Conversations with Dez podcast series: Talking Cloud with Pravin Bolar of Tech Mahindra
The following is a transcript of a “fireside chat” podcast between Dez Blanchfield and Pravin Bolar ( Senior Vice President & Global Head of Cloud Computing – Tech Mahindra ) recorded at via digital studio between Sydney and Bangalore in 2017.
Hi and welcome to another episode in Conversations with Dez. I’m your host Dez Blanchfield and today, I had the privilege of having Pravin Bolar from Tech Mahindra with me in the studio. Pravin, welcome to the show.
Thank you so much Dez, looking forward to our discussion.
Thanks so much for making time. I’m here in Sydney but you’re in Bangalore and today is actually a special day from what I understand just talking to you earlier. It’s August the 15th, which is Independence Day, I believe.
That’s correct. It is our Independence Day today.
Well, look, thanks so much for making time today on your day off. I apologize for disturbing you but probably a great opportunity to get you when you’re not distracted. Now, just a quick intro to yourself and then I might get you to give a bit more of a detailed introduction to yourself and your background.
You’ve got quite a deep pedigree in business and technology, and I was looking at your background. You’ve come from experience in companies like Infosys and Honeywell and DHL, and just more recently, in the last seven and a half, eight years, you’ve been inside Tech Mahindra. Is that correct?
That is correct Dez, and my 25 years of career has largely been on the client side or the customer side of the house working with companies like DHL for about 10 years and Honeywell. And coming from that side of the fence, in the last 9 to 10 years, it’s been more around the service provider side.
So I had the perspectives from both sides of the fence, understanding what customers want and the challenges they face, and trying to address that from a service provider side. And being on the other side of the fence, I worked with service providers in delivering services to us. So I know how customers go about choosing their preferences, choosing their vendors, why relationships matter and why saying what you say matters to them and trying to be upfront and honest about things.
Some of the software aspects go well in these relationships, and I’m able to manage that quite well because I’ve had the experience of being on both sides of the fence.
It is a unique perspective and I think it’s an important one because I have a number of colleagues over the last two or three decades myself where they’ve either been in the provider space exclusively or they’ve been in businesses where they’re always the client. And often, they don’t have that benefit that you clearly have of having the ability to see the insight from both sides.
I looked at your various roles inside Tech Mahindra and you’ve come from infrastructure, you’ve been a global head of cloud services sometime and infrastructure services. So your current role is you’re the senior vice president and global head of cloud services. Is that correct?
That was correct Dez. And in this … Sorry, go ahead.
I was going to say just give us a little bit of insight into what that role entails and what that actually means on a day to day basis as far as what you do.
Sure. So I got in this role a little less than a year back and this role existed in our organization for the last four … close to four years, prior to which we were doing cloud but not necessarily in a very focused way. It was created about four years back. A lot of the work that my predecessors had done was in building up this capability around cloud, building the organization by building practices around AWS and other cloud technologies in Azure and Google, working through those and building those up.
I, having come from the infrastructure services background, having managed multiple roles, played multiple roles within Tech Mahindra as an organization in the infrastructure services business, I actually started looking at cloud almost five, six years back because there’s a close interplay between infrastructure services and the transformations that the infrastructure of an organization is going through today and into cloud.
So for me, it was an easy transition into this role and my CEO of the organization asked me to take that up. Because even from his perspective, he felt someone with an infrastructure background would be able to articulate the value and benefits to a customer better than anybody else in convincing customers on taking that migration back towards cloud.
So for me, it’s been an interesting journey and interesting learning in taking up this role as well. But more importantly, for me, it’s about being in the middle of this whole journey that started off in the recent years where customers are looking at major transformation. I sometimes tell people it’s another Y2K moment. During the Y2K era, every CIO had a need to do Y2K and fix their applications.
This is another one of those moments where every CIO has to get on the table and figure out what is he going to do, he or she is going to do on the cloud. So you don’t get too many such moments in your career. I’m glad to be in the center of it for my organization and helping customers understand the value and benefits of moving to cloud, and adopting it, and giving them a helping hand. It’s an interesting role.
I can only imagine and I envy you in that I think as we get to a certain point in life and our professional careers, one of the most important things is the desire to jump out of bed and actually do the job. And it’s also interesting that you talked about some of the things that I’d been thinking about asking you about in fact, which is some of the key challenges around the space that you’re in.
In my mind, you almost need to have a pedigree in physical and virtual and logical infrastructure to really fully grasp the benefit of cloud, because there are a lot of, what I call, cloud natives now, folk who’ve really only known technology in the cloud space. So they’ve never really gotten their hands on a server or a router or a switch or a firewall or storage arrays and racks and so forth. They’ve never been in a data center.
So often, when they think about, when they develop things and they come from a pure dev ops background, they don’t always have the depth of the infrastructure skills to understand what’s inside either legacy environments or large enterprise of governmet spaces and see where they can really add value.
Now, I think that’s one of the key differentiators I saw when I looked into the pedigree you came from because to me, it’s really important to be able to understand where we’ve come from and the technology stacks that people are already running from a legacy environment to then be able to see what the transition to cloud looks like.
Is that the kind of journey you see quite regularly? Do you have customers who come to you and in … I guess, in two states? One, a clean sheet that they just want to put a new service into the cloud, which is probably the lesser. But more so, is it the case that if they’ve got current infrastructure and they want to, I guess, scale down to number of physical boxes and they want to leverage the cloud for a whole range of reasons?
