Clouds on Earth - Cloud Computing World Forum India 2011

"The Clouds have come down to Earth ". Shree Parthasarathy, Sr. Director - Enterprise Risk Services, Deloitte, who chaired the conference, quipped, as he kick started Cloud Computing World Forum India 2011. He may have well added, "They are everywhere". With 1100 registered attendees, it was a Cloud jamboree, with enthusiasm reaching stratospheric levels, amidst cloudy perceptions, driven by marketing on steroids. Every product is cloud-centric, hovering around the tag-cloud of benefits that every cloud vendor promises to reinvent IT for the future. No wonder Cloud pundits have declared, 'Its official:'Cloud Computing' is meaningless.'

Ravi Pandey, Senior Research Analyst, Information & Communication Technology Practice, Frost & Sullivan, probed into the reasons behind the palpable excitement towards Cloud offerings. "Cloud computing market is expected to grow at CAGR of 52 % in 5 years", he predicted, based on the results from the study conducted by Frost & Sullivan. Enterprise Cloud penetration in India would surge by 46% in 2016, he further added. With 85% of Cloud spending in India on SaaS, he highlighted that Non ICT Infrastructure, Collaboration, Federation would be the key drivers
Bernie Trudel, Cloud CTO, Cisco Systems, Asia Pacific, delivered his keynote address on Enterprise IT and the Cloud Disruption. Personally, I have been quite fascinated by Cisco's vision of the Internet with the network as a platform, providing building blocks for Clouds.  "When do I get to see the benefits of the Cloud? ", he pointed, is the key question asked by CIOs today. He took the audience through the history of Cloud and showcased three models, viz, On demand pools of Infrastructure APIs for high volume, Highly scaled small Apps and Big Data Warehouse Data Centers. He illustrated Cloud Benefits such as Lower TCO and IT Agility which ensure that less time is needed in keeping lights on.  Cloud allows businesses to fail faster, he teased the audience, as it accelerates the Schumpterian creative destruction cycle, thus leading to further innovation. He opined that Cloud helps to narrow the gap with the end-customers, that which we had increased over the last 200 years with the industrial age.

He also showcased the advantages of Unified Computing System which unifies compute, network, storage access and virtualization into a fabric computing environment.He highlighted Cisco's recent prestigious announcement at VM World, its 11th VMMark World Record, VMMark 2.1 result of 35.06@35 tiles, achieved using 4 x Cisco UCS C460 M2 servers, each server having 4 x Intel E7-4870 processors. 

He averred that data center networks would flatten, with the data center shifting the focus  of the communication/network bandwidth from north/south design to east/west design. This would lead to the network adapting to new traffic patterns. As the network core would remain intelligent, virtualized network container would emerge and network service APis would be exposed.  He made a strong case for the network platform as on-demand IT would be inevitably powered by turning up the network as well.  He concluded his address asking the enterprise IT audience to introspect and find out the "cloud sweet spot" of their organizations.
After Cisco's vision of the Cloud, the focus shifted towards the Government department's readiness in moving towards the Cloud. Recent KPMG report[pdf] puts spotlight on the Government sector, as the report indicates, Cloud has the potential to bridge communication divide and increase interoperability between government agencies, thus enabling mechanisms to track the effectiveness of government schemes.  Golok Kumar Sumli, Principal Consultant & Head - Technology, PMU, Passport Seva Project, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, talked on Cloud's potential to facilitate services for the 'fakir(poor) and the rich'.

He presented the ambitious vision of the National e-Governance plan, comprising of 27 Mission Mode Projects (MMPs) and 8 components, to "make all Government services accessible to the common man in his locality, through common service delivery outlets, and ensure efficiency, transparency, and reliability of such services at affordable costs to realize the basic needs of the common man"
 He also addressed the challenges in providing a common service center through Clouds, unified and delivered to the villages. To an audience question on the possibility of using Open source for its governance projects, he highlighted that while there have been few departments such as the Income Tax department which have embraced Open Source, it is fraught with risk with the tenuous question of ownership and no well-defined exit strategy chalked out so far in the Cloud. 

This was followed by an interesting Panel discussion in which CIOs shared the lessons they learned in their journey towards the Cloud. The session was moderated by Praveen Bhadada, Director, Zinnov Management Consulting.  Tarun Pandey, VP-IT, Aditya Birla Financial Services Group busted the myth that Cloud is a cheaper alternative. He also pointed out the lack of well-defined exit strategy as a major challenge in adopting the Cloud solutions. 

