distributed cloud

Distributed cloud is the new enterprise IT frontier

by | Jun 16, 2021 | IT Services

Cloud providers vie for pole positions as they gear up to compete in an upcoming hyperscale computing era.
Share to lead the transformation

A titanic struggle for control of the cloud has begun in earnest by the emergence of various distributed cloud architectures. The shift is being driven by the need for enterprises to move away from traditional infrastructure-aspect-management to ‘utility cloud’ models, which can be far more sustainable as long-term strategies.

Amazon Web Services, IBM, Google, and Microsoft are the giants whose bet in the development of such virtualization technologies has won them large shares of the cloud market. Several other companies are also active in this arena, and a closer examination of the main players may reveal a number of smaller players too.

distributed cloud

Multiple drivers are fueling growth

The star attractions of distributed clouds include (1) low latency due to proximity to user organizations (e.g., on-premises delivery or edge delivery); (2) better adherence to compliance and data-residency requirements;  and (3) rapidly growing number of IoT devices, utility drones, etc.

With distributed cloud services, the service providers are moving closer to the users. These cloud services are offered not just as public-cloud-hosted solutions but also on the edge or the on-premise data center. This approach of having a SaaS model with an on-premise application has its own advantages like ease of provisioning new services, ease of management, and cost reductions in the form of greater operational efficiency brought about by streamlined infrastructure management.

Cloud service providers have a deep understanding of both the needs of enterprises and their unique business requirements. They use their expertise to develop solutions that meet these objectives. They are also well known for providing easy accessibility to their services from the internet. This enables fast and convenient access for end-users.

Enterprises may think that by switching over to a distributed cloud computing service they will lose control of their data. However, the cloud service providers enable excellent security and monitoring solutions. They also ensure that users are given the highest level of access to their data. By migrating on-premises software to a cloud service provider, enterprises do not stand to lose the expertise that their employees have built up during their time in the organization.

Google Anthos: A first-mover advantage

Google formally introduced Anthos, as an open platform that lets enterprises run an app anywhere—simply, flexibly, and securely. In a blog post, dated 9 April 2019, Google noted that, embracing open standards, Anthos let enterprises run applications, unmodified, on existing on-prem hardware investments or in the public cloud, and was based on the Cloud Services Platform announced earlier.

The announcement said that Anthos’ hybrid functionality was made generally available both on Google Cloud Platform (GCP) with Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE), and in the enterprise data center with GKE On-Prem.

Consistency, another post said, was the greatest common denominator, with Anthos making multi-cloud easy owing to its foundation of Kubernetes—specifically the Kubernetes-style API. “Using the latest upstream version as a starting point, Anthos can see, orchestrate and manage any workload that talks to the Kubernetes API—the lingua franca of modern application development, and an interface that supports more and more traditional workloads,” the blog post added.

AWS Outposts: Defending its cloud turf

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has been among the first movers. On 3 December 2019, the cloud services major announced the general availability of AWS Outposts, as fully managed and configurable compute and storage racks built with AWS-designed hardware that allow customers to run compute and storage on-premises, while seamlessly connecting to AWS’s broad array of services in the cloud. A pre-announcement for Outposts had come on 28 November 2018 at the re:Invent 2018.

“When we started thinking about offering a truly consistent hybrid experience, what we heard is that customers really wanted it to be the same—the same APIs, the same control plane, the same tools, the same hardware, and the same functionality. It turns out this is hard to do, and that’s the reason why existing options for on-premises solutions haven’t gotten much traction today,” said Matt Garman, Vice President, Compute Services, at AWS. “With AWS Outposts, customers can enjoy a truly consistent cloud environment using the native AWS services or VMware Cloud on AWS to operate a single enterprise IT environment across their on-premises locations and the cloud.”

IBM Cloud Satellite: Late but not left out

IBM has been a bit late to the distributed cloud party. It was only on 1 March 2021 that IBM announced that hybrid cloud services were now generally available in any environment—on any cloud, on premises or at the edge—via IBM Cloud Satellite. The partnership with Lumen Technologies, coupled with IBM’s long-standing deep presence in on-premise enterprise systems, could turn out to be a key differentiator. An IBM press release noted that Lumen Technologies and IBM have integrated IBM Cloud Satellite with the Lumen edge platform to enable clients to harness hybrid cloud services in near real-time and build innovative solutions at the edge.

“IBM is working with clients to leverage advanced technologies like edge computing and AI, enabling them to digitally transform with hybrid cloud while keeping data security at the forefront,” said Howard Boville, Head of IBM Hybrid Cloud Platform. “With IBM Cloud Satellite, clients can securely gain the benefits of cloud services anywhere, from the core of the data center to the farthest reaches of the network.”

