The Cloud Computing Battle in India

It may be too early to decide who would actually win the battle. Cloud Computing is in its nascent stage and hasn’t gone past the awareness phase. Not many decision makers understand the terminology of IaaS, PaaS and SaaS and the differences between Public Cloud, Private Cloud and Hybrid Cloud. This is an attempt to analyze the current scenario and align the offerings of major Cloud Service Providers with the needs of the ecosystem.

Indian Subcontinent is a very unique and a potent geography for platform vendors. The reason for that is the presence of an end to end IT ecosystem. Let’s take a closer look at who is a part of this thriving ecosystem. At a broad level, there are entities that buy software and services. Let’s call them ‘Customers’. Then, we have another entity that develops and sells software or services. Let’s call them ‘Service Providers’. And finally, we have an entity which is the ‘Community’ that cuts across the ‘Customers’ and the ‘Service Providers’. Let me elaborate more on these three entities.

Customers – This entity is the most critical and influential. Customers pay the Service Providers and keep the ecosystem healthy and active. You can easily attach a brand name to all the categories that I am mentioning here. Think of ICICI, ONGC, BPCL, Bharti Enterprises, Reliance Industries, Maruti Udyog, RPG, Aditya Birla Group, Apollo Healthcare, Dr. Reddy’s Labs, Yash Raj Films, NDTV and TV18 to name a few.

Financial Organizations
Telecommunication Providers
Manufacturing companies
Small and Medium companies
Retail companies
Education institutions
IT and IT Enabled Services

Service Providers – Many countries invest in IT. But India not only invests in IT as a customer but it is also the home for many global players who build great software products or provide niche services to their global clientele. Some of the large brands that you can associate with this entity include Wipro, Infosys, TCS, Mahindra Satyam, Cognizant, Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, Google, SAP, Tally, Ramco Systems, Wings, Persistent, Symphony, Hungama, Web Chutney, Web Dunia, Rediff and CricInfo to name a few. Here is the classification of this entity:

System Integrators
Global Product Companies (India Development Centers)
Independent Software Vendors
Offshore Product Development companies
Web Services and Content providers
Value Added Service Providers
Social Media / Digital Marketing agencies

Community – This entity is special. This consists of multiple groups of individuals coming from both the entities that we discussed above. Think of software developers who write code for an internal IT application of a bank and another developer who contributes to the next major version of an ERP and yet another developer who is a freelancer. Though their nature of work is different, their needs are exactly the same. Similarly, we have IT administrators. Another important community is the academic community. Some of the renowned and the most respected professors advise banks and the government on their IT strategy and roadmap. These communities are very important for the software platform vendors. The influencers present in these communities can impact the platform adoption in the medium to longer term. Not convinced? Think of this – today’s developer is tomorrow’s decision maker and can decide which platform and tools to adopt for his team. Non-IT related individuals who are knowledge workers and consumers are also a part of the community. Here is a list of a few communities:

IT Professionals / Administrators

If you are wondering what all this classification has to do with Cloud adoption in India, let me explain you why this matters.

Cloud is clearly the meta-platform or the platform of the platforms. If Windows or Linux can host Java or .NET to run line-of-business applications, Cloud actually hosts that Windows OS or Linux! It is very evident that for the success of any platform, it is important to have a strategy that can positively impact most of the ecosystem. Here, I give the credit to Microsoft. Microsoft is hugely successful because it got the platform story right. In the mid 90s, it made developers rally behind Visual Basic and then subsequently around the .NET platform. It enabled and empowered ISVs to develop applications on top of Windows and Office and let them target the huge customer base. Microsoft also opened the doors to System Integrators at multiple levels to customize and implement its products. In the current context, Apple is reemphasizing this phenomenon through the iPhone platform. Millions of apps are being developed and sold through the AppStore to all the iPhone customers and a lot of developers are making money through this. Bottom line – Whoever figures out the right story that impacts the maximum players of the ecosystem will win the battle!

Now, let’s turn the scene back to India. Why should Cloud vendors take India seriously? Here are some points:

1) India hasn’t hit the saturation levels yet. Unlike Americas and EMEA, India and APAC have ample scope for IT adoption. This market has a huge, untapped potential at every level – Let that be enterprise, Public Sector or ITES.

