match clients’ specific requirements.
“Indian firms have reached a maturity in the total outsourcing space, taking away entire IT needs of large organisations end-to-end. In the cloud scenario they will take this story forward, forming new partnerships and new business models,” said Srikanth Karnakota, director of Microsoft’s server and cloud business.
Indian IT companies are increasingly partnering with cloud platform providers to put together the products an enterprise has chosen from the vast array of cloud offerings, and tie those products into the parts of the corporation’s IT infrastructure that have not moved to the cloud. And the new job is a lot like the old one, except the modes of delivery and payment will change. The challenge will be when clients’ expectations for technology-led innovation increase and IT recedes into the background, much like plumbing.
“While a lot of companies offer the infrastructure and the platform, Indian IT service providers will use the skills of system integration in process and applications. We will play a strong role in putting the three components together,” said Atul Sood, global head of cloud enablement at Wipro.
This new-age version of system integration is called cloud brokerage services and becoming big business. Gartner predicts that the segment will be worth $100 billion ( 6 lakh crore) in 2014. As cloud service brokerage grows, Indian IT players are getting ready to shift with the inevitable change in business models, partnerships and job requirements.
“There will be new partnerships. Even the cloud providers would need partners. An Amazon, for example, which provides the infrastructure and platform as a service, would need partners to manage the back-up, network connectivity and applications,” said Kalyan Kumar, chief technology architect for HCL Technologies.
Infosys, the number two IT services company in India, said it expects majority of the workload in global enterprise IT to move to the cloud and expects both the global cloud providers and Indian IT services companies to own parts of the infrastructure that makes the cloud possible.
“It will be a combination of ownership, depending on the organizational strategy. At Infosys, we will continue to be asset-lite and an ecosystem integrator. We have already established deep partnerships with over 30 organizations such as AWS, Microsoft and others,” Vishnu Bhat, vice president and head of Infosys Cloud and Big Data business, said in an email. IT companies are also beginning to consider the need to re-skill employees to manage cloud services and infrastructure.