What, Why and How of Cloud Computing

Cloud computing has become ubiquitous in India in recent years. The technology encompassed mundane activities of individuals like social networking, mail, online purchases as well as large scale operations of multinational companies including big data, Internet of Things (IoT), etc.

Created On: Jun 15, 2016 18:46 ISTModified On: Jun 15, 2016 12:54 IST

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on 10 June 2016 released the Consultation Paper on Cloud Computing inviting suggestions and comments from the experts, academia and the public at large.

The consultation paper enumerates current trends in the cloud computing sector across the world. Besides, it also dealt with a gamut of opportunities in this sector and major challenges for its successful adoption in India.

What is Cloud Computing?

As per the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) of the US Department of Commerce, Cloud computing is defined as a model for enabling ubiquitous convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources.

The pool of shared resources include networks, servers, storage, applications, and services that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.

The Internet is at the core of evolution of this technology. Cloud computing applications have become ubiquitous in India in recent years as they encompassed mundane activities of individuals like social networking, mail, online purchases as well as large scale operations of multinational companies including big data, Internet of Things (IoT), etc.

What are the features of Cloud Computing?

Attributes: It has four attributes viz., Data Intensive (focus is on data rather than computation), Resource pooling, Scalability and rapid elasticity and On demand access.

Service Models: Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) are the primary service models offered by the cloud computing technology.

Besides, there are also other service models like Data as a Service (DaaS), Identity and Policy Management as a Service (IPMaaS), Network as a Service (NaaS), Video as a Service (VaaS) or Hardware as a service (HaaS) amongst others.

Deployment models: A cloud system can be operated in four deployment models, namely, Public cloud, Private cloud, Community cloud and Hybrid cloud.

What are the current trends in cloud computing?

Global level: Cloud computing accounted for about 33 percent of the total IT expenditure in 2015 across the world. Analysts project that from 2013 to 2018, the cloud computing market will grow at a 9.7 percent annual rate. Also, by 2019, cloud IT infrastructure spending is expected to be 52 billion US dollars or 45 percent of total IT infrastructure spending.

India: In India, Cloud Computing offers huge potential for industries to grow and is opening up new windows of opportunities. Verticals such as retail, railways, manufacturing, banking, education and healthcare have started switching their on-premise applications to cloud services for optimised reach and performance as well as elasticity and scalability.

Social, mobility, analytics and cloud (SMAC) are collectively expected to offer a 1 trillion US dollars opportunity in 2016. Cloud represents the largest opportunity under SMAC, increasing at a CAGR of approximately 30 per cent to around 650-700 billion US dollars by 2020.

Overall ranked 8th in the world, India’s cloud services market has generated interest among the technology leaders and optimistic predictions for the future.

What is the regulatory and legal framework for cloud computing in India?

Cloud computing requires careful scrutiny by regulators because of its multi-dimensional nature. Legal frameworks should be mandated for the concerns associated with cloud services such as data privacy and data protection, data ownership, multi-jurisdiction issues and disclosure and cross-border movement of data.

While the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, the Civil Procedure Code 1908, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997 deal with this sector in an implicit way, the Information Technology Act of 2000 is of more relevance for regulating this sector.

Various sections of the IT Act, 2000 deals with penalties for the breach of data and privacy, at least in the domain of computers and cyber-crime. The Act is focused on e-commerce and cybercrime in general and data protection and data privacy are covered under it.

While the existing laws do cover some legal issues thrown up by cloud computing, they don’t contemplate the scope of cloud computing services and the resultant magnification of the issues.

What are the government initiatives in cloud computing sector?

Infrastructure sector: Smart Cities Mission of the Union Government enables local development by harnessing technology for creating smart outcomes. Besides, the Government has also recognized the importance of cloud-based service-delivery platforms for establishing the foundation of Digital India, as it integrates smart devices and infrastructure and processes data from the large amount of scattered sources in real time.

e-Governance: The government has been exploring a cloud based application and data access model to revolutionize its e-governance initiative. All e-governance platforms including State Wide Area Networks (SWANs, Data Centres, etc) across the country could be migrated into cloud architecture in near future with an option of a public cloud and a private cloud.

Banking sector: Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is working on achieving 100 percent financial inclusion with the help of technology. The RBI has been incorporating Cloud based solutions particularly for Cooperative banks to extend the banking services across the country through core banking solutions.

