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Indian Telecom's Really Big Honkin' Cloud Could Be A Global Game Changer

Tata Communications Aims To Empower 5M+ Emerging Market Companies

Tata Communications, the $2.5B/year telecom arm of the $80B/year Indian business icon, Tata Group, is one of the world's largest wholesale international voice carriers, one of the largest submarine cable operators, one of the largest global Internet backbone providers, India's largest data center operator, and a global provider of hosting, colocation and system integration services.   And, in the past four years alone, the company has invested over $2B in infrastructure build-out and global business expansion.   Now, Tata Communications has turned its attention to cloud computing.  How do you think that might turn out?


Yesterday, the company announced the launch of two new cloud services for the Indian market, InstaCompute computing and storage and InstaOffice communications and collaboration apps.  And, following as it does on the heels of many other telecom cloud announcements in recent months, the Tata announcement begs for comparison.  While some of those announcements have been filled with overheated technical hype and others with chilly cloudwashing, the Tata announcement, like Baby Bear's porridge, is just right.

Tata's cloud services comprise an array of practical, useful offerings presented in a very plain and accessible way, which is all good, but what really sets it apart from other telecom cloud announcements is the business strategy surrounding it.  Standing in sharp contrast to the stilted blather and cynical opportunism that mark many other telecom cloud endeavors, Tata has clearly assimilated the truly transformative potential of cloud computing.  For this reason, it deserves examination and admiration.

Providing what Tata calls "instant data centre infrastructure", InstaCompute is a "fully automated" service that lets users self-provision computing and storage resources on a "pay-as-you-grow" basis.  A little surprisingly, the service is being deployed on equipment from a lesser cloud player, Dell; if the service is a success, it is sure to burnish Dell's cloud cred considerably.

Complementing the InstaCompute IaaS offering is InstaOffice, a Google-Apps-powered productivity suite that includes email, calendar, IM, voice and video chat and document applications.  InstaOffice joins a family of other "Insta" applications that Tata is already serving to the Indian market and includes apps for contact center, CRM and content management.

Big and Bad As They Wanna Be

India's GDP is expected to grow by 8.5% in the next two years and the country has more than 5000 large enterprises, over five million small and medium businesses, and government agencies with an end-point scale unimaginable in the west, e.g. 150,000 post offices.  So, the domestic opportunity for Tata's cloud services is clearly enormous.

Vinod Kumar, President and COO of Tata Communications says, "Driven by a rapidly evolving economy, Indian businesses desire flexibility and scalability of infrastructure as they pursue growth within India and overseas.  Simultaneously, the competitive environment requires them to achieve their goals with low upfront investments.  Tata Communications' InstaCompute and InstaApps will help our customers to quickly leverage advanced IT and networking services, without the cost and complexity associated with them."

While the company presently plans to offer the new services just in the huge Indian market, it is worth noting that it will allow payment either in Rupees or other global currencies, which may suggest the possibility of Tata extending the service into others of the 200 countries in which it does business through its global Tier-1 IP network and 40 data centers scattered around the world.

But, if or when Tata does extend its cloud beyond India's vast borders, it probably will not be into the fiercely competitive cloud markets of the developed nations, as is the strategy for most other international telecom clouds.  Tata Communications has become successful in its other lines of business by focusing on the emerging markets and, in its cloud announcement there is a strong indication of its intention to take its cloud there, too.

New World Order

"Cloud-computing offers much more than cost reduction; it enables innovation and new business models where customers can focus on their core business and partner with Tata Communications to obtain instant IT and network services to support it. Emerging market companies, in particular, can leapfrog to world-class technology capabilities by adopting cloud-computing models", concludes Kumar.

Kumar's comments are worthy of re-reading and careful parsing.  In most discussions of cloud computing, it is usually characterized as a disruptive technology on the provider side, but, for customers the benefits are somewhat tactical and a matter of degree, not kind.  That is, cloud computing enables customer to keep doing what they have been doing, but with lower cost, faster response time, etc.  Tata Communications doesn't see it that way.

Tata Communications' leadership is uniquely prescient in their realization that cloud computing will be a disruptive force in global business, enabling companies in India and other emerging markets  to adopt new business models that will empower them to compete and win against status quo business leaders in the global markets.  This is new.

And, it is another manifestation of how Indian industry is no longer content to simply be the world's call center or sewing room, and now aims to take a place next to its European and North American counterparts as an innovator and leader in the new world order, with the Tata Group leading the way.  We recently saw a dramatic sign of this trend when Tata Motors almost simultaneously announced its development of the world's most inexpensive car and its acquisition of iconic Western luxury brands Jaguar and Land Rover.   That was new, too.

Tata's apparent general strategy of "innovate locally and lead globally" is compelling enough, but in the case of the Tata Communications computing cloud, it is not just good for Tata itself.  It promises a quite literal "network effect" that benefits Tata's customers as well, even tiny ones, enabling them to also innovate locally and lead globally.  That is really new.  ROW, take note.


More Stories By Tim Negris

Tim Negris is SVP, Marketing & Sales at Yottamine Analytics, a pioneering Big Data machine learning software company. He occasionally authors software industry news analysis and insights on Ulitzer.com, is a 25-year technology industry veteran with expertise in software development, database, networking, social media, cloud computing, mobile apps, analytics, and other enabling technologies.

He is recognized for ability to rapidly translate complex technical information and concepts into compelling, actionable knowledge. He is also widely credited with coining the term and co-developing the concept of the “Thin Client” computing model while working for Larry Ellison in the early days of Oracle.

Tim has also held a variety of executive and consulting roles in a numerous start-ups, and several established companies, including Sybase, Oracle, HP, Dell, and IBM. He is a frequent contributor to a number of publications and sites, focusing on technologies and their applications, and has written a number of advanced software applications for social media, video streaming, and music education.

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