Arun Gupta, CCA  & Group CTO, Shoppers Stop, one of the most admired Indian CIOs of the world, recounted his first experience with the Cloud, as Shoppers Stop was one among the first users of during 2004.  However, the firm had to move out of Cloud in 2008 as it had issues in adapting its business process. While the firm shifted to another Cloud service , the service provider backed out the following year.  He also addressed the major pain points surrounding migration to the Cloud.  He expressed concern that none of the Cloud providers are able to provide service level agreement in the Cloud, reinforcing the commonly held concerns around lack of control and responsibility. He also pointed out the challenges in calculating ROI for Cloud adoption within a specific timeline.

Sandeep Phanasgaonkar, President & CTO, Reliance Capital in his session, Moving IT to a Cloud Based World,  presented a realistic portrayal of the Cloud with its limitations and challenges. With the Total Cost of Ownership unlikely to be favorable in the long term, in comparison to on-premise computing, he commented that the business case built around its benefits would remain open ended. He expressed consternation over the lack of support structure for Cloud ready applications in India. With the current stage of ecosystem maturity in India, he opined that Interoperability is possible only with the IaaS providers and not with the PaaS providers. He stressed on the need to include migration back to on-premise in the service level agreement offered by the Cloud provider.

"Current challenges in Cloud are engineering challenges", reassured Saji Thoppil, GM, Enterprise Cloud Computing, Wipro Ltd, in the panel discussion which focused on the opportunities in the Cloud space for new entrants and existing IT incumbents amidst mounting challenges. Rajendran KB, Senior Vice President - Sales & Marketing, Data Center and Managed Services at Reliance Communications addressed the most crucial question when it comes to adopting Cloud: "Is it possible to plug out the IT system out and not affect the business process? ". 

Mandar Thakur, COO, Times Music talked on the 'living reality' of trends in the rapidly evolving music industry and highlighted the plethora of delivery models around Clouds, downloads and Satellite. The discussion also veered towards the evolving role of Software resellers, with the Cloud obviating the need for a reseller in between the service provider and the end customer.  To an audience question on implementing Cloud solutions for Banks, with their high security requirements, Saji Thoppil pointed towards technology solutions, low hanging fruits with minimal risk, such as the recent core banking solutions for Regional Rural Banks. Brian Pereira, Editor, Information Week also highlighted Shyam Rao Cooperative Bank's federated Cloud solutions. 

The post-lunch session was taken over by Shantanu Upadhyay, Sr. Manager with the Deloitte India TMT Practice, who delivered his address on Walking on the Cloud. He addressed the business drivers behind the Consumerization of IT. Shantanu asserted that Cloud Computing is an old idea whose time has come, recalling the prescient words of John McCarthy who predicted in 1961 that "Computation may be someday organized as a public utility". With the Cloud industrializing IT, enabling pay-per-use, it has empowered lines of business within enterprises.

He elaborated on the major shift caused by Cloud, which allows businesses to transform IT architecture from "Inside Out" to "Outside In", based on the insightful work of John Hagel and John Seely Brown, Deloitte Center for the Edge. He underpinned the need for Agility with the Cloud providing a common platform, connecting diverse external parties along with a policy layer which enables partners to set business policies and preferences.  The benefits that accrue with Agility are the compensation mechanisms which connect the structural layers of business partners, providing the ability to modify interactions and cope with the unanticipated developments. 

He brought out several interesting case-studies of successful firms such as Rearden Commerce and Red Bus , which have enabled IT to inject itself more deeply into product functionality/business processes. The success of these firms,across its wide partner ecosystem, lies in the Cloud's capability to provide a large-scale, unified experience for the customer and a highly fluid one-to-one market place. He strongly urged companies to evaluate Cloud beyond pure IT cost-reduction and flexibility play. He ended his session  with a quote, which summed up the upbeat mood surrounding the Cloud with its unique advantages, despite its engineering challenges. 
 "A pessimist only sees the dark side of the clouds,and mopes; a philosopher sees both sides and shrugs; an optimist doesn't see the clouds at all - he's walking on them."
                                                                                                                             - Leonard L Levinson