Use of cloud computing in this sector will lead to reduced timelines, moving the cost from CapEx to OpEx and focus on core banking business. Indian Banking Community Cloud (IBCC) is the first Community Cloud initiative for banking industry in the country.

Manufacturing sector: With Make In India initiative in full swing, adoption of this technology became even more relevant for the Indian manufacturing sector. Some of the most notable application areas in manufacturing suited for cloud are CRM and supply chain applications which provide better connectivity to external stakeholders and customers.

The other areas where cloud enhances manufacturing effectiveness are in data warehousing, information security, green IT, Human machine interface (HMI) applications and many others.

Telecom sector: Deploying Operation Support System (OSS) and Business Support System (BSS) solutions over cloud platforms is a highly effective method of addressing several business and technical challenges faced by this sector.

Cloud-based infrastructure offers an efficient way to enable resource sharing, automation and monitoring, management of software upgrades (with near zero downtimes) and the on-demand scaling up of operations using virtual machines on the same hardware.

Start-up and SMEs: One of the key benefits of cloud computing is the low capital investment and quick time to market the new ideas. This particularly encourages entrepreneurship in the country, enabling start-ups and small medium businesses to start small and expand their business based on demand.

Indian SMEs are expected to increase cloud adoption at a CAGR of 20  percent between 2012 and 2016.

Indian Railways: Railways are utilizing the mobile technology in a big way for freight management and passenger reservation system. Strategies have been rolled out to use cloud for GIS management in railways, for e-ticket bookings and for automated surveillances of railway premises and storage of video logs in cloud data centres.

Education Sector: Megh-Sikshak is a cloud-based learning management system, which is evolved from the objective of converting the traditional model of e-Learning system (eSikshak) to a SaaS model. The cloud-based eSikshak delivers e-Learning as a service rather than as a product, which helps the institutions/organizations/individuals in alleviating the burden of installation, maintenance, and management of the e-Learning application on-premise.

Apart from this, IIT Delhi, IGNOU and other universities have deployed their own cloud environments.

Health Sector: Cloud Computing Innovation council of India has proposed a layout for systematic adoption of cloud services in Indian health sector, known as e-Health vision. e-Health vision aims to incorporate Health Information Exchange (HIE) mechanisms to successful deployment of cloud. An electronic health information exchange (HIE) allows stakeholders associated with health data to appropriately access and securely share a patient’s vital medical information electronically.

Right to Information: Government initiative to digitize its database and make more and more information available to the public domain calls for an indispensable need of adoption of cloud services in the domain of RTI for efficient performances.

Meghraj: Department of Electronics and IT (DeitY) of the Union Government has initiated an extensive project termed as ‘GI Cloud’. The ‘GI Cloud’ Meghraj is the Government of India’s cloud computing environment that will be used by government departments and agencies at the centre and states following a set of common protocols, guidelines and standards.

National eGov App Store: The eGov App Store will include the setting up of a common platform to host and run applications (developed by government agencies or private players) at National Cloud, which are easily customisable and configurable for reuse by various government agencies or departments at the central and state levels without investing effort in the development of such applications.

Apart from the above government-led initiatives, Microsoft announced the opening of three data centres in India which would primarily drive adoption of public cloud services by government departments, state-owned agencies, banks and financial institutions. Microsoft now accounts for 30 percent share in public cloud market in India.

What are the barriers for adoption of cloud computing in India?

One of the biggest challenges that cloud computing in India is facing is the lack of dependable infrastructure for data centres. For Cloud computing to be successful in India, the basic data centre grade physical infrastructure i.e. Connectivity, Power and Cooling should be consistent.

Some of the other prime concerns associated with adoption of cloud services in India are –

Energy resource management: It has been estimated that the cost of powering and cooling accounts for 53 percent of the total operational expenditure of data centres. The goal is not only to cut down energy cost in data centres, but also to meet government regulations and environmental standards.

Server consolidation: Achieving effective server consolidation (using the remote servers to maximum level to minimize energy usage) without hurting application performance is a major challenge.

Platform management: This includes challenges in delivering middleware capabilities for building, deploying, integrating and managing applications in a multi-tenant, elastic and scalable environments.

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