The century-old IBM Corp has survived and thrived in the digital world by changing with the times. As more enterprises move towards a multi-cloud and hybrid cloud ecosystem, the company has adapted itself to that reality rather than trying to take on the larger cloud players like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. IBM is focussing on services, products and applications that could be delivered on top of the cloud platform including analytics, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity solutions.
Vikas Arora, IBM's executive director for cloud, security and cognitive leader in India and South Asia, spoke with TechCircle on the company's hybrid and multi-cloud strategy. Edited excerpts:
How do you see the emergence of hybrid and the multi-cloud environment?
Increasingly, we find the cloud world is becoming hybrid and will remain so, which is our underlying principle. The other trend is multi-cloud, and most enterprises have more than four to five cloud vendors simultaneously. We see often that many organisations don't even realise that they have multiple vendors. There are multiple requirements, all of which cannot be fulfilled by one cloud player, and the organisations go for players who they feel address their needs to the best. It is based on the capabilities of cloud players.
We brought all of our cloud and software business together. We also have a hybrid cloud, security, AI and data platform portfolio. Now, all of this is being integrated into our cloud and cognitive solutions portfolio, and our AI platform Watson is an integral part of this.
How has that impacted your conversations with customers?
That is an important conversation. In the on-premise world, the market is worth $600 billion, which is declining 8-9% year on year. The market for private cloud is around $450 billion while different forms of the public cloud make up another $600 billion.
Workloads are moving across these platforms. So our larger conversation is around the "how to" journey. The customers need to think about the platform standardisation. Yes, there have to be some assumptions and fundamental governing principles. All our applications are ready to move to any cloud according to the requirement.
Roughly, what percentage of your customers are already on hybrid and multi-cloud ecosystems?
I don't have exact numbers but around 70-80% of our customers are already using more than one form of cloud, including their own private cloud. We have been engaged and managing their IT for several years now. Sometimes they have new workloads or need the right architecture for a particular solution that customers are looking at, especially when they need to move some of it elsewhere. So, we offer them our services of a multi-cloud manager as a single console including the workloads in their private cloud.
The idea is they are insulated from future rework. So, we are solving the management issue. Our suite of security solutions encompasses these multi and hybrid ecosystems, so that it is seamlessly secured and there are no challenges.
Are your services and consultancy business an advantage or a disadvantage when you speak to customers?
We have a strong technology DNA, with a strong product portfolio. We have the largest suite of products when it comes to the application middleware. While we offer services and consultancy, the core of all our solutions is our product portfolio.
The services and consultancy business help us have more meaningful conversations with our customers, which is centred around the technology requirements best suited for them. We are able to give them choices on what they feel most comfortable with.
A lot of large enterprise deals are driven by system integrators (SIs). Will your competitors like TCS or Infosys refer IBM to their customers? Isn't that a challenge for you?
At the end of the day, the strength of the portfolio decides the solution. We work closely with the SIs you mentioned. We have a strong product portfolio in the data analytics and cybersecurity segments and we have strong partnerships with all SIs, who take these products to market. Obviously, they also have to work with customers to drive the customer's vision and which requires them to pick the best of the breed solutions.
Do you see more new customers in India as compared with developed markets? Also, do you see small and medium-sized businesses more bullish about the multi-cloud?
We historically had a large presence in the enterprise world. In the last few years, a lot of customers in the area of data, AI, security and public cloud are new customers, who have never worked with IBM. Some of these are small customers, independent software vendors, partners and so on. For younger and SME companies, there is less baggage and legacy in decision making. They are addressing a lot of scenarios with technology for the first time, which they weren't doing earlier.
Are you happy with the pace of the emerging technology adoption at large enterprises in India?
We are seeing use cases in India that are parallel to none. Banks in India are running the largest security infrastructure that you can think of. It caters to scenarios that are world-class, which keeps us on our toes.
Most large enterprises have made their foray into implementing some AI solutions. Mid-sized companies have picked up use cases on AI to solve particular problems. AI that is core to their IP is what large companies are looking at, which also helps them to streamline their data. How does that data render on an AI-based platform is what customers want to see. The scale here makes it challenging and interesting at the same time.
When customers talk to IBM, they expect us to learn from our global experience. IBM India is the microcosm of our global business and footprint, and the learnings are shared with our other departments. It is easier to share those learnings in India because many teams are in India.