The growing digitalisation coupled with the large amount of data generated across industries is driving the demand for cloud-based connectivity solutions. According to the International Data Corporation, revenue from India’s public cloud services market, including infrastructure-as-a-service, platform-as-a-service and software-as-a-service solutions, was valued at $2.2 billion during the first half of 2021 (January-June). The report also suggests that the overall Indian public cloud services market is expected to reach $10.8 billion by 2025, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 24.1 per cent during 2020-25.
Organisations across industries are migrating to cloud-based solutions to benefit from the superior performance, scalability, enhanced agility, stronger collaboration, deeper integration and improved security. Telecom operators, too, are collaborating with cloud providers to enhance their revenue stream and offer cloud-based connectivity solutions to small and large enterprises.
According to a report by NASSCOM, the large-scale adoption of cloud has the potential to contribute $380 billion to India’s GDP and create 14 million direct and indirect employment opportunities by 2026. As per the report, the Indian cloud market has outpaced the global market in terms of growth rate, with a CAGR of 44 per cent, driven by a growing digital population, inflow of investments, digitalisation of enterprises and favourable government policies. However, the report warns that India may lose $118 billion in GDP contribution and 5 million job opportunities by 2026 if cloud adoption is delayed by businesses and the government. With global players heading towards new systems such as 3D printing, internet of things (IoT) and robotic automation, slow or low adoption of cloud may result in Indian industries losing their competitive edge and losing attractiveness among investors and businesses.
Further, the report asserts that the shift to cloud in India is playing a pivotal role in enabling Indian businesses and the government to accelerate their digital transformation journey through infrastructure, platform, and software solutions. Cloud-based initiatives such as MyGov Saathi, Curfew ePass, Covid-19 repository, Aarogya Setu and CoWIN are a few examples of the role of cloud in enabling the timely launch of government services. Cloud adoption can also stimulate innovation and contribute to India’s Global Innovation Index. The report suggests that an all-around effort can result in sustained growth of 25-30 per cent in cloud spending over the next five years.
Key cloud offerings
On-premise infrastructure, or private cloud, is a cloud computing environment that is reserved for use by one organisation. On-premises infrastructure provides the same type of elastic, virtualised services as public clouds, but also offers greater control and visibility of infrastructure. Essentially, the fundamental difference between cloud and on-premises software is where it resides. While on-premises software is installed locally, on the business’ computers and servers, public cloud software is hosted on the vendor’s server and accessed via a web browser. On-premises cloud helps businesses to deploy and run their applications/services in a dedicated and secure cloud-based environment. Data and other information is shared between computers through a local network.
Like any new technology, cloud computing is evolving and new trends are coming up. Multicloud is one such trend. Multicloud is the use of multiple cloud computing and storage services in a single heterogeneous architecture. It refers to the distribution of cloud assets, software, applications, etc. across several cloud-hosting environments. A multi-cloud strategy provides the flexibility needed for rapid innovation as well as access to the best-in-class cloud services along with best prices without provider limitations.
According to a recent global study on the multicloud maturity index by Vanson Bourne in collaboration with VMware, Inc., 71 per cent of Indian enterprises believe that multicloud architectures are critical to business success, particularly organisations that are at advanced stages of their cloud journey. As per the study that was conducted with a sample size of close to 2,000 professionals interviewed during April, May and June 2022 across the Asia-Pacific market, the majority of the respondents (90 per cent) reported that their organisation uses apps that were built to run across multiple public clouds. Meanwhile, 83 per cent of the Indian respondents have had apps built to run across multiple public clouds for more than a year. Furthermore, the report expects businesses all over the world to rely on more than two public cloud vendors by 2027. However, the complexity of multi-cloud, security issues and a lack of internal experience in multicloud deployment and administration are major obstacles for businesses.
The growing demand for edge computing has spurred the deployment of cloud solutions in customer edge locations. Some of the key drivers for moving cloud resources to the edge are:
- Low latency: Some applications require low latency access to compute resources that cannot be met by centralised clouds.
- Reduced backhaul: Applications such as video surveillance produce tremendous volumes of data, only some of which contains useful information. By processing the video stream locally, the required uplink can be dramatically reduced because only alerts or aggregated data are sent upstream.
- Data sovereignty: Some companies, industries and jurisdictions require data to be kept local. A centralised cloud requires transporting data out of the specified area and so it is not an option.
- Lower costs: A centralised cloud can be very expensive for applications that run 24×7.
Telcos leveraging the cloud opportunity
Indian telcos have a massive opportunity to leverage edge cloud to support their upcoming 5G roll-out plans. We are already witnessing the emergence of new business models whereby telecom service providers and hyperscale cloud providers work together to offer edge cloud services across India. For example, Jio and Microsoft have announced a partnership to offer a detailed set of solutions comprising connectivity, computing, storage solutions and other technology services and applications essential for Indian businesses. Bharti Airtel also announced a similar arrangement with Amazon. These new engagement models between telcos and hyperscalers will also come into play with the roll-out of 5G, creating exciting new opportunities for businesses and consumers alike. As Indian telcos move towards 5G deployment, more and more data will need to be computed, stored and processed at the edge. Over a period of time, edge will emerge as a new revenue model for telcos.
Further, Bharti Airtel has partnered with IBM to deploy Airtel’s edge computing platform in India, which will include 120 network data centres across 20 cities. Airtel’s edge computing platform, deployed as a hybrid environment based on IBM Cloud Satellite and Red Hat OpenShift, will extend secured and open cloud services wherever data resides. Airtel also launched multiple new products under its edge cloud portfolio including the edge content delivery network (CDN). Airtel Cloud’s edge CDN accelerates web and video content delivery by using its edge network to bring content as close to users as possible.
Moreover, Vodafone Idea Limited’s (Vi) enterprise arm Vi Business has partnered with Google Cloud India to offer collaboration solutions for small and medium enterprises and start-ups. Striking the right balance between business objectives and employee flexibility, Google Workspace will equip Vi Business Plus customers with a set of productivity applications like Google Meet, gmail, Drive, Sheets, Slides, Docs, and Calendar at no extra cost.
Reliance Jio too partnered with Google Cloud to introduce a portfolio of 5G edge computing solutions to help industries address real business challenges. Jio will explore building new services across the gaming, healthcare, education, and video entertainment sectors. These services will use Jio’s 5G network and software and Google Cloud’s innovations in cloud-native technologies.
Challenges and future outlook
Despite several advantages, cloud-based connectivity solutions have their own set of challenges. Organisations need to define and create a unified security policy for multicloud environments. Further, organisations should deploy centralised security tools that ensure that data is always encrypted while in transit or at rest across different cloud service providers with the same policies for data backup. Moreover, processes such as monitoring and identification of threat events, risk mitigation, and security of end points should be fully automated. Organisations can also use a cloud management platform that provides a set of tools and procedures that allow a business to seamlessly monitor and secure applications and workloads across multiple public clouds.
Challenges notwithstanding, the adoption of cloud-based connectivity solutions is going to increase in the future. Industry experts believe that edge cloud, virtual cloud desktops, serverless computing, hybrid cloud and cloud disaster recovery are the few trends expected to gain traction in 2023. These, coupled with the ever-expanding 5G landscape, will help shape a new digital environment across the globe.