2) India is a playground and a test bed to pilot strategic adoption techniques. No other geography will give the platform vendor access to the whole ecosystem. Want to engage with ISVs and excite them to develop on your platform? Well, India is the place to go. Do you need a mature developer community to pilot a SDK adoption plan? Want to setup a Center of Excellence to showcase the capabilities of your platform? Go, talk to Infosys or Wipro!

3) The Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) story is just warming up. Some of the inherent problems that India has been grappling with can now turn into a great opportunity for Cloud vendors. Think of how you can empower the clusters of small businesses through the Cloud and you have a winning story there. Convince the academic institutes to subscribe to Cloud Services that provide student / teacher / parent collaboration on subscription. Read CK Prahlad’s ‘The Fortune At The Bottom Of The Pyramid’ to realize the potential that the Indian SME and the consumer has.

Having seen the uniqueness that India possesses, it is time for me to introduce the players of the game. I personally feel the following vendors have the potential to participate in this (listed in alphabetic order):

• Amazon
• Google
• Microsoft
• Oracle / Sun
• VMware

Amazon – As a developer and Cloud Computing Strategist, I have tremendous respect for Amazon. Amazon scores high in their mature developer APIs and comprehensive service offering. As on date, they are the only provider to offer everything from a VM (EC2) to CDN (CloudFront) as a service on subscription. As an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) provider, Amazon can have a meaningful discussion with any entity all the way from the government to a startup. They do not interfere with the customer’s platform decision and in fact it is the only company that has gracefully partnered with the key players of the industry including Microsoft, IBM, Ubuntu, RedHat, Oracle and SUN. But Amazon lacks a solid India story. They do not have a sales and business development team in India and thus missing the opportunity to strengthen the engagement with the customers, partners and the community. The day Amazon sets up their Indian office, I am very sure that they will give the competition a run for their money.

Summary –
Type of Cloud: Public Cloud
Type of Service: IaaS
Key Offerings: EC2, S3, SimpleDB and MapReduce
Current India Story: Weak
Future Potential – Moderate (due to lack of presence in India)

Google – This is 100% pure Cloud company – so much so that they want their browser to be the OS. Google plays in two areas – 1) Software as a Service (SaaS) and, 2) Platform as a Service (PaaS). Through Google Apps, they have targeted the enterprise to switch them from Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Domino. Google’s SaaS strategy for India is like an undercurrent. They do not make much noise but have been quietly nibbling away Microsoft’s Exchange and Office revenue. They are currently targeting the SME segment which is a low hanging fruit for Google Apps migration. Google lacks proper partner angle. They do not have a model by which they can delegate the pre-sales and deployment to an array of skilled partners. On the developer engagement model, I run the Google’s developer group in Bangalore called GTUG. I have also felt that Google’s effort to evangelize App Engine to developer community is not scalable enough. Not many Indian developers are familiar and comfortable designing and deploying applications on GAE. Their engagement model for System Integrators is largely opaque. All in all, Google can do better in strengthening its partner model and developer engagement.

Type of Cloud: Public Cloud
Type of Service: SaaS and PaaS
Key Offerings: Google Apps and Google App Engine
Current India Story – Strong
Future Potential – High

IBM – As on date, IBM is not a player on the Public Cloud front. Though they have opened up a developer beta for Public Cloud and also have paid IBM AMIs on Amazon EC2, IBM still focuses on the Private Cloud. With their strong partnership model and as a long-term enterprise player, they have a very credible and convincing story. IBM is leveraging its relationship with Global System Integrators (GSIs) from India to influence some of the large Private Cloud deployments. Their recent announcement of Lotus Live as a SaaS offering is yet get traction in India. They have a tough battle ahead with Microsoft Online Services and Google Apps fiercely competing in this space. IBM shows very little love towards the community. They manage the influencers pretty well but do not care much for developers and IT Pros. Their developerWorks portal is an amazing resource for developers. But they can do better on the developer advocacy and evangelism front.