“With the Lumen platform’s broad reach, we are giving our enterprise customers access to IBM Cloud Satellite to help them drive innovation more rapidly at the edge,” said Paul Savill, SVP Enterprise Product Management and Services at Lumen. “Our enterprise customers can now extend IBM Cloud services across Lumen’s robust global network, enabling them to deploy data-heavy edge applications that demand high security and ultra-low latency. By bringing secure and open hybrid cloud capabilities to the edge, our customers can propel their businesses forward and take advantage of the emerging applications of the 4th Industrial Revolution.”

Microsoft Azure Arc: General availability awaited

Julia White Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Azure, in a blog post, dated 4 November 2019, announced Azure Arc, as a set of technologies that unlocks new hybrid scenarios for customers by bringing Azure services and management to any infrastructure. “Azure Arc is available in preview starting today,” she said.

However, the general availability of Azure Arc was not to be announced anytime soon. Six months after the ‘preview’ announcement, Jeremy Winter Partner Director, Azure Management, published a blog post on 20 May 2020, noting that the company was delivering ‘Azure Arc enabled Kubernetes’ in preview to its customers. “With this, anyone can use Azure Arc to connect and configure any Kubernetes cluster across customer datacenters, edge locations, and multi-cloud,” he said.

“In addition, we are also announcing our first set of Azure Arc integration partners, including Red Hat OpenShift, Canonical Kubernetes, and Rancher Labs to ensure Azure Arc works great for all the key platforms our customers are using today,” the post added.

The announcement followed Azure Stack launch two years earlier, to enable a consistent cloud model, deployable on-premises. Meanwhile, Azure was extended to provide DevOps for any environment and any cloud. Microsoft also enabled cloud-powered security threat protection for any infrastructure, and unlocked the ability to run Microsoft Azure Cognitive Services AI models anywhere. Azure Arc was a significant leap forward to enable customers to move from just hybrid cloud to truly deliver innovation anywhere with Azure, the post added.

Looking ahead

A distributed cloud presents an incredible opportunity for businesses that are looking to improve their bottom line while also increasing their agility and versatility.

A distributed cloud is essentially a distributed version of public cloud computing which offers the capability to manage nearly everything from a single computer to thousands of computers. The cloud promises the benefits of a global network without having to worry about hardware, software, management, and monitoring issues. The distributed cloud goes a step further and also brings the assurance on fronts such as latency, compliance, and on-premise application modernization.

MORE FROM BETTER WORLD

Cisco buys IMImobile to reinforce CXaaS capabilities

Cisco buys IMImobile to reinforce CXaaS capabilities

Networking giant Cisco is eyeing the growing pie of customer experience as a service (CXaaS) business as it buys IMImobile, a London-based cloud communications software company, for $730 million, including debt. IMImobile provides software and services that enable businesses to connect to their clients via interactive channels, including social media, messaging, and voice.

According to Cisco, the acquisition will offer an end-to-end customer interaction management solution for customer-facing businesses. IMImobile extensively focuses on customer interaction management (CIM) through several capabilities such as automation, orchestration, and monitoring.

The purchase process will likely complete in the first quarter of 2021, subject to shareholder mandates and approval requirements. After the acquisition, the IMI Mobile team will get integrated into Cisco’s Webex Contact Center business unit, currently headed by Omar Tawakol.

Cisco’s IMI acquisition demonstrates the growing interest of technology specialists in scaling up their collaboration and communications services capabilities to meet the ever-increasing demand for real-time customer interactions. (See: Salesforce buys Slack to expand its cloud footprint, and Facebook entices creators as it eyes the online events market)

In the middle of the black swan of 2020, organizations are fast turning to cloud services like AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud. It has forced tech majors like Cisco to transform their business models to meet evolving business demands.Cisco buys IMImobile

Effectively shifting gears

Cisco’s business started as a router company and emerged as a significant internet connectivity supplier for enterprise business in the early 2000s. About three years back, in the wake of changing IT spend forecast, the networking giant announced to restrategize its revenue focus from hardware purchases to a subscription-based model.

At that time, Cisco had set a goal of 30% of its revenue to come from software services a few years back. Cisco achieved 29% of the target in fiscal year ’20 and 31% in Q4 alone. In the fourth quarter of FY2020, Cisco reported a 9% decline in annual revenue to $12.2 billion from $13.43 billion in the year-previous quarter. For Cisco, the positive aspect is to see tremendous demand and pipeline in its biggest customers’ orders in the digital transformation space.

