Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

All IT is acquiring cloud computing characteristics: HPE India MD

The longer-term trend that will emerge from the Covid-19 lockdown will be that company tech, regardless of location and ownership, will work on the lines of on-demand supply, consumption-based pricing and ease of use, says Hewlett Packard Enterprise's Som Satsangi

Harichandan Arakali
Published: Apr 17, 2020 04:20:41 PM IST

All IT is acquiring cloud computing characteristics: HPE India MDSom Satsangi, MD, HPE India 
This is part 3 of a series on how India’s biggest tech firms are helping companies deal with the Covid-19 lockdown, and what their biggest challenges and opportunities are. Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here

India has come a long way in enabling remote work, thanks to innovation, and much of this is possible today because of the mobile and data revolution of the past decade, says Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) India’s MD, Som Satsangi, in an interview with Forbes India. Edited excerpts:

Q. What are the biggest challenges (and any opportunities) your enterprise customers are facing because of the Covid-19 pandemic?
Our goal is clear, in the face of Covid-19, we are prioritising the things that are within our control— protecting our team members and their families, focusing on innovation and efforts to support our customers, and rising to the challenge of supporting the communities where we live and work.

We are focused on helping customers and partners maintain business continuity, manage cash flow and financial health and are deploying solutions to meet immediate challenges and unexpected demand.

Business continuity is a vital focus area for our enterprise customers who cut across several verticals including banking, insurance, telecom, chemicals, oil and gas, state and central governments, and so on. Several of these organisations have mature IT practices.

Q. How are you helping your customers to tackle those challenges?
HPE has robust business continuity plans and with the activation of HPE Crisis Management Team in place we are confident we will mitigate disruptions, meet partner and customer demands, and protect HPE team members. The vast majority of our employees in India are geared to work remotely, and we are closely monitoring the situation.

Long before Covid-19, we also took steps to diversify our supply chain, and we are working closely with more than 200 suppliers to continue to minimise the impact on partners and customers.

To help manage cash flow and financial health, HPE’s Financial Services arm (which is an IT captive finance company, managing $13 billion in portfolio assets in more than 50 countries) can help. We are also releasing capital from existing infrastructure, providing pre-owned tech equipment to relieve capacity strains or delivery delays.

We recently announced that we would defer or reduce expenses through payment deferral, so customers can delay payments for 90 days. Through the 2020 Payment Relief Program, customers can pay only 1 percent of the total contract value each month for the first eight months, deferring over 90 percent of the cost until 2021. This can help businesses navigate the financial impact of Covid-19 in the short term.

For work-from-home initiatives, pop-up locations, and temporary facilities, HPE’s Aruba unit provides seamless and secure access to corporate resources at scale. With such solutions, organisations can quickly deliver secure network connectivity and the office experience to mobile workers and remote offices.

Finally we’re also seeing increased demand for our as-a-service offerings to deal with unexpected demand for increased capacity as well as reduce risk and financial exposure in uncertain times. HPE’s GreenLake can be set up in a customer’s own data centre, and therefore can provide an alternative when customers have workloads that are not well suited to running in the public cloud.

Q. How well were your customers prepared for the work-from-home scenario?
That would depend on the industry vertical. Many ITES companies have moved quickly to adjust to the new reality, as have telecom and internet services verticals, which had to manage the complexity of unplanned peaks and demands on the network infrastructure. Banking and payments firms have risen to the challenge too, thanks to ongoing Digital India initiatives.

On the other hand, manufacturing, hospitality, airlines and others are perhaps the hardest hit, since it is very difficult to maintain workflows without staff on the ground. 

My assessment is that India has come a long way by innovating, adopting technology and workflows to deliver services remotely for industries where the edge, or the point of customer experience, could be impacted. This has been possible because of the structured innovation by several companies, frugal innovation or makeshift arrangements in some cases, and of course the backbone to all of this is the mobile and data revolution we have witnessed in the last decade.

Q. ‚ÄčAre your customers accelerating their move-to-the-cloud plans during these times? Why?
We were one of the first tech companies to articulate that the world will be hybrid—we have consistently maintained this outlook for the last five or more years. Our customers are reviewing their IT architecture and blueprints to determine the best options—considering a combination of public cloud, private cloud and edge environments (the points farthest from the data centres, touching individual users) for their data and applications.

The best combinations will be determined by workloads and their characterisation of performance, security policies, compliance, data localisation, audit requirements and cost.

IT decision makers are seeking stability and service availability as a priority. However, some organisations are facing severe decreases and others, severe increases, in demand for their products and services. From an IT perspective, this means that there can be extreme changes in capacity demand, and we have to support such workloads, notably remote applications and virtual interfaces.

In the short-term, this drives changes both in technology and in flexible IT delivery and financing models. But these short-term changes are just amplifications of longer-term trends, which are fundamentally shifting organisations’ approach to sourcing and running IT.

This longer-term trend is that all IT, regardless of its location and ownership, is adopting characteristics of cloud computing, including on-demand supply, consumption-based pricing and ease of use. Cloud is no longer a destination, but an experience.

This is important because organisations cannot or do not want to move all of their applications and data to the public cloud. Adopting cloud characteristics in their own IT estate both helps them cope with volatility or extreme changes in their environment, and to strengthen their digital sovereignty and control of their data.