Summary –
Type of Cloud: Private Cloud
Type of Service: SaaS and PaaS
Key Offerings: Lotus Live and IBM WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance
Current India Story – Strong
Future Potential – High

Microsoft – Microsoft is slowly unfolding its Cloud strategy in India. This is the most crucial time for Microsoft. As they figure out how to gracefully transition from packaged software to the services world, they also need to help the ecosystem go through a smooth transition. True to its tradition, Microsoft is following a surround strategy – have the right portfolio and articulate the right story to all the entities in the ecosystem. Windows Azure Platform has just gone live and they have been enticing the developer community to get a flavor of it. They also have a strong story around the hosters through the Dynamic Data Center initiative. Windows Server Hyper-V and a suite of management tools like System Center Virtual Machine Manager enable the Private Cloud for the enterprise. ISVs and startups are lured to embrace Azure through the BizSpark and related programs. Their Online Services / BPOS and Hosted CRM are targeted towards the SME segment. Microsoft is only as strong as IBM in the GSI space. All in all, I rate Microsoft as a strong contender in India within the Cloud Services segment.

Summary –
Type of Cloud: Private Cloud, Public Cloud
Type of Service: SaaS, PaaS and IaaS
Key Offerings: Online Services, Windows Azure Platform and Windows Server Hyper-V
Current India Story – Strong
Future Potential – High – As pioneers in the space of SaaS, has high expectations from the Indian market. They started on the right note by targeting the SME market. Their competition primarily comes from Zoho and Microsoft Hosted CRM. has partnered with the major SIs in India and has strong alliance teams to up-sell and customize its CRM software. Their PaaS offering in the form of is yet to reach the Indian developers. I got my hands dirty on But being a hardcore developer, I found it to be limiting in many aspects. has a niche and unique offering and they have a great potential in the future.

Summary –
Type of Cloud: Public Cloud
Type of Service: SaaS and PaaS
Key Offerings: CRM and
Current India Story – Strong
Future Potential – High

Oracle / SUN – I combine them at this point because they sail on the same boat. Both the companies made a lot of noise around the Cloud initially and then lost the steam. Oracle is unarguably the preferred database vendor in India for the enterprise, public sector and ISVs. But due to the lack of story around Cloud, they are losing the ground. As of now Oracle’s only Cloud offering is through AMIs on Amazon EC2. But I don’t consider that as a unique strategy from Oracle. Today every DB is available on EC2 in one form or the other. They just started to talk about Oracle as a Service (OaaS). But that’s yet to become main stream. SUN is missing the boat due to the flux around its alliance with Oracle. Look at their Cloud pitch to get a sense of their strategy. Its just not convincing enough! Before SUN could do anything with MySQL, Amazon has gone live with its Relational Database Service (RDS) based on the same MySQL. We have to wait and watch to see where this duo is headed in the Cloud.

Summary –
Type of Cloud: None
Type of Service: None
Key Offerings: None
Current India Story – Strong
Future Potential – Moderate

VMware – This is the dark horse in the Cloud Computing segment. Having positioned it as a strong Virtualization platform vendor, they became the natural choice of Private Cloud for many customers in India. With its partnership with EMC, VMware is all set to conquer the Indian Private Cloud market. They have an end to end story that is very convincing to the customer. With its presence in India and strong partnership model, they are giving IBM and Microsoft a tough competition in the Datacenter Virtualization and Private Cloud space. They were quick and smart enough to re-brand themselves as the mature Private Cloud vendor. VMware vSphere is a robust and a proven Virtualization platform for the enterprise. VMware will continue to lead the Indian Virtualization market. But their developer story is very weak. Though I personally like their vCloud API & SDK, they have a long way to go in convincing the developer community.

Summary –
Type of Cloud: Private Cloud
Type of Service: IaaS
Key Offerings: VSphere
Current India Story – Strong
Future Potential – High

This is purely based on my analysis and research of the market. If you happen to be a representative of any of the above brands and do not agree with my viewpoint, I encourage you to leave a comment. I am open to a discussion.

PS – The ‘Future Potential’ assessment is based on the type of service offering and the focus segment of the vendor in India. This assessment does not reflect the global potential.

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