What are you seeing in that space between the split between legacy infrastructure and transition to cloud versus all new, clean projects that just go purely to the cloud first?
Good question Dez. And I’d put this in the Greenfield, Brownfield model, right?
So Brownfield is more about more in legacy into cloud and Greenfield is looking at new. So we are getting requirements on both sides. Obviously, the volume of business that … or requirements coming in through transition Brownfield environments into legacy environments into cloud is more.
However, having said that, the importance of the Greenfield is very much there as well because the opportunities in the Greenfield, which is building new solutions on cloud, is largely coming in this new transformation, the digital transformation world. So mobility, IoT, analytics, AI, machine learning, customers wanting to leverage the native capabilities of a cloud, whether it be a Google or IBM Bluemix, Azure or AWS.
All of them having varying levels of capability on all of these native technology platforms. And customers wanting to build these new digital transformations and digital solutions on cloud is where we’re seeing a lot of the requirements coming in from the Greenfield perspective. And that’s an interesting journey.
It is driven by business requirement, a business need and solution. And if you were to ask me what am I learning in this whole process of running this organization, this team of cloud is actually learning the digital aspects of various business verticals and how those digital transformations are impacting those businesses.
This has been a big learning for me in the last seven, eight months that I’ve been running this role and how cloud is playing a very important foundational role in that journey. So that’s the Greenfield side of the house. On the Brownfield where customers are looking at moving legacy environments onto cloud, this is a big wave that’s starting off. And it started, I would say, about 18 to 24 months back.
Until about 18 months back, it was largely test development workloads that were being leveraged by large enterprises. I’m focusing primarily on the Fortune 2000 type, large enterprise organizations. And they’ve been, there about 18 months back, primarily focused on test and dev environments and using cloud for some of these digital solutions.
The legacy modernization, legacy movement of workloads onto cloud has just started in the last year and a half and has got a long way to go because that is a significant … We’ve just barely scratched the surface in that area. So there’s a huge opportunity space there and that’s a space where we in Tech Mahindra are looking at servicing our customers in the next two to three years because that’s the timeframe that pretty much this industry will need to move at least 50% of the workloads across or in this Fortune 2000 customer base.
And this is where individuals who have a very good understanding of legacy environments, whether it be the legacy applications or the legacy infrastructure, will be able to better appreciate what is needed to migrate when you move to cloud. And that’s an important aspect for us and we’re seeing a big, huge amount of traction building up in this space of legacy modernization onto cloud.
And that’s one of the key drivers for growth, if you ask me. From a business growth perspective, that’s the biggest opportunity for us.
I’m going to lead into a couple of quick questions just to round that. And then I’d like to actually take the natural transition to where those big workloads are because you mentioned a couple of very interesting things there, if I can. What are your general … What are you seeing from Tech Mahindra’s point of view with your clients? What are you seeing around the adoption between the mix of public, private and hybrid?
How does that break up? If you were going to summarize that in a couple of minutes, is it the case that we’re still looking at a lot of public cloud adoption early on? Are people thinking about private cloud in any form or are they still using dedicated hardware or hypervisors? And are we leading to a true hybrid model or where do we sit in the moment, and particularly in the market you’re seeing in Australia?
Sure. Let me give you a bit of a global picture at first and then we’ll later on go to Australia. And let’s pick one at a time. So the public clouded option clearly has started and that movement then is picking up, and that as a standalone momentum and a strategy by organizations have picked up.
Private cloud where customers are going through the motions of wanting to adopt cloud, possibly wanting to do private cloud, the challenge there has been the products in the marketplace for private clouds have been maturing over the last three, four years. They’re still changing a lot whether it be VMware, whether it’s private cloud. They have renamed their product at least three or four times.
Microsoft has had different strategies towards private cloud and they have changed their names of their products over a period of time, and so as HP and others in this space who’ve tried to address the private cloud space. Because of the rate of change in features and capabilities and the products and through acquisitions, enterprises have struggled to put a finger on their strategy and say, “Hey. This is what I will do with my private cloud.”
So unfortunately, while public clouds adoption has been increasing at a very good pace over the last three to four years, the private cloud adoption hasn’t really kicked off very well. It’s been in pockets, is what we’re seeing. And the two key players who are now catching on into the space and coming out as leaders in comparison where the traditional tooling vendors who also came up with private cloud solutions, the leaders coming out are really VMware and Microsoft, at least is what is seen from the cloud space.
And the adoption of private cloud will start taking place from this year onwards. We have seen some amount of traction last year and 2016, customers specifically calling out in RFPs that they want a private cloud. We started seeing that for the first time early 2016.
And it was interesting for us to also see obviously that these are customers who are heavily virtualized. So when they said private cloud, they didn’t really mean that they wanted to become more virtualized. They were mature, virtualized customers with almost 70%, 80% of their workloads being virtualized already but wanting to go on a private cloud.
So that showed us that there were customers who were trying to … who have understood the value of a private cloud and wanting to adopt. Interestingly, in most of those opportunities that we saw last year, no one provided a prescription as to what they wanted. They allowed us to come to them and recommend what was the best private cloud solution, what were the best CMP or cloud management platform for them.
