Hybrid cloud set to drive digital transformation: IBM’s Viswanath Ramaswamy

Mini Tejaswi Bengaluru | Updated on November 27, 2020

Viswanath Ramaswamy, Vice President, Cloud & Cognitive Software & Services, IBM India/South Asia

With India accelerating its digital initiative, IBM is striving to put the country on the global innovation map by embedding ‘good tech’ in everything that it does and leveraging the power of new-age technologies like artificial intelligence, the cloud and cognitive computing. Viswanath Ramaswamy, Vice President, Cloud & Cognitive Software & Services, IBM India/South Asia shares the company’s vision in an interaction with BusinessLine. Edited excerpts:


What are the changes IBM India may go through to align itself with the company’s newly accelerated global shift towards cloud computing and AI?

We are redefining our future as a hybrid cloud platform and AI company. Over the last few years, we have built a solid foundation for hybrid cloud. IBM’s hybrid cloud platform generated more than $24.4 billion of revenue over the last 12 months. In Q3, our cloud and data platforms grew by 20 per cent led by Red Hat. So you will see our focus on hybrid cloud and AI further intensify. As we look forward, the case for hybrid cloud is clear. Clients see two-and-a-half times more value in a hybrid cloud approach versus a public-only one. It is a tremendous opportunity valued at a $1 trillion, with most of the enterprise opportunity ahead of us.

Our approach, platform-centric, is differentiated by Red Hat OpenShift, which is our market-leading open platform. It’s a vast software portfolio modernised to run cloud-native, and our services expertise drives platform adoption and meets clients “where they are” on their cloud journeys. In August 2020, IBM committed $1 billion to the cloud ecosystem initiative for over the next three years. In the last six months, IBM has further strengthened its long-term relationships with the GSI community in India and globally. In India/South Asia, we will continue to drive a razor-sharp focus on our strategic imperatives.


Why is computing increasingly being shifted to the cloud, and how much of it will be in hybrid format?

In India, 17 per cent of organisations’ IT spend is allocated to cloud at present, and they plan to increase the share of spend on hybrid from 42 per cent to 49 per cent by 2023, as per an IBM IBV study. The majority of their cloud budgets are being allocated to hybrid cloud platforms, even as their public cloud spend is set to reduce from 50 per cent share today to 43 per cent by 2023. Yet, today, only 20 per cent of the workloads have moved to the cloud, while the other 80 per cent are mission-critical workloads that are more difficult to move. This leaves us with a massive untapped opportunity wherein hybrid cloud is positioned to become a dominant force for driving digital transformation for enterprises.

Organisations are looking at moving to a cloud (that goes) beyond computing capabilities that it can offer. Enterprises want a cloud that has the industry expertise to cater to mission-critical processes, offers enterprise-grade security, compliance, and governance, the ability to build and run anywhere with consistency, the ability to be able to automate, predict and modernise workflows and leverage the latest innovations. For instance, Bharti Airtel is adopting an open cloud architecture for all network and containerised workloads.


Do you face serious competition from Amazon Web Services, Microsoft and Google in India/South Asia, and what’s your strategy to take on them?

IBM is the number one hybrid cloud platform and AI company. Our cloud business is much more expansive than competitors because it includes capabilities others don’t have and reflects the actual cloud buying patterns of enterprise clients. Our cloud business includes both as a service — infrastructure, software, platform and process — and hardware, software and services that enable enterprise clients to design, build, operate and integrate private, public and hybrid clouds. The point is that the overall enterprise cloud marketplace is not defined by what providers are trying to sell, but by what clients are buying.

Hybrid cloud is swiftly becoming the dominant force driving change in the industry as organisations realise that a ‘one-cloud-fits-all’ approach doesn’t work. The acquisition of Red Hat has significantly strengthened our position as the leading hybrid cloud provider in the market. This definitely gives us an edge over our competitors as with Red Hat we have transformed our portfolio to give clients the unique ability to build mission-critical applications once and run them anywhere.


How is cognitive computing different from AI, and do you offer them separately?

The next-gen business model of an agile and resilient organisation is fuelled by data, guided by AI insights and built for change on a hybrid cloud — we call it the cognitive enterprise. AI acts as a catalyst for cognitive computing, and when both the technologies are integrated alongside each other, it provides the organisation with an advanced experience. We at IBM believe that each company will evolve to become an AI company, and this will be possible with the integration of cognitive computing in IT infrastructures. We believe that AI brings the cognitive ability to grow, learn, and carry out tasks based on algorithms.

Therefore, we leverage AI for our clients by continually becoming more knowledgeable as the technology gathers information from a near-infinite variety of sources — whether that data is neatly searchable in a database or generated by a machine (structured) or social media or magazine articles (unstructured). We are leveraging AI to reliably operate enterprise applications and automate the detection, diagnosis, and response to IT anomalies in real-time.

How will the recent ‘corporate split’ unlock additional growth in India, a key geography for IBM both as a market and an employee base?

The announcement further strengthens and deepens our focus on hybrid cloud and AI. We are excited about the path ahead and the tremendous value we will create by having two companies focused on what they do best. This is all about unlocking value for our clients and for the ecosystem. We have been present in India for several decades as a microcosm of the IBM Corporation, and this partnership will only grow stronger as India accelerates its digital transformation journey. Technology is playing an important role in India’s journey to become an ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ and we at IBM are supporting the country’s needs for state-of-the-art technology solutions.

We are spearheading innovation for the country and the world through our labs: systems, software, services and client innovation centers in India. IBM Research India is at the forefront of exploratory and applied research in AI, blockchain and hybrid cloud. This technology arm of IBM has developed state-of-the-art algorithms to enable intelligent self-correcting sustainable retail supply chains. IBM’s cloud technology is supporting companies in India to accelerate business growth and build resilience.

How are you planning to grow the ‘Cloud Aviators’ community in India? Give us a sense of your current pipeline, across private and public prospects.

Cloud aviators are organisations that have strong functionality across multiple clouds, recognise the strategic importance of a cloud management system that delivers visibility, governance, and automation across the entire IT environment; and actively use a multi-cloud management platform. These organisations have successfully achieved a demonstrable competitive advantage by adopting robust hybrid cloud management and governance platform.

With flexibility and scalability becoming one of the major business goals for organisations, moving to a hybrid cloud can help increase return on investment, address operational challenges, and increase efficiency. IBM provides customers with the most comprehensive and consistent approach to their journey to the cloud with complete software solutions for business and IT operations, development, data science, security, and management for hybrid multi-cloud environments.

A classic example of cloud aviators in the Indian context is the Godrej Group. The company leveraged hybrid multi-cloud to build an IT infrastructure that is future-ready. The technology helped the group migrate all mission-critical applications to a multi-cloud environment and enabled a seamless orchestration of workloads. This resulted in a 10 per cent reduction in the total cost of ownership over a period of five years, coupled with a 100 per cent increase in disaster recovery coverage and zero security incidents.

Published on November 27, 2020

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