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Cloud Capability: Enabling higher efficiency, lower costs

March 31, 2014
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Cloud computing services are emerging as the next big phenomenon in the Indian telecom and IT space. With the increasing uptake of data services and introduction of multiple devices in the network, players are looking at achieving economies of scale and reducing their operational costs. In such a scenario, cloud computing is proving to be an effective tool for achieving business efficiencies. Industry experts comment on the potential of the cloud services market and the emerging technology trends in this space…

Sandeep-AhlawatIndranil-GuhaShabir-MominSrimathi-K-Swamy-Infosys-BPO

What has been your experience in using cloud computing services?

Sandeep Ahlawat

Cloud enablement of applications and the use of the mobile platform for providing services can transform the entire citizen-centric service delivery framework. Following the implementation of the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) over the past seven years, one of the key learnings has been that there is an urgent need to enhance the scope and quality of e-governance in the country. This can be achieved through transformational government process re-engineering, and by focusing on integrated services and interoperable systems; making use of emerging trends like cloud, mobile and in-memory databases; and redefining the scope of the NeGP.

With an aim to promote the replication of successful e-governance services, a cloud-enabled application store (eGov AppStore) is being developed on a nationwide basis. A few states including Maharashtra have taken the lead in developing cloud-based infrastructure and are successfully availing of it.

Indranil Guha

Spencer’s Retail Limited uses cloud computing to support its email services. Cloud-based services have helped the organisation reduce its operational costs per mailbox by 20 to 35 per cent. Moreover, like other companies, Spencer’s Retail has been able to save on administrative costs as a human resource is not required to continuously monitor and manage day-to-day functions including email services.

Shabir Momin

Zenga TV has been one of the early adopters of cloud services in India. It has been using these services since 2007 and has saved a significant amount of money, time and energy. In the past, running critical functions on DC proved to be six times more costly than cloud. For example, earlier, the company had to allocate 24 personnel to deliver a particular task, whereas now it employs only six personnel to do the same job.

Srimathi K. Swamy

Cloud is being seen as an adoptable technology by the majority of enterprises. It is providing the much-needed agility in business operations for rolling out new solutions/services without significant investments. Today, cloud computing is being used by everyone, from individuals to private and public organisations, including the media, educational institutions and the government. Infosys BPO is also gradually shifting its business applications to the cloud.

What are the types of cloud-based services used by your company? What are your future plans in this regard?

Sandeep Ahlawat

Having carried out a strength, weakness, opportunity and threat analysis, the government has redefined the scope of the NeGP and developed NeGP 2.0, which is based on the concept of “e-Kranti – transforming e-governance for transforming governance mechanism”.

NeGP 2.0 is expected to bring about a radical transformation in the governance mechanism as an alternative to incremental improvement. The concept relies on two key initiatives:

•Infrastructure on demand: The Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY) has undertaken the initiative of National Information Infrastructure 2.0.

•Cloud by default: The National Informatics Centre launched a nationwide cloud computing initiative called Meghraj in February 2014. The project, which is currently at the pilot stage, offers various service models to meet customer requirements. The key features include a self-service portal, multi-cloud solutions, a secured VPN access and multi-location cloud. Further, the eGov AppStore will complement the project by hosting a large number of applications for immediate adoption by government departments and agencies.

Indranil Guha

Currently, Spencer’s Retail is using cloud-based email services provided by Rediffmail. All our employees have access to this service. Going forward, depending on the company’s requirements, we will explore the opportunity of extending cloud services for augmenting our point-of-sale networks. The company is also keen on deploying cloud computing services for processes that are seasonal in nature. For example, these services could be used by the human resource (HR) department. The performance management system, which falls under the purview of the HR department, is operational twice a year; for the rest of the year, it remains idle. The deployment of cloud computing services could help maximise the existing HR resources and reduce costs.

Shabir Momin

At present, Zenga TV is using cloud-based services offered by Amazon to cater to the majority of the company’s day-to-day functions. So far, the vendor has been able to successfully meet 90 per cent of the company’s requirements for cloud computing services.

Srimathi K. Swamy

Infosys BPO offers the following cloud-based services:

•Private cloud: The infrastructure servers are built on the private cloud with underlying virtualisation technology.

•Public cloud: The contact centre voice is a state-of-the-art platform encapsulating all the features of voice delivery. e-learning and certification tools are also offered and are hosted on a public cloud. The company plans to host its home-grown applications on the cloud using the infrastructure-as-a-service model in partnership with service providers.

What are the key issues and challenges faced by the company in adopting these services?

