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Why Micrsoft Azure is backing hybrid cloud as the best choice for businesses

The COVID-19 pandemic brought remote working into the mainstream. More than a year later, work from home seems to be here to stay.

In an environment like this, technology tools and platforms are enabling businesses to operate efficiently, without disruption. Business leaders are unanimous that the pandemic has worked as a catalyst for organisations across sectors, fast-tracking adoption of digital and cloud-led technologies to survive in the new normal.

Cloud is at the heart of accelerating digital transformation and innovation, and many digital enterprises are adopting a multi-cloud approach, comprising on-premise, private cloud, and public cloud.

Leading cloud technology provider Microsoft Azure has witnessed increased adoption in India as businesses and governments rely on the platform to keep operations functional.

The need to consolidate communications, collaboration, and business process on one platform – built on a foundation of security and privacy – has also come to the forefront during this critical time.

Shivir Chordia, Azure Business Group Lead, Microsoft India, in an email interview discusses the rapid adoption of technology in India, how cloud solutions support tech adoption and tech capability building, and why hybrid cloud is emerging as the preferred option.

Edited excerpts from the interview:

YourStory (YS): How do you view the cloud technology market in India, given the current environment?

Shivir Chordia (SC): Cloud has become the foundation for businesses over the last 12 months. While organisations – governments, enterprises, and startups – were already innovating and transforming using cloud, migrating to the cloud has now become inevitable.

The pandemic has made it clear that no business is 100 percent resilient. However, those fortified by digital are more agile, resilient, and capable of transforming when faced with a crisis.

Cloud is at the heart of accelerating digital transformation and innovation. Let’s look at a few trends and examples from last year. It has played a key role in supporting frontline healthcare workers and governments in the battle against the pandemic.

The Punjab government swiftly rolled out its citizen app Cova. Powered by Azure and Azure AI, it offers real-time and authentic information on COVID-19, advisories on preventive measures, travel and public gathering instructions from the authorities, and statistical updates from credible sources.

Mumbai-based startup Gaia Smart Cities built a platform on Azure, which includes an app that enables citizens to provide information about their health risk. Deployed by Agra Smart City and Agra Nagar Nigam, it helps administrators track responses by pin code, take preventive action, and monitor the daily situation across the city based on collated data.

The ability to predict and minimise risk has made a big difference. And, this is where the significance of data and analytics has come to the fore. The adoption of data and AI will increasingly be a differentiator in building agility and resilience.

Microsoft Azure Modular Data Centre

Myntra has been using Azure Data and AI very effectively to analyse consumer preferences since the onset of COVID-19. They are helping brands offer what consumers really want, in addition to helping them move stocks quickly during the lockdown.

Amidst the fluid situation and fluctuating volumes, efficient utilisation of the geographically dispersed supply chain will require agility, and the ability to scale dynamically and reallocate resources swiftly. These are the benefits that the cloud brings. 

At the workplace, we saw, what was perhaps, the largest at-scale experiment for remote work. The new hybrid work culture is anchored in remote everything. It will be important to meet and support employees where they are, while keeping them secure. Tools such as Microsoft Teams and Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) have emerged as essential to enabling hybrid workplaces with the right technology.

According to IDC, 64 percent organisations in India expect to increase demand for cloud computing, as a result of the pandemic. Flexibility and future-proof strategies for seamless communication and workforce productivity are a must, and having an always-on, cloud-driven data platform will be fundamental.

Businesses are also realising the need to consolidate communications, collaboration, and business processes on one platform – built on a foundation of security and privacy. We offer a complete technology stack to support tech adoption and tech capability building, ultimately increasing an organisation’s ability to achieve success through digital technology.

YS: Given the various forms of cloud available today, why do you feel hybrid platforms are best suited for businesses?

SC: Hybrid cloud is a forward-looking strategy for businesses financially, for security, and for modernising applications. As organisations shift priorities to enable remote work, leverage cloud innovation, and maximise existing on-premise investments, an effective multi-cloud, multi-edge hybrid approach will be more important than ever.

Often, some workloads cannot be moved to public cloud due to regulatory and data sovereignty requirements. This is common in highly regulated industries such as financial services, healthcare, and government. Some workloads, especially edge workloads, require low latency. Many companies also have significant on-premise investments that they want to maximise, so they choose to modernise on-premise datacentres and traditional apps.

A hybrid approach makes the most sense for most large enterprises or highly regulated industries, keeping in mind latency, regulations, data sovereignty, or complexity in moving large volumes of legacy data to cloud. 

Hybrid offers customers the choice and flexibility to securely run their workloads/apps on a combination of public cloud and on-premise systems – the best of both worlds. True hybrid provides organisations the much-required agility, scalability, and efficiency while enabling them to stay compliant as they rebuild and transform their businesses. 

At Microsoft, we deeply understand customers’ hybrid needs. While other cloud vendors have come to hybrid late or changed their approach, Microsoft is the only hyperscale cloud provider that has served enterprise customers for the past several decades.

Hybrid is the durable, long-term technology truth of cloud, and we expect it to play a leading role in cloud strategies for the foreseeable future.

YS: Tell us about the adoption of the hybrid cloud platform in India? Which sectors have been early adopters?

SC: Businesses are rapidly turning to hybrid cloud for improved agility and maximum efficiency.

The India public cloud services (PCS) market, including Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS), touched $1.6 billion for the first half of 2020, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Semiannual Public Cloud Services Tracker. The report also states that the overall India public cloud services market is likely to reach $7.4 billion by 2024, growing at a CAGR of 22.2 percent for 2020-24.

Hybrid cloud is evolving from being only the integration of a datacentre with the public cloud to becoming units of computing available at the edge, including even the world’s most remote destinations.

Leading IT/ITeS companies, banks, financial institutions, healthcare, media companies, ecommerce organisations, government departments, and telecom providers have been the early adopters of hybrid cloud.

YS: What is the USP of Microsoft Azure in the hybrid cloud segment?

SC: Since the beginning, Microsoft Azure has always been hybrid by design, providing customers consistency and flexibility in meeting their business needs and empowering them to invent with purpose. This is one of the many reasons that the world’s leading brands trust their businesses to run on Azure.

Hybrid is not a one-product strategy for us. We take a comprehensive, multi-dimensional approach to hybrid. Whether customers want to modernise existing infrastructure and apps, bring new infrastructure and capabilities to datacentres and the edge, run apps in connected and disconnected scenarios, or embrace a multi-cloud approach, we offer solutions to meet their needs.

With Azure, Microsoft provides the most comprehensive, open, scalable, and trusted intelligent cloud tailored to requirements of businesses.

Edited by Teja Lele Desai

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