And obviously, based on the workloads they had, based on the investments they had, the propositions we gave to them, they read from VMware, vRA to a Microsoft solution, to Cisco as well in one case that we proposed last year. So last year, we saw a traction pick up finally on the private cloud space.
Now, what’s interesting though is now, when you talk to customers who have adopted private cloud in some shape or form … And some customers also say that, “Hey. I already have a private cloud.” And what they really mean is they have a virtualized DC and they have done certain amount of standardization and they have some amount of automation.
And they tend to call it private cloud, and they use public cloud as well. And in conversations, and this is more terminologies that are being mis … that are creating some of this confusion in the marketplaces, customers have started saying, “I am using hybrid cloud.” And what they really mean by that is, “I have a virtualized DC or I have a private cloud and I’m also using public cloud.”
And they say, “I’m on a hybrid path now,” but that, truly, is not what hybrid cloud is meant to be. So hybrid cloud, unfortunately, hasn’t become a reality yet for organizations. When the concept of hybrid cloud came out, it was to promote the fact that you should be able to leverage, deploy workloads in private, leverage the public when you had additional capacity requirements or move workloads seamlessly between private and public, have a single governance module and a platform to govern and manage both the private and public.
Those are the aspects that makes a true hybrid cloud deployment effective for an organization. And moving forward, customers have to start thinking about that because that’s going to become a reality. And 2017 is going to help kick-start that journey primarily because of two reasons. One is Microsoft and its release of Azure Stack which is bringing the zero cloud capability into the data center of the customer.
And on the other hand, VMware with its partnership with AWS will be launching soon their solution where their private cloud will be available, or VMware cloud will be available on AWS, so their virtualization platform will be available on AWS. When these two products come out into the marketplace, customers will see the ability to seamlessly move workloads between private and public.
And that’s where the value or the needs or the values of the customers we’re looking for. And it is around the corner. These are products that are just coming out in the second half of this year. So this year, I’m expecting to see a whole lot of PoCs and pilots from customers wanting to adopt these. But the hybrid cloud is going to take off moving forward from now on. So that’s where I would say where private and public and hybrid is today.
And I think what we’ve seen with … For about five or six years, I remember standing on soap box screaming to the public that, “Microsoft was becoming a cloud company, get ready for it,” and few people really bought into it. And then eventually, the Office 365 transition happened and people sat up and paid attention and thought, “Wow. What just happened?”
And something that a number of us, and I’m sure yourselves had been saying as well is, “Just get ready for the cloud. It’s coming. It’s almost going to be the only option.” And nowadays, you can’t buy the Office Suite from Microsoft unless it’s a cloud package platform. Yes, you can download the GUI apps but it’s still a subscription model.
And whether it’s a home edition, personal, professional edition or an enterprise edition, it’s effectively a cloud service. And I think now, we’re going to see as you just outlined, this whole public, private, hybrid thing, in my mind, it’s actually going to be built into the DNA of the platform. So you’re not going to get a choice.
And if we look at the trend in some of the very fast-moving tools around analytics and dashboarding tools, the transition from spreadsheeting to analytics tools that people are carrying on their tablets for BI and CRM type interfaces where we’re seeing now that these tools are actually having, I guess, the DNA change where people are now expecting you to have the ability to do cloud burst.
They expect you to have some capability with big data analytics in the background. And if you don’t, they expect you to be able to have an account somewhere like a public cloud to do that. So I agree with you, and I think the other thing that I want to call out is that you mentioned that there’s a challenge around the software stacks.
And people have played with the likes of Open Source with OpenStack and CloudStack. They’ve struggled with the Hyper-V and VMware space. Azure, obviously, is looking at an on-premise thing. And I noted that recently, I think it was HP, I could be wrong, but I think it was HP, did a thing with Azure where now, you can get the Azure Stack on hardware on-premise.
But it’s a very grey, messy area in my mind. But I think, hopefully you’ll agree, but I think everyone’s moving towards this idea that we’re an API-driven world now, and that the idea of a manually deployed thing is almost an evil thing because it’s got finger trouble, human error, whereas if we move towards-
And it’s not even a case of entirely dev ops in my mind because not everyone’s developing, but it’s that automation and orchestration, isn’t it, where once you build it, once you document it and you script it, you want it to be able to happen time and time again and scale up and down on demand. And Azure and VMware do that and certainly, the public cloud does.
And I imagine that’s something you’re seeing come through now where people are saying, “Look, we want an orchestration. We may want to burst dev and test and UAT and systems integration up into the cloud, and only pay for what we need,” because there’s a big difference to having tens of thousands of dollars of the development infrastructure sitting there 24/7 where the bulks is unused on the weekends versus pushing out into cloud which is going to cost them a fraction.
And they can also burst on demand. If you’ve got a large workforce, if they’re walking around with tablets and tools and laptops and want to do some analytics … I know Excel, for example, in Office, is getting close this week in bursting to the Azure cloud for big workloads. I had another question around what you … I mean you mentioned a couple of interesting things that you’re saying that you’re seeing nearly a 50% adoption of workloads in the cloud.
Are there particular areas where you’re seeing industry groups, is it logistics or transport or aviation or health or education? Are there particular industry segments or industry groups you think are ahead of the curve? Who are the most rapid and, I guess, advanced players in the space or is there a natural fit that you found in your customer base within Tech Mahindra and your space around your role as the global head of cloud services?
