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Making the Most of the Cloud

Making the Most of the Cloud

The hybrid cloud model provides security, greater flexibility and optimises costs for organisations

Illustration by Raj Verma Illustration by Raj Verma

The Thiruvananthapuram-based Muthoot Pappachan Group, which has operations spanning financial services, alternative energy, IT services and precious metals, was looking to digitise its offerings by connecting its corporate offices and 4,700 branches. While it was fine with a third party managing the IT infrastructure, it wanted to keep some key functions in-house. It opted for a hybrid cloud — a solution that combines a private cloud with one or more public cloud services, with proprietary software enabling communication between each service, giving businesses greater control over data. “The cloud-based virtual desktop interface will be deployed for 26,000 employees across branches, resulting in net savings of Rs 25 crore and over 30 per cent reduction in time to market new digital capabilities,” says Joseph Oommen – Sr VP and CISO, Muthoot Pappachan Group. The project was carried out by UST, a US-based technology company.

Muthoot is among hundreds of businesses that are rushing to adopt hybrid cloud solutions for transforming their IT infrastructure. The reasons are simple. Hybrid cloud offers elasticity, nimbleness and cost optimisation. For instance, Panasonic India, the home appliances and consumer electronics major, has adopted a hybrid cloud model under which sensitive client data and information is stored on private cloud whereas applications are on public cloud. It is using services of Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and CtrlS, among others. “Public cloud is cloud computing delivered via Internet and shared across organisations whereas private cloud is dedicated to one organisation,” says Trideeb Roy, Director, Sales, Data Center, Cisco India & SAARC. This dual cloud strategy is helping enterprises scale up while optimising costs, which is why it is a natural progression for most businesses, say experts. According to a Research and Markets report, India’s cloud infrastructure market is estimated to expand at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 23.61 per cent between 2019 and 2024 to Rs 19,646 crore. The global hybrid cloud market is growing at a CAGR of 21 per cent and is expected to reach $170 billion in five years. India is expected to account for 10–15 per cent global hybrid cloud spend as operational flexibility and data deployment options that it offers make it a compelling proposition. “One of the primary benefits of a hybrid cloud is agility that allows effective operation of systems at organisations of all sizes. Hybrid cloud infrastructure can future-proof a data centre, keep up with the pace of software and service innovation and push the business forward. It also provides better security, compliance and risk mitigation from the core to the edge to the cloud,” says Roy of Cisco.

Industry Adoption

Since hybrid cloud offers scalability, security, compliances and access to next-generation technology and software, it has become the most preferred solution for enterprises not born on the web such as financial services players, governments, telecom service providers and automotive companies. For example, leading telecom service provider Bharti Airtel has completed the first phase of its open hybrid cloud network, which will give its customers and ecosystem partners a flexible foundation to build and deploy innovative applications on the cloud. Airtel has partnered with Redhat/IBM and Nokia for this initiative. “The horizontal cloud with open architecture is the key element for making our network future-ready. It allows us to deploy end-to-end automation across network operations and be ready for any emerging technology or application,” says Randeep Sekhon, CTO, Bharti Airtel.

The traditional hybrid clouds were built around IaaS (infrastructure as a service) and focused on providing computing, storage and network services along with security controls. “This has changed as almost all private and public cloud providers have introduced new services for building cloud native architectures,” says Muraleekrishnan Nair, Global Head, Cloud Infrastructure Services, UST. These services offer more agility for business transformation and allow an enterprise to rapidly change direction or develop new digital offerings. This came in handy during the Covid-19 outbreak when businesses were forced to adopt remote working models almost overnight. As companies realised the need to ensure that their IT infrastructure keeps running across clouds, they quickly found that adopting hybrid cloud models is the right strategy from the view of long-term costs, scalability and security. “Earlier users ran their programmes and applications from a server or a physical computer. However, the same is now being done through cloud-computing services. This shows how cloud computing technology has the power to become a backdoor for all future disasters as well,” says Binu Chacko, Partner, Cloud Transformation, EY India.