Sandeep Ahlawat

One of the key challenges in adopting cloud computing is to devise a strategy that will incorporate all the components of governance. The formulation of a cloud policy is the first step that will facilitate large-scale adoption of these services by the government. In this regard, DeitY has constituted a task force for developing a strategic direction and implementation road map to enable GI Cloud to leverage the existing or new infrastructure. Another working group at DeitY is examining issues related to jurisdiction, cross-border data flow, data security, data location, etc., in the context of implementing cloud computing services.

Indranil Guha

Spencer’s Retail implemented the cloud-based mailing system in 2010-11 to address issues regarding mass mailing within companies under the RPG Group. Earlier, these companies had separate mail domains. However, following the deployment of the cloud-based mailing system, all group companies have a similar domain name, which has helped enhance security. Overall, the company’s transition to the cloud-based mailing system has been smooth. However, it initially faced a few minor challenges while making this shift. There were issues regarding the built-in algorithm in the cloud-based platform, which often detected mass mails within the company or across the RPG Group as spam. The customisation of cloud-based email services to meet the company’s specific requirements was another area of concern. However, all these issues were resolved subsequently.

Shabir Momin

Carrying out architectural changes in the existing infrastructure network in a phased manner was the key challenge faced by Zenga TV. However, over a period of time, the company successfully managed to move to the cloud-based platform.

Srimathi K. Swamy

Due to the absence of established governance, the key issues faced while implementing cloud computing services are lack of security and data privacy compliance (depending on the geography and type of data, physical audit of the service providers’ infrastructure and stipulations regarding service providers’ lock-in).

What are the common practices to ensure data protection and security?

Sandeep Ahlawat

For data protection and information security, Meghraj is using the latest technologies to mitigate and manage risks. Further, the government has offered support services for applications through server vulnerability assessment, monitoring and data backup, installation of server antivirus, deployment of network application firewalls and use of domain name.

Indranil Guha

The IT policy at Spencer’s Retail lays down comprehensive measures regarding data leakage prevention. The company is using security software for the mailing system, which ensures secure communication within the organisation as well as with external sources. For example, employees who are required to attach a document using their email account to an unrecognised domain have to seek approval from senior executives. In addition, the organisation also provides limited access to employees for transferring data within the company’s premises. For instance, the data copied from a workstation within the company’s premises can only be deciphered by the organisation’s own devices and machines. Further, the company’s IT tracking mechanism enables concerned personnel to track activities being carried out on a particular workstation. In addition, the company uses firewalls to secure its data.

Shabir Momin

The physical security of the network is managed by Amazon. However, since the entire infrastructure network is connected to the internet, Zenga TV has full access to the security systems and can implement them at various levels.

Srimathi K. Swamy

Infosys BPO, like its counterparts, has deployed security strategies based on the concept of “defence in depth”, which uses multiple layers and complementary functions to mitigate threats throughout the network. It is imperative that service providers undertake detailed risk assessments and have the required infrastructure in place.

Most cloud service providers offer perimeter layer security and network-level intrusion prevention by default. Some of the other commonly deployed controls on cloud are antivirus/malware protection, host intrusion prevention systems, host-based data loss prevention, web application firewalls, encryption of critical data, event management and automated vulnerability management.

What is the potential of cloud computing services in the Indian market? What are some of the emerging trends in this space?

Sandeep Ahlawat

Given the advantages offered by cloud computing, these services will be widely adopted and implemented both by the central and the state governments as well as for public-private partnership projects.

Indranil Guha

Cloud computing services have huge potential in India. However, the penetration of these services continues to be low owing to the risks associated with outsourcing critical functions to a service provider. By and large, organisations are reluctant to outsource their enterprise resource planning functions to a third party as they fear losing exclusive access to these critical functions. In order to en-courage the uptake of cloud computing services amongst enterprises, service providers have to adopt a focused approach to security solutions while enlisting the benefits of cloud computing to potential enterprise customers. Going forward, companies across verticals could use these services for data analytics.

Shabir Momin

There is huge potential for cloud-based services in India. A large number of new players and entrepreneurs are looking at these services as an integral part of their business plans.

Srimathi K. Swamy

According to research firm Gartner, $3.9 billion will be spent on cloud services in India during 2013-17. A large number of organisations are adopting a hybrid model of cloud. Further, by 2017, half of the mainstream enterprises will adopt the hybrid cloud model covering private and public cloud resources. The industry is witnessing a growing trend of large global enterprises moving their applications like email and chat, and collaboration tools to cloud on a software as a service model. Cloud provides a common platform for social media, mobile and analytics applications and will help optimise the infrastructure investments that have already been made.

 
 
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