Why are they important? Neelakantan pinned it down during a panel discussion of top CIOs organised by ET, Red Hat and Microsoft: “Purple people can outrun competition, put the agility of the Cloud to better use, shorten the time between ideation and a service, and drive a lot of innovation.” In short, without purple people, your digital future is bleak. Don’t have them in your company? Ahem… you better start looking.
At the core of this agility lies cloud technology. How? S. Anantha Sayana, Chief Digital Officer of L&T, explained it simply. “Before cloud, for every application, there was an upgrade cycle, version number, and a hardware and software cycle for that upgrade,” he said, adding that with cloud, you don’t know these details and don’t need to as it is now managed by the cloud service provider. And that frees up the tech personnel of end-user enterprises from mundane drudgery to focus on innovation. “You see innovation and agility happening on the fly,” says Sayana.
This change has caught critical mass, because cloud deployment has risen sharply, and its benefits understood better. “Around five years ago, all the talk on cloud was about cost saving or security,” said Microsoft’s Kulkarni. “Service providers’ positioning was also about cost saving. But now, the question has shifted from ‘is cloud cheap’ to ‘is this cloud right for me or not’.”
This shift influences even legacy companies to think differently about their business model. For example, Tata Motors sells cars and trucks. But today it calls itself a ‘mobility solutions business’, which is a mindset shift. “Mobility solutions has a much larger context. Then we ask, what is my customer looking for? He’s looking to move material or himself from point A to point B. How do we enable that in the most cost efficient, convenient way possible?” said Gopinath Jayaraj, CIO of Tata Motors. “And then the answers and solutions are manifold. All of this is possible because you have ubiquitous compute and connectivity, which has become real in cloud.”
The typical approach — keep core applications on-prem, and move fringe apps and new ones to the cloud. Instead of buying a software or developing one yourself, opt for SaaS (software as a service). “That is the principle I am following for the past four-five years, which has given me a closer connect with business,” said Atanu Kumar Pramanic, CIO of Hindalco Industries. “We were earlier 100 per cent B2B; now we are moving a small percentage to B2C, and that’s where we are getting much more traction with SaaS products.”
For large conglomerates, the best way to begin is to have a centralised Centre of Excellence (CoE), which can manage cloud strategy and execution for group companies. “That’s how the Mahindra Group does it,” said Gururaj Rao, VP & CIO of Mahindra Finance. “We have a CoE where we evaluate the relationships that we can go ahead with, the types of engagement we can have, and then get into re-architecting solutions, and then moving them into the Cloud.”
That is also needed because companies are rapidly moving into a multi-cloud environment, in which user companies have presence across on-prem and public cloud, and also across multiple cloud service providers for different use cases. This flexibility allows even greater innovation, but it also requires a dashboard that manages this complexity across multiple clouds. “Managing the cloud is not trivial,” said Sayana of L&T. “Every one of us needs to build expertise on it.”
Neelakantan of Red Hat had the last word: “Technology currently seems to be ahead of business ideas; but over the past 3-4 years, business innovation has been very promising. I believe that in the next 3-4 years, cloud computing will make a very big impact.”
Listen to the purple people.