According to a recent Enterprise Cloud Index Research by Nutanix, a US-based cloud company, hybrid cloud has been voted as the ideal IT operating model by a vast majority of respondents in India. Around 97 per cent Indian IT professionals agreed in the survey that a mix of public and private clouds is ideal for their organisations compared to 87 per cent globally. India’s enterprises are moving to hybrid to gain better control over IT resource usage (79 per cent), increase speed to fulfil business needs (69 per cent) and support customers better (60 per cent). Additionally, 63 per cent Indian respondents said they have increased investments in hybrid cloud as a direct result of the pandemic. Indian IT teams are planning for a 56 per cent increase in hybrid cloud adoption within five years, according to the survey.

The pandemic has also brought risk, governance, security and spending concerns to the fore. “Legacy applications will give way to cloud native applications, legacy databases will give way to open source, purpose-built databases and automation will become a necessity as underlying infrastructure becomes a commodity. Security responses will be real-time to keep up with the ever-evolving threat landscape. We will witness more reliance on software, cloud and automation to deliver more with less,” says Balakrishnan Anantharaman, Vice President and MD, Sales, India and SAARC, Nutanix. For instance, RBL Bank leveraged the Nutanix Era Platform for Databases to cut provisioning time by 90 per cent and reduce the time taken for cloning of databases of key customers to four hours instead of one-two days, while saving 90Tb of storage.

The Cost Factor

When customers are trying to keep IT costs down, a well-designed hybrid model can help teams manage multiple cloud environments at a low cost. The largest cloud-delivery model of all — the public cloud — requires low-to-zero investment in buying, setting up and maintaining infrastructure. However, costs add up quickly as usage expands. Private cloud, on the other hand, involves high upfront capital expenses and a steep learning curve for internal teams. In hybrid cloud, both direct cost and speed of backups and recovery are made simpler with tiered storage (an architecture places data in a hierarchy according to its business value), offering companies opportunities to save on hardware costs.

Mumbai-based Godrej Group has leveraged hybrid multi-cloud model to build an IT infrastructure that is future-ready, keeps pace with changing business needs and supports future business requirements. IBM’s technology helped the group shift all mission-critical applications to a hybrid multi-cloud environment and orchestrate workloads among multiple clouds. This has resulted in 10 per cent reduction in cost of ownership over five years, 100 per cent increase in disaster recovery coverage and zero security incidents. “The return on investment needs to be viewed from multiple dimensions. When we claim that a hybrid cloud platform offers 2.5x more value than a traditional cloud environment, the benefits are spread across cost efficiencies, faster time to market and innovation capabilities. A significant portion of that value reaches beyond infrastructure cost efficiencies: there are quantifiable benefits from business acceleration, application development and regulatory, compliance and security,” says Sandip Patel, MD, IBM India/South Asia.

Other benefits of hybrid cloud include better business continuity and management of short- and long-term capacity. “From a CIO’s perspective, it amplifies innovation for building new business solutions and enhancing existing solutions,” says Narsimha Rao Mannepalli (Narry), Executive Vice President, Head of Cloud & Infrastructure Solutions, Infosys Validation Solutions.

Hybrid cloud also offers better security, compliance and risk mitigation and allows enterprises to choose where to place workloads and data based on compliance, audit, policy and security requirements. While various environments of hybrid cloud remain separate, migration between them is facilitated by containers or encrypted application programming interfaces that allow administrators to integrate applications and other workloads. “This separate, yet connected, architecture is what allows enterprises to run critical workloads in private cloud and less sensitive workloads in public cloud. This minimises data exposure and allows enterprises to customise a flexible IT portfolio,” says Patel of IBM India/South Asia. Besides, organisations can store all kinds of sensitive data with utmost security, thanks to features like Keep Your Own Key or KYOK (which allows customers to have exclusive control over encryption keys) and Quantum Safe Crytography Support (algorithms that are resilient to quantum computer-enabled attacks).

The gains from hyrbid cloud seem too big to be ignored.