The rise and adoption of the cloud is one of the most significant shifts witnessed in the history of enterprise computing. Organisations are thinking about innovation, agility, new markets, and disruption in a new light, thanks to the cloud--a technology imperative for today’s enterprises, irrespective of their size and scale.

However, cloud as a technology is not new. A popular misconception about cloud computing is that it started in the 21st century. The evolution of the cloud began in the 1950s when multiple users could access a mainframe computer via dumb terminals.

It did not make economic sense for businesses to buy a mainframe for each of its employees, given that they did not need huge quantum of computing and storage power during that time. The concept of virtual machines created around 1970 transitioned the shared access mainframe to the next stage as it brought about multiple distinct computing environments inside one physical environment. The next big shift was when telecommunication companies started providing virtualised private network connections to users with shared access to the same physical infrastructure. Technologies like hypervisors, virtual networks, and containers came to the fore over the next few decades. It is at this time when the evolution transcended into platform-level abstractions giving rise to PaaS (Platform as a Service), SaaS (Software as a Service), and BPaaS (Business Process as a Service).

Thus, the concept evolved from grid to utility computing to IT-as-a-Service (ITaaS) finally emerging as cloud computing, the way we know today. Since the launch of the public cloud in 2002, the foundational technologies have matured but a few obstacles remain that prevent wider adoption in India despite the many proven benefits.

Benefits of public cloud deployment

Today, every business should think of itself as a technology company with crucial traits including agility and resilience. Cloud focus needs to shift from migration and modernisation to innovation. Innovative companies realise the significance of the cloud as a technology convergence platform for more advanced strategic reinvention. They know cloud solutions coupled with disruptive technologies like AI, IoT, predictive analytics, and blockchain, can give them a competitive edge. Deploying public cloud provides many benefits--it facilitates business innovation, creates competitive advantage and boosts financial success as shown in several studies. While the benefits are aplenty, organisations need enterprise-grade, secure, and open environments for them to effectively embrace the public cloud journey.

The need for enterprise-grade capabilities

Often organisations shy away from the public cloud due to apprehensions over scaleability and robustness. They want their cloud to provide not just compute choices but configurable auto-scaling that allows them to optimise for dynamic, demanding, sensitive, and secure workloads. They also seek a wide range of choices in how they migrate and provision workloads. The bottom line is they need enterprise-grade capabilities that they normally do not associate with the public cloud.

The security dilemma

Over the last few years, most players in the highly regulated industries such as BFSI, healthcare, life sciences, and telecommunications sectors were merely migrating non-critical applications and data to the public cloud as a test to validate cloud technology and to extend the capacity of existing applications. However, most of these sectors are at an inflection point as they continue to combat newer and disruptive business models from startups. Adding to the woes is the impact of unprecedented events such as Covid-19 requiring organisations to consider cloud as a credible option as they look to increase their digital presence.

The good news is that the modern-day cloud technologies allay their cybersecurity concerns by improving data confidentiality, encryption, and isolation--the three essential elements of cloud security. By leveraging identity and access management, networking and host security (security groups and firewalls), the ‘bring-your-own-keys’ model for data encryption, application security, and DevSecOps and single pane of glass view for cloud-based workloads, organisations are treading on a path to secure public cloud. Already, a few visionary companies across the globe are successfully embracing public cloud platforms tailored to address their specific requirements. Such businesses have been able to improve their innovation cycles and time-to-market while trimming IT costs.

Open tech–path to innovation, trust, and value

Organisations face barriers to innovation from a technology standpoint when they are burdened with legacy proprietary software and solutions that prevent them from leveraging technologies that foster innovation. It is widely accepted that open architectures based on Kubernetes and containers will drive the next wave of cloud-based business innovation. When open-source technology is at the heart of the public cloud, organisations gain from instant deployment, automated vulnerability management, and self-healing resiliency without vendor lock-in.

Leapfrogging the adoption curve

Cloud has evolved leading to maturing of foundational technologies but enterprise-grade, secure and open environments are vital to wider adoption and innovation. India has a unique opportunity to leapfrog the curve in the adoption of the public cloud for mission-critical, enterprise workloads. The country has always been a great adopter of disruptive technologies and innovative solutions across highly regulated industries--be it blockchain for banking or Unified Payments Interface for cashless transactions. The opportunity is ripe for India to take the lead in public cloud implementation and reap the benefits as businesses shift from migrate and modernise to build and innovate on the cloud.

Views are personal.

The author is general manager of IBM India/South Asia

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