Who’s been an early adopter and who’s a natural fit in that space that you’ve seen that just fits nicely with the cloud capabilities that we’ve got today versus who might be finding it more difficult to get to the cloud for various reasons?
All right. So when I took on this role, like I said, about seven, eight months ago, I was asking the same question to my team and trying to understand what’s happening. And interestingly, in my mind, when I took on this role, I felt that some of the highly regulated industries like aerospace which has got a lot of regulations and as for a large US aircraft manufacturer, I don’t know, take the name that’s quite obvious, I thought organizations like that would be the last ones to get on the bandwagon.
Anyone would because of regulatory requirements and stuff, but what is interesting for me was there was a … In our pipeline, I found opportunities where we were pursuing opportunity, these highly regulated verticals as well. So the view that I had was cloud is only for not so regulated industries, and for the regulated industries or highly regulated industries may take some time before they adopt was actually wrong, so pretty much the adoption.
When I look at my pipeline of opportunities I’ve been working on across these verticals for a mature market like North America, I’m seeing it across whether it’s healthcare, whether it’s retail, manufacturing, BFSI, banking, financial services, aerospace, the transportation sector. So I think all the verticals are firing now. Maybe two years back, it was different but I see all the verticals firing up.
The ones that are trying to take advantage of it to help get a lead in their market from a competition perspective and has direct value for business, there is obviously the media industry which is a heavy adopter of cloud for obvious reasons, because of the digital content that’s being over-consumed across the globe with the advent of mobility and stuff.
So the media industry is heavily consuming cloud and they’ve been early adopters and a lot of expertise there. The telcos have started to use it more in the digital solution space as a telecom vertical. So they are no dependent on a lot of analytics that’s going on in the background to look at the behaviours and patterns of the and usage of data to provide value-added services, so big uses of solutions around big data analytics, the telecom vertical.
And the retail industry as well with wanting … the traditional retailers wanting to go online and wanting those online capabilities built on a cloud. So they have been early adopters and these are people who have adopted cloud because it gave an immediate, distinct advantage from a business standpoint to compete in the marketplace. But when I look at others like manufacturing and banking and financial services again, they’re also … There is a lot of online retail banking going on.
They have also caught on irrespective of their regulatory aspects of their respective industries. Now, the adoption is not so much getting skewed moving forward because of verticals, but the adoptions is more skewed based on geographies. And that’s where I have disparity in my … When I look at my demand pipeline, the disparity is in geographies, so North America, clearly, a leader in that space.
Australia is another leader in the clouded option space. And when I look at some of these markets like North America and Australia, what clearly stands out are these are cloud-native countries. What I mean by cloud-native countries is that the top three, four, five cloud providers have their data centers in these countries.
So immediately, the concerns around data hosting or data residency to fulfil some of the data regulatory requirements, they go out of the door because these providers now give you, in their contract, a commitment ensuring the data will reside in that country. India has just got the AWS and Azure data centers just last year, and the traction is just picking up big time now in India because of that.
So cloud-native countries where these popular cloud providers have their data centers in, they’re the ones where the traction is taking place. But the countries where they’re not there, the traction is lesser because there, at the verticals which are not heavily regulated are the ones adopting it because they don’t mind if their data is sitting in Singapore or in Europe.
So we’re currently helping a customer, a retail customer in Middle East and Dubai move onto Azure. And they’re okay with it because they’ve not bound by a whole lot of regulatory requirements. There are some aspects which they want to be local and I would say local in their data center. But a big chunk of their workloads is now we’re moving them to Azure.
So I’m seeing in non-native countries, the regulated and the non-regulated or less regulated in that verticals have got a bigger traction. But these tractions will improve as and when data centers pop up there providing cloud services.
I think it’s going to be a really big challenge for us the next three to five years in my mind, and that is that … I mean Australia and Germany in particular, and certainly India, have had very strong privacy regulatory controls and laws. I mean Australia’s laws go back to something like … I think it’s like 1815 or something crazy.
It’s like a long time ago, we created this concept of the Privacy Act. And then as late as last year, we came up with an adenment to it that introduced something called the Notifiable Breaches Act. And that is if you had a large enough breach of any form that included a PII, personally identifiable information, you were legally bound to publicly announce it and declare it, and deal with it in an appropriate fashion.
The EU were there, their new GDPR, the General Data Protection Regulation, have taken things to another level. They’ve almost gone to spinal tap and turned it up to 11 in that a lot of people talk about the challenges that Europe’s going to face with the GDPR. And certainly, it’s around the community with India and parts of Africa and the UK.
But the more I look at the GDPR, the more I realize that Australian countries … Oh, sorry, Australian companies and suppliers and vendors or service providers are actually going to have to sit up and pay attention, because the GDPR affects any part of a global distribution network.
So if you’re part of a supply chain and let’s say I’m a customer for somebody in Europe or let’s say I buy something online in Europe, if my data is moving backwards and forwards between Europe and Australian region, I’m crashing boundaries. And all of sudden, the GDPR becomes a fairly blurry line and in some cases, a very solid line.
So I can imagine the cloud blurs that even more, and that is if the Tech Mahindra team are being asked by a multinational to build a cloud solution, whether it’s all in or part thereof, one of the big challenges is going to be, as you just said, that whole compliance and regulatory governance control around data and where workloads are run, and what data is moving in and out of those workloads.
