With lockdown and WFH in place, accessing data in Cloud and its associated challenges became very prominent in recent weeks. In this issue, we ask some Cloud solutions practitioners about the situations they have faced, the challenges they have come across and the solutions they’re evolving to meet the challenges.
NTT India is a major Cloud solution provider from all the major Cloud platforms like Microsoft Azure, AWS, Google Cloud etc. Its work is in the hybrid systems. In this interaction, Rahul Ambegaoker, Senior Director & Regional Head, West, NTT India, discusses how NTT India has been working with organisations on their cloud solutions during lockdown.
What are the Cloud solutions you’re providing to the enterprises and MSMEs in India?
We provide Cloud solutions from all the major cloud companies such as Azure, AWS, Google cloud etc. Different organisations are in different stages in their Cloud transformation journeys. So we typically have for them the hybrid options. From people who have just begun and want to explore, to people who have already explored and are half way through their Cloud journey to people who are totally on Cloud, we have the entire gamut. We work with all kinds of organisations, whether they are large enterprises, or whether they are MSMEs; we enable the entire transformation for them. We have NTT Hybrid Cloud, we have the hyperscalers and we also work with a lot of Cloud companies which deploy private Cloud. We help our clients right from taking the first baby steps to the asset management stage, where they entirely move on to Cloud. Those that work with compliances are totally hosted and others may be totally on Cloud.
Especially after Corona spread, a lot of people wanted to go for Cloud solutions as they’re working from home. We have offered services such as Desktop as a Service to all kinds of companies to access their data from home. Then there is the question of securing their data which people have been accessing from their home from their own datacentre, from their own server, which they had control on. That has become an extremely large and complex operation. The entire treatment to data changes, when it moves from on-premise to Cloud.
What kind of challenges did you face in taking your Cloud solutions to your end clients during lockdown?
There were two big challenges. One was about accessibility and the second was about security. Earlier there were people working from offices with traditional infrastructure, either through their on-premise or hosted datacentre. They had the firewalls and everything was set up maturely. When they had to work from home, one challenge was the quality of accessibility to data and the other was of security of data. The question was how to allow all these people to connect. The enterprises didn’t have the infrastructure to actually access this large amount of data from outside their office. We at NTT India had to work on accessibility with setting up remote SSL VPNs to be able to access and we built up the infrastructure behind that. Our telcos also struggled with giving the bandwidth at home rather than at office. In the office it is committed bandwidth and at home it’s shared bandwidth.
Second challenge was of security. In the office people have all the security in place. When people began to work from home and to access the data on the Cloud, it means that the data route was bypassing the firewall and other security mechanisms. So we at NTT India had to implement new channels of security. We started working a lot with data privacy and data management.
What strategies did you evolve to meet these challenges?
In April, everyone was trying to acquire solutions to access data. There were lots of traditional companies, including the banks, which still fall in that category. They didn’t have enough laptops and faced compliance problems with data privacy etc. The ability to access was almost built up overnight from the security perspective. We at NTT India did a lot of work around VPNs, firewalling, remote tokens, that were built for people overnight to allow them to enter into their datacentres.
In May and June, a lot of people began to demand Remote Desktop as a Service (RDaaS). Then a lot of people began to announce that if ths became regularly then they would make 10% or 20% of their employees from home. Some ITeS companies even said they’d keep their 90% employees at home. When this began to happen, NTT India had to re-architect the entire infrastructure so that they could access data, while the data remained secure.
Data is of three kinds – in rest, in motion and in use. So, the question arose was, how do we manage and classifying the data, how do we start accessing it? So we had to think about data classification, data protection, data rights etc.
It appears that this situation is going to continue for quite some time. So, how do you foresee the Cloud technologies and solutions evolving in the next 2-3 years and what is NTT India doing to meet these situations?
You are right that this change seems to be sustaining. We are working with a private bank that has told us that they are going to keep 40% of their employees at home. ITeS companies have told us that by 2025 or so, they’ll move 90% of their employees home. Obviously, they’re saving on huge campus costs, electricity costs and I think people have also learnt that they can start trusting their employees more that even from home they will be productive. Research is showing us that productivity level has not dipped. All this forces us to make a lot of change in architectural form.
If you look at Cloud solutions, earlier people used to have datacentre and maybe a DR. Now, people are aiming to have NDR as well, near datacentre, in case of disaster. Further, people are now trying to have access to that data in all events. So, they want to have a copy of that data in the Cloud. This gives them the flexibility and the agility to access the data from anywhere. So this data availability on Cloud has become a big demand. Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Programme (DR & BCP) was earlier basically a tickmark exercise. Nobody used to go through the drills. People are taking the DR & BCP much more seriously now.
So, we have a host of solutions. Some are being done by hyperscalers, some by the OEMs and specific storage companies, who are allowing you to keep a copy of your data on the Cloud and have a seamless motion between your premise data and the one on the Cloud. It gives you the ability to access the data from multiple places. Availability of data has become a much more ubiquitous task than before. We are working through our offerings as well as working with the clients’ architecture. I just cannot understress security. Since data is on Cloud, this means that you also have data inter-Cloud or intra-Cloud. Our requirement of security is changing. We are going more and more towards zero trust angle. The whole premise of zero trust security was built around the fact that a person can access data from anywhere and he should be given access to the data depending upon the privileges that are assigned to him or her, more than from where s/he was accessing. We have adapted our security architecture to the zero trust model. We can see what kinds of security threats are coming from which parts of the world and which industry sectors are being targeted. We analyse these patterns and provide solutions to these threats.