A simple search for ‘cloud computing’ in Google ‘news’ draws nearly 8,000 finds. Such as, that cloud computing is expected to create ‘over 40 trillion yen market in Japan,’ as a story dated August 27 informs in www.glgroup.com. ‘New jobs to be created by Irish cloud computing project,’ announces www.libertybishop.co.uk in a posting ‘14 hours ago.’ And a recent story by Maura Lockwood of Cabot Headline News is that cloud computing stocks ‘lead the market.’
If you wonder what cloud computing is, Wikipedia helps with a simple explanation. That it is ‘Internet-based computing, whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices on demand, like the electricity grid.’ Calling cloud computing ‘a paradigm shift following the shift from mainframe to client-server in the early 1980s,’ the Free Encyclopaedia adds that, in this type of computing, details are abstracted from the users, who no longer have need for expertise in, or control over, the technology infrastructure ‘in the cloud’ that supports them.
To know more, Business Line interacted with Lakshmi Sundar, Director, Orbit Innovations P Ltd, Chennai (http://bit.ly/F4TOrbit).
Excerpts from the interview.
What do you see as the persistent concerns that businesses express about cloud computing? How are these being addressed by solution providers?
Major concerns are:
a) Recurring yearly subscription charges: There is a belief that perpetual licences are more economic. One has to explain, therefore, the total cost of ownership, including hardware, software, in-house skilled resources, maintenance charges, upgrades and other hidden charges along with system downtime because of system upgrade.
b) Security: Are my data secure on cloud? Here, it is necessary to elucidate the various security policies adopted, data recovery methodologies as well as the real-time data backup procedures. In conventional methods, 9 out of 10 times the last backup is 2 days to a week old.
Other concerns include: How do we connect with our existing systems and the cloud solution? Can an organisation of our size move to cloud? What happens to our data when we decide to move out of cloud? Does the cloud service provider have access to cloud user’s data?
Can you paint a few real-life scenarios of how SMBs (small and medium businesses) in non-IT verticals benefit from cloud computing?
SMBs are a target market for the cloud as it helps them use technology at lower costs. With cloud, there are no upfront capital expenditure requirements. Need to have expensive administration staff and finding ways to retain the staff are removed. Problems related to upgradation are taken care of by the cloud service provider. Some of the barriers that prevent SMBs from adopting cloud computing currently are a lack of clarity and awareness.
In SMBs under non-IT verticals, there are examples of cloud solution for sales, marketing and service division. In the manufacturing sector, the sales team is generally distributed across country. In discrete manufacturing, the sales cycle is between 6 and 9 months. Business heads are interested in reviewing the activities in each opportunity and the status of sales cycle on a real-time basis.
Using cloud, the salesperson updates the system from anywhere; he can also use mobile devices. Salesperson does the first sale to the customer with or without IT system in place. To cross-sell and up-sell, however, there is the dependence on IT systems. When a new person joins the team, he or she will leverage the system to be successful.
In continuous manufacturing, apart from the sales funnel monitoring there is a gap between sales requirement and production. Organisations having multiple currencies for trading are interested in the net cash realisation vs sales revenue.
Of interest can be a solution we developed for energy auditors using cloud. It enables energy auditors to generate a list of buildings to target, prepare the consumers for breakeven and energy savings, and report the actual utility savings. Tool is available from mobile device which enables the inspector to give feedback instantly. In this audit, where professionals and consultants work together on a specific programme or project, cloud model is found to be apt.
Real estate industry can largely benefit from cloud. Projects are done across the states and orders get picked up by salespersons from different regions. Realtors have hence started showing interest in cloud-based solution.
Are Indian SMBs exhibiting patterns of IT investment that are similar to what is observed in other geographies?
Though the SMBs have cash to spend on budgeted expenses, the mindset of investment for IT activities requires a lot of convincing and references. “Can we do this inhouse?” is the first question all companies have.
Definitely there is a change from what it was few years ago, and there is a realisation about the need for trained manpower. Also, they understand that a lot of money goes into maintaining the system, rather than to enhancement and upgradation.
On evolving a cloud solution for an SMB, along with illustrative time lines.
We always recommend moving to a new technology in a phased manner. This will set clear expectations to the investor, management team and end users. The success of any technology lies in the hands of end users.
It is better to start with a select set of users, who are willing to adapt to change; and then they are the evangelists to market to other team members. Also, develop a solution to empower the end users rather than make them use a system to get what the management wants. In the cloud model, getting started should not take more than 2 months. A product or an application should be built within 3 months using cloud.
How would you see cloud computing evolving over the years? Any maturity cycle that you would like to draw for the purpose?
Right now, cloud computing is based on proprietary/ internal architectures. Next phase will be when a lot of vertical-specific applications are developed by ISVs (Independent Software Vendors), built over the proprietary systems.
Further, this would evolve to a stage where we make choices of underlying layer of cloud computing. At this stage, along with SMBs and enterprise-level companies, government organisations will adapt to cloud.
The day is not far when the operating system will get downloaded based on our fingerprints. For instance, there could be thin PCs based on fingerprint of who is turning on, will download the operating system, retrieve installed software, other settings etc. from the cloud.