Where do you think Australia sits in that space? I mean obviously, it’s a global challenge on a whole. But from the listeners’ point of view where they’re interested in Australia, what are your general thoughts around where Australia sits in that challenge? I mean we do have most of the big providers. We’ve got the likes of Amazon’s Web Services from Amazon, we’ve got Microsoft’s Azure.
We have Rackspace, although they’ve probably migrated more to a service provider and support capability rather than a platform provider now. We’ve had IBM acquire SoftLayer and rebrand it as a Bluemix offering. And there’s a whole range of local providers. I think the last time I did a survey, there was over 112 companies in Australia that called themselves cloud companies.
But really, probably about 30 or 40 that had real infrastructure. Do you have a sense … and it might be tough question and I apologize if it is, but do you have a sense of where Australia sits in that space around the challenge that you’re going to face? In other words, from a Tech Mahindra point of view, how difficult is it to deal with Australia domestically and globally with the level of privacy control with data?
With the regulatory controls globally, are we a nightmare to deal with or are we just another challenge that you’ve already faced? Where do you think we fit and what’s the general sense on that?
Before I saw these challenges in Australia, people were already … While we have the EU and Europe, it’s interesting to note that Sweden, as an example, or Norway, they have policies over and above EU. And in order to comply with them, you cannot host it in any other country other than their own country. They have those set of challenges as well, so some of the Nordics countries have this challenge.
We were trying to host one of the customers in Sweden and out of Germany, and they came back, their security folks came back and said, “Not possible.” Sweden has got a certain set of rules and policies that requires everything to be hosted in Sweden. So from one perspective, what Australia’s … Australia’s privacy challenges that are there in terms of data residency will get resolved because of the public providers being there.
It’s more around data movement across if the business process demands it. Now, that’s a global challenge, every global organization, where making sure that the data is recited in their home country is easy now, because as long as the cloud provider is in that country, it’s a native cloud hosting.
But if a business process demands that the data flows between suppliers across country borders and if those data are related to personally identifiable information as an example, there are … It’s not a problem statement for Australia alone. It’s a problem statement that the global organization, I mean someone like the UN, a body like the UN has to resolve and help in resolving it because it’s going to be very difficult to track and see how these … Because cloud is not the cause of it.
It is more these regulatory demands that … or what I call is the iron curtains that are coming across, which every country is putting up to protect their citizens from possible cyber threats, right?
And cloud is not the cause of it. It is more the cyber-attacks that are the cause of it. But the solution to these problems where the business process demands data to flow from one country to another will not be a unique situation for Australia. I don’t have an answer as to how these can be solved. There has to be some very good relation around how this is dealt with.
I think globally, every country is struggling to come up with data and personal identity regulations and tweaking the existing ones to make it safer for the citizens of the country. But these are some business challenges that are yet to be addressed in a holistic manner.
Well, they’re really big problems, aren’t they?
And as you mentioned before, they get blurred very quickly. I mean I used to do a lot of consulting work and advisory work around the EU-US Data Shield and particularly how it applied to Australia. And more recently, we’ve seen Switzerland stand up and say they like the privacy shield framework that the EU-US Privacy Shield offered, but they want their own Swiss version.
So when people focus on things like the EU GDPR, they can often get distracted by the fact that May 25th, 2018 is coming like a freight train and there is no get-out-of-jail card. Although, some time ago, over a decade and a half ago, Australia introduced the goods and sales tax, GST. It was like a 10% tax on everything sold.
And it was a similar experience in that they said, “It’s coming, it’s coming, it’s coming. Here it is. Bang! It’s on.” The fact is no one’s gone to jail yet for not complying with GST and selling products and services, and maybe having some errors in GST application, sales tax. I don’t see anyone going to jail on day one for not being GDPR-compliant. But I do see people being penalized if they aren’t at least doing something about it.
But it does get very quickly blurred, as you said, because it’s not like these walls are not very clear. I mean the EU-US Data Shield was there and we thought we were working with it. Switzerland’s come along, and I remember reading the other day that … I think it was a couple weeks ago, they announced now that as of April, the 12th, 2017, this year, you would self-certify.
But there’s a … and I can’t remember the exact date, but there’s a period in which you’ve now got to demonstrate if you’re doing stuff with data in and out of Switzerland and USA, very similar to what the EU-US Data Shield was but now, specifically, a Swiss version applies. So add on top of that the EU GDPR and also on this pancake stack of regulatory compliance or requirements gets really difficult.
And in Australia, if you think about banking and finance and wealth management where they are very, very heavily regulated and governed, if you’re a bank or a wealth management company, not only are you going to have to think about some of those global boundary controls, but you already have challenges around what goes in and out of the cloud with things like compliance for a group called Asset who register company names and provide governance on how companies are run or reported on.
APRA, which is the Australian Prudential Regulatory Association, how if you’re a prudential service provider of some form, you’ve got to comply with a series of local, domestic controls. You’ve then got counterparties like you’ve got each of the banks have their own controls, you’ve got different stock exchanges like TRIEX has a micro-exchange, and you’ve got the Australian stock exchange or the Australian Security exchange.
It is literally a minefield. I suspect, and you mentioned a great phrase there before, that we’re coming up to the point where cloud and things around it are like a Y2K challenge, and that January in year 2000, there was no get-out-of-jail card.
