This article was originally published in the Summer 2019 issue of The Record. Subscribe for FREE here to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox.
How are today’s leading firms embracing the cloud? Are there particular adoption trends in specific industries?
Of all the forces shaping Industry 4.0 the most dominant is the advent of cloud. It has very successfully transformed itself into a digital lifesaver, playing a myriad of roles for businesses. A most fascinating mosaic of cloud adoption is unfolding across every industry that we service.
While firms operating in retail, financial services, insurance and travel are leading the pack, healthcare and manufacturing are not far behind. They are then followed by others like utilities, energy and resources and pharmaceuticals.
Three key drivers are pushing cloud adoption forward: cost optimisation and efficiency gains, targeted towards adopting elastic solutions; growth and transformation, to develop new business models or channels and improved customer experience; and, finally, regulation and compliance.
Are there still barriers in place that are preventing firms from reaping the full benefits of the cloud?
What needs to be done to clear these barriers?
The barriers to adoption are constantly changing. In the past it was security concerns and limited technology choices that prevented larger enterprises from full-scale adoption. These barriers have now diminished, and in some cases disappeared.
Newer concerns are emerging today, as cloud is maturing from infrastructure services towards higher-level cloud native offerings. Customers are increasingly looking for predictability in their outlay, with accuracy on their spend forecast. Cloud providers release new products at breakneck speed, so some customers often struggle to keep pace. Another concern is ‘lock-in’ – this is best avoided through multi-cloud or hybrid designs. Finally, the regulatory environment constrains several adoption considerations.
The evolution of a joined-up ecosystem is helping to clear barriers. For example, the recent Microsoft and Oracle interoperability partnership will enable customers to run mission-critical enterprise workloads across their respective platforms. These partnerships are making it easier for enterprises on diverse technologies to adopt cloud faster.
How is TCS positioned to help firms?
We have a long-term association with many large enterprises; in fact, the top ten firms across key verticals are already TCS customers. This means we’ve already established trust and enjoy a long-term partnership. For most of these customers, we have developed business applications or implemented their enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management systems and supporting IT Infrastructure. We have used our experience of working with these firms and created a number of solutions to help facilitate an efficient movement to the cloud.
By using this contextual knowledge of our customers, we aim to create a tailored and precise strategy that is first-time-right. We take the time to fully understand customer needs and to highlight any potential barriers right from the outset, and then create a highly automated, software-driven execution plan that is implemented with definitive timelines. ‘Modernise as you migrate’ remains the driving principle for the transformation continuum.
How can a move to the cloud enable innovation?
More than half of our customers using Microsoft Azure cloud do so not for cost reduction, but to grow and transform their businesses. Indeed, a cloud-first strategy is increasingly becoming key to success. For example, one of our global pharmacy chain clients has made use of Azure Microservices to build new channels for their loyalty management. A container shipping company, meanwhile, has established a new billing system connected with smart devices on their ships. An insurance customer has moved into a digital policy administration system away from paper-based processes leveraging Azure’s containerisation services. As the cloud evolves, we will see many more examples like this.
What role do connected ecosystems play?
Our path-breaking Business 4.0 framework of thought leadership in digital transformation has revealed that organisations are waking up to the competitive advantage created by being intelligent, agile, automated and running on the cloud. In the process, they are undergoing a mindset shift from ‘optimising scarce resources’ to ‘harnessing abundance’, be it technology or talent.
This means harnessing the abundant supply of computing, data, latest innovation and skills that are at their disposal through the cloud. Doing this requires a connected ecosystem that enables the internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation on top of business applications. Cloud is the backdrop of these services.
We are already witnessing this evolution in the financial services industry. We’re connecting banks and fintechs to create an ecosystem where customers can take advantage of the innovative new products and services that fintechs provide, all while staying loyal to their bank. Smart cities provide another example. Innovation in IoT, AI and augmented reality are all coming together to create a fantastic experience for citizens.
How do you expect the use of the cloud to evolve in the future?
There are many areas in which cloud will evolve, especially as large providers continue to build and buy new capabilities. Platforms like Microsoft Azure will become holistic, all-encompassing mega-platforms with extensive native features and extension to the ‘edge’. Customers will leverage a global ecosystem that enables seamless, secure connectivity to multiple cloud solutions through a single provider.
On the other hand, multi-cloud and hybrid-cloud configurations will be more prevalent for large enterprises which will choose platforms for tailored needs of its portfolio. Portability of workloads between clouds will become key. The container technology ecosystem will explode. Multi-cloud management, including orchestration and brokerage features, will be critical capabilities required from a cloud service provider.
The cloud will continue to spawn new innovation projects, such as conversational AI applications and augmented and virtual reality, and will embed new types of capabilities through advances in analytics and data science. Automation will also evolve. In the medium-term, 5G and Quantum computing will shatter the boundaries of applications and integration and spawn a new wave of cloud services.
Suranjan Chatterjee is global head of the Cloud Apps, Microservices and API Unit at Tata Consultancy Services
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