It was coming at you, you couldn’t pause it. The time kept moving and on the 1st of January of 000 hours, the clock ticked over and if you weren’t Y2K-ready, too bad. And I think we’re going to get to a situation where the GDPR controls, the US-Swiss version of the data shield framework, some of the stuff we’re doing around the Privacy Act amendments in Australia with the Notifiable Breaches Acts, they’re very big challenges.
And to me, my take on it is that most companies are not going to be geared for it, they’re not going to be capable of it. And this is a place where someone like yourselves with the team or the scale you’ve got, you’re going to have the right teams to be able to come in and quickly address the problem, provide some sort of strategic direction, a roadmap and a timeline and a plan.
I can only imagine that there’s a point in time soon where your phone’s going to ring hot saying, “Come and help us,” and it’s going to be an exciting time for you. I guess before we wrap up, I’d like to throw a couple of quick questions that you maybe just get quick 300-second summaries, because you’ve got a very broad reach and this global role you’ve got is a very exciting opportunity to see things that we don’t generally see domestically here in Australia.
If you were going to highlight a couple of pitfalls, a couple things to be thinking about for companies who are looking to either adopt cloud from first time or transition large workloads into the cloud, what are some of those maybe the two or three highlights you can share that you’ve seen out there on a global scale that might be relevant to Australia on some of the pitfalls, some of the things to be aware of, and where Tech Mahindra has helped organizations and clients avoid those pitfalls and put plans in place to ensure that they don’t get bitten by them?
So I think one of the key things in talking to many of the CIOs that I meet with who have adopted cloud, and have stated to me that one thing that we completely overlooked was when we build the architecture for cloud, and we’ve actually helped them build a lot of these for many companies, is looking at the data movements and the data transfer, because that has a cost impact.
Your architecture and the way you design your backup strategy and the way you design your backup or archival strategy or DR strategy on cloud, it has an impact on how data moves. Or for DR, you may need replication services and if you do it across region. So there is an associated cost for data transfer which gets overlooked many a times.
People realize the fact that yes, when data moves out of Amazon or Azure or any public cloud provider back to your premises, that is a process. But they don’t realize some of the other aspects about I have to archive it, I have to move into a data warehouse, so if I’m going into another cloud, some of the data.
There’s a huge amount of variable network or data transfer cost that comes up, and that’s been a big challenge. We saw customers realize this almost two years back. Now, when we define our customer strategy for cloud, this is one of the key aspects that we look into at the early stage.
So the last two years, every assessment that we have done, we try and understand the data transfer requirements and take that into the business case, because if you don’t do that, you’re going to be caught up with surprises. So that’s one big one. The other aspect is not so much a pitfall but it’s an acceptance.
The finance organizations in most enterprise organizations are used to having a well-defined budget, and they know when they make up the budget for an IT department, they’re pretty much on a month on month basis or exactly based on the projects that are approved and everything, this is how the cost structure would look like and the cash flow would look like.
They suddenly now have to deal with CAPEX and the amortizations moving out. They suddenly have to deal with this variable OPEX cost that is hitting their books. And while CIOs are trying to maintain it within the budget, the monthly fluctuations can be 10%, 20% up or down depending on the type of activity.
So acceptance of this internally, the CIOs working, when they’re making this journey to cloud, or decision to move to cloud, making their finance teams also made aware of the nuances of how the cash flows will get impacted is important and for them to be able to figure out how to deal with it.
I guess we’ve got a lot of legacy thinking in many ways, and I don’t mean that as a derogatory thing or a negative thing. But there’s a lot of old school thinking around how we do capacity planning and forward planning for budgetary controls, isn’t there?
And so there’s a behavioural and cultural shift that needs to happen around the difference between buying a fixed CAPEXed thing versus the OPEX-
Utility model, just buying compute and storage in the same way you would a glass of water.
Correct, absolutely, and the fact that it’s not going to be constant, it’s going to be variable is the other aspect to that dilemma. One pitfall which customers will get into that I want to quickly highlight, in the interest of time, I don’t want to talk about too many things.
No, go ahead, absolutely.
One of the things that is going to be very important moving forward is to avoid getting locked in with one cloud service provider. So far, it’s been okay because up until last year, the dominant player was AWS. Now, with Microsoft Azure coming in pretty strong, and pretty much in terms of functions and features and capabilities thereof, all of their … Oracle coming in with their cloud strategy, obviously, IBM Bluemix and Google is there as well, there are options available.
And customers need to look at a multi-cloud strategy rather than locking themselves into one. There will still be some customers who wouldn’t mind getting locked into one. But they have to be aware of the facts that some of the workloads in the future will be more economical to run on A cloud than on a B cloud. And if you look at the five big cloud providers, two of them come from a software heritage.
I don’t want to name them but it’s obvious ones, and they have the ability to make their software products much more attractive on their cloud from a commercial standpoint. So if someone has chosen, let’s say, AWS to be one of their … to be their cloud provider and move everything onto AWS, at some point in time, they’ll realize, “Hey. Some of these workloads of mine that are arriving on AWS could be more cost effective if they’re actually running on Oracle. And some may be cost effective running on Azure.”
So customers have to … I’m bringing this point up so that this doesn’t become a major pitfall in the future. Customers are … Even if they’re adopting just one cloud provider at the start, their strategy needs to … the strategy that they put in place needs to be flexible enough to adopt multiple cloud providers, which means the governance, the audit and control that they’ve put in place shouldn’t be geared up …. The tools that they leverage for governance and audit and control shouldn’t be geared just to support only one cloud.
It should support multi-cloud, and having a hybrid platform support is important as well. So I think I just wanted to call that out as a potential pitfall that organizations would get into in the future.
Absolutely, and I can probably get away with naming the bit … If we were to call out … For example, if we look at a platform requirement like just the database world, as you said, you could potentially put something up in AWS if you just wanted to just buy it as infrastructure-as-a-service.
And there is a platform-as-a-service offering in databases. But if you’re an Oracle house, it makes sense to move your workload or Oracle workloads into the Oracle cloud. If you’re a Db2 shop, it makes sense to move into the Bluemix SoftLayer cloud. If you’re a Microsoft SQL server space, again, it just makes sense to go to Azure in my mind.
So I was actually at a CIO forum a couple weeks ago, a private invite thing, and this came up as a panel discussion that it was like, “Where do we put things?” And it was quite interesting that very quickly, we gravitated to exactly what you just highlighted, that where possible, avoid vendor lock-in because vendor lock-in in the cloud is actually just as or more dangerous than vendor lock-in in a data center or anywhere else of dedicated hardware.
But at the same time, be sensible about making decisions about where you put things in the cloud because there’s a time where Rackspace, for example, was probably the largest provider of SharePoint hosting in the world.
Because Microsoft hadn’t really pushed in the market. But within 18 months, that was a fait accompli, right?
And I think this is probably where companies are going to come looking for advice to the likes of Tech Mahindra because they’re not going to have experience, they’re not going to have knowledge, and this is going to be a standard part of your day.
And one of the things I think that organizations will be looking for that you’ve been able to do, and certainly in my experience in a previous role where the Tech Mahindra team built two data center environments in a private cloud and a banking platform when I was under a CIO role, was just bringing a common language and a vocabulary around all of these challenges so that everyone on my team, about 60 odd people, were able to talk about it authoritatively but also talk about in the same terms and terminology and the language.
So we weren’t tripping up over the difference between what is a virtual private cloud? What is a VLAN? What does it mean to burst to the cloud versus having a VBC and a whole range of things like that? So it’s interesting that you call that out and look, they’re great topics to talk about from a pitfall point of view because I think these are things that everyone is going to have some real interest in. Now, that leads me also too before we wrap up … Now, we’re going to catch up soon in both Melbourne and Sydney and-
And we’ve actually been doing this for … Well, actually, it looked … It was like two or three … I think it’s the third year in a row, I’ve had the privilege of speaking at your CXO Summit series, and this one’s focused on cloud. I think is it Unlock Your Cloud Experience is the title from memory? Is that correct?
So I think August 22nd is Melbourne and August 24th is the Sydney event, so I’m really privileged to be there.
I was looking at some of the details and based on what you were talking before, some of the key takeout’s that people are going to look forward to are things like unlocking faster migration, looking at where the true potential of cloud actually is, one of the great points you just highlighted, removing some of the vendor lock-in where possible, moving towards a true IT-as-a-service capability.
That’s going to be a great topic to talk about, looking at some of the end user experience, and then the whole digital transformation. So it’s going to be a great evening on that. Are there any key insights that you could potentially share without giving away too much about what we might be looking to see at both of these events?
Sure. So the agendas are same at both of the locations. We just want to make sure we reach out to a larger customer base in both cities, in Melbourne and Sydney. What we really want to share out there with our customers and the audiences is the experience that we’ve gained over the last three years in helping customers in various models of cloud and as-a-service transformation.
What happens is many a times, when I travel across and I go to countries where the adoption of cloud is not much, when I talk about experiences from North America or from Australia or from India, they’re very interested to learn and understand how other countries are adopting because this whole adoption into cloud is still a learning curve for many. And every interaction that you have and you talk about experience, real experiences, there are about 50% of the audience that is learning.
50% of them will have already known that information. But because it is a country, this learning process, my request to everyone who’s listening out there is to participate in this event to basically understand what Tech Mahindra’s experiences have been, and our point of view around where this whole journey is leading towards, and how to make this journey seamless and effective would be some of the key messages that we would convey at these events.
Fantastic, and that’s a great summary. Now, while you were talking, I reminded myself, I’ve actually been running a Twitter poll for the last week around the key four areas of cloud that we’ve been talking about today with the mix of public cloud, private cloud, hybrid and then a multi-cloud strategy.
And out of hundreds of respondents, you might be interested to know that 25% of people thought that public cloud adoption was going to be most critical cloud challenge they were facing. So the question was what’s the most critical cloud change that organizations need to be addressing before the end of 2017?
I specifically set the poll up because of the opportunity to speak at your event, and I wanted some real data out there from 840,000 odd close and personal friends on Twitter. So 25% of people thought that the number one challenge for them was public cloud adoption. Only 12% thought that private cloud platforms were going to be a key focus for them.
23% thought hybrid cloud, but here’s the interesting one. 40%, a resounding, solid 40% said multi-cloud strategy is the single biggest thing that they need to face between now and the end of this year. So it’s interesting because that effectively mirrors exactly what you just covered without having had that data given to you.
Lots of interesting insight there, so you’ve clearly got your finger on the pulse. Before we wrap up, can I just do one … I’d like to throw one last thing at you.
Because I know we’ve taken up a lot of your time, there’s been some great insights and I’m looking forward to catching up at the event. One last thing, if I can, so if you were to look into the crystal ball and do a little future gazing, if I could split it into two parts, maybe firstly for yourself, in your role as a senior VP and global head of cloud services at Tech Mahindra, what’s the horizon for you in the next 12 to 18 months in your role, and where do you see that going around your department? What do you think some of the exciting things, something on the horizon might include?
So in my role, I think one of the things that I have already started actively doing is I’ve realized the consumption and the movement of cloud is not something that I need to, in my organization, heading the cloud services business, need to drive alone. So one of the key areas that I have, and I defined it myself, I told my CEO as well, is to make sure every vertical in our organization, we have a vertical leader for every domain, is thinking about how their platforms and solutions can actually be hosted on cloud and taken to our customers in an as-a-service model.
And they’re the best people to … They know their domains, they know what are the solutions that are required there by the customers. Traditionally, we’ve been offering them as package software or solution, and taking it to our customers, deploying it on their data center. They need to change their mindset and take a lot of our … Many of our vertical domains have actually created IP all from my space.
I’m working with them to convert that into a as-a-service cloud-hosted model using cloud native capabilities. And that’s one of the key directions that I’m taking our organizations into, getting our vertical solutions onto cloud so that in the process, we create cloud-based platform offerings that are delivered to our customer as a as-a-service model. I think that’s one of the key areas.
The second key area, while the adoption has started, some of the early adopters of cloud, while they’ve migrated a lot of the workloads, where they have stalled is on the ERP side of the softwares and haven’t really moved. So another trend that’s going to catch up in the next year or two is migration of SAP and Oracle ERP softwares onto cloud.
So my team’s working very closely with both the SAP and Oracle competency units within our organization to see how we can evolve. We already have a cloud strategy for Oracle Apps and SAP on cloud, but evolvement to create value propositions for our customers where it makes sense for them, business sense for them to move that. Because those decisions are going to be coming soon and we’re preparing for that.
So the two key areas … The third one and the last one that we’re driving is the IoT. There’s a lot of platform development, IoT-specific platform development work that’s going on within our organization. And putting a lot of those platforms on cloud is the only way to move forward because of the huge quantity of data that tends to get collected with the IoT solutions.
That’s another key area where my team and the IoT teams are working together very closely to make sure we enable the cloud capabilities.
In many ways, I think, as you just highlighted, the shift to the whole mobility, capability, what we’ve seen with smart phones and social media certainly taught us that we now can’t copy all that content back to one central data center. So we’re having to move to that IoT model and basic design principles are going to have to turn upside down from the 60-year-old mainframe era, centralized database to cloud models, to now, what we’re calling edge analytics, I guess.
If you were to take a rough stare at the next 5 to 10 years, is there one particular thing you think that is moving really fast that we need to keep our eye on? Is it IoT, is it autonomous vehicles? What’s the one thing that you would call out before we wrap up that you think that people probably need to sit up and pay attention to that you’ve seen coming through on a global scale in the privileged position you’ve got of having a global reach in your role within Tech Mahindra?
Very interesting question, and 5 to 10 years, obviously, is a long time out. And the reason I’m saying it’s a long time out is the new technologies that will come out in about five to … After five years, we may have not even thought of it today. So 5 to 10 years out is … The speculation is quite high there.
But in the next five years, I think the areas to focus definitely is AR, VR, so that’s going to be important, AI, use of AI to improve operations efficiencies within business processes or even within IT operations. AI is picking up big time. So I mentioned augmented reality and virtual reality, AI and finally, IoT.
IoT is going to be a game changer for a lot of the businesses in helping to change the way they offer services or quality of service to their end customers, and improve the experience. One of the biggest challenges most of the enterprise organizations have been facing is retaining customers, existing customers.
And in order to retain them, they have to continuously provide value-added services. IoT is actually going to be enabling that, allowing customers to innovate and provide newer customer experiences. So a combination of all these three current technology areas, artificial intelligence, AR, VR and IoT will change the whole dynamics of how businesses will run and how people will change their lifestyles because of these three technologies.
Five years hence, there may be something new that will come out. I mean I know flying cars are becoming … It’s no longer a thought. There’s already enough proof of concept. Driverless cars are going to be also on the roads soon, and there are a lot of other technologies that are being worked upon. But the cracks of it around these three areas that I mentioned is going to be critical for everyone to watch out for.
And if they’re not already thinking about it, they should start thinking about it, how it will impact their business, how it will impact their personal lifestyles as well.
Some amazing insights there. So we’re going to wrap up there. So folks, Pravin Bolar, the senior vice president and global head of cloud services at Tech Mahindra. Pravin, thank you so much for making time for us. You’ve given us a very generous area of your time, some amazing insights. I’m really looking forward to catching up with you both in Melbourne and Sydney for the CXO Summit and focusing on cloud. And hopefully, we’ll have the privilege of having you on the show again soon.
Thank you very much Dez and I do look forward to meeting you in Melbourne and Sydney. Thank you.
Indeed. Thank you so much and folks, we’re going to wrap up there, and we hope you enjoyed the show.