Since the start of the pandemic, the priority of Cisco’s customers has changed rapidly. Enterprises are looking at technologies that can give them agility, security, and more excellent resiliency. Applications have become a lifeline for business continuity, and remote-collaboration tools an essential.

Many of the businesses are keen to adopt a full-scale everything-as-a-service model, and that’s been reflected in Cisco’s software revenues as well. Today, Cisco has about 80 percent of its total software revenue from subscriptions.

Acquiring new capabilities

The focus toward working from anywhere will continue to generate a significant uptake. As a result, businesses are less likely to invest significantly in their on-premise enterprise networks. Instead, they will continue to deploy technologies that could allow them to meet the new demands of digital clients and help their distributed remote staff stay connected and productive.

Given this, the San Jose based tech-giant has recently stepped up its software and subscription offerings by investing heavily in research and development. There has been increased traction in Cisco’s Webex platform, its flagship offering in the space of remote collaboration. The company says it has over 600 million meeting participants on its Webex platform, almost doubling the pre-pandemic days, while online work was still in its infancy.

Cisco is putting substantial efforts into strengthening its Webex’s capabilities to support the growing demand for large online web conferences and virtual events. Several of this year’s acquisitions, such as Slido, IMImobile, and BabbleLabs technology, have been completed to optimize the user experience and improve the delivery of information to Webex customers in multi-cloud environments.

Another area of increasing interest in Cisco’s business remains cloud security as it has become an absolute priority for her customers in the distributed digital world. The company has achieved double-digit sales growth quarter-on-quarter from its security solutions portfolio.

In 2021, the company is expected to continue its acquisition spree, albeit of smaller companies, to strengthen its software capabilities and improve revenues. Cisco is also likely to make substantial investments in the software-defined WAN technology space as organizations rush into the 5G and Internet of Things (IoT) era and plan for a significant increase in data traffic (See: How SD-WAN and IoT can help enterprises unlock ‘smart’ ).

How SD-WAN and IoT can help enterprises unlock ‘smart’

How SD-WAN and IoT can help enterprises unlock ‘smart’

Software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) and internet of things (IoT) technologies have been a hot subject for businesses worldwide for some time. Companies of all sizes have rapidly embraced IoT technology in all areas of the industry. Whether we are talking about manufacturing, logistics, oil and gas, transportation, aviation, energy, mining, or metals, technology has proven its capability to everyone.  (See: RPA-led tools helping enterprises sail safely through a storm)

As companies expand their cloud platforms and implement social distancing measures for an unforeseeable future, interests in IoT and SD-WAN rollouts will be more intense. The forthcoming launch of 5G technology will also be a crucial factor determining the success of IoT as it will give businesses and consumers much needed boost to create a smart digitally connected economy.

The SD-WAN is often considered as an unsung hero that allows new technologies like IoT to operate and work to its best potential in a corporate network.

SD-WAN is a progressive wide area network approach that helps organizations support multiple office branches with robust connectivity in a secured and seamless way, through any service provider connection. Compared to the traditional Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), SD-WAN is lower-priced, risk-free, and delivers improved application performance at all levels. It connects business networks across vast geographical locations in a transparent and agile manner.

Let’s understand the four most critical advantages that SD-WAN brings to the table for efficient IoT deployments.

Greater operational agility

The IoT deployments will create a smart workforce of the future, helping businesses predict consumer behaviors, maintain production and supply chain capacities and delivery methodology through robotics, analytics, and intelligent automation tools.

In a traditional network, for instance, an intricate setting comprising a collection of routers, switches, and other hardware equipment is needed to be managed independently. It demands enormous effort and plenty of resources for day to day administration. In an SD-WAN configuration, the hardware mechanism is changed to a software-based function. This makes it very easy to manage network operations. Companies can implement faster changes, set up orchestrations, control their networks easily, and enforce real-time monitoring.

Deployment of SD-WAN allows network administrators to see how different IoT devices in different geographical areas (offices) get bandwidth, security, and other resources to function to their optimum levels.

Enhanced security

The most significant concern IoT deployments have today is security, particularly when it comes to multi-site operations. SD-WAN has the advantage of responding to many IoT security concerns. With SD-WAN, businesses can integrate their broadband access through advanced firewall capabilities.

Network administrators are able to monitor the whole network, as well as the cloud apps and data center. The encrypted SD-WAN channels empower organizations to control branch access and restrict user access to specific network resources or data. Robust user authentication policies prevent network attacks from IoT devices from other network sites.

Vendor agnostic

Another challenge that many businesses face in deploying IoT architectures is the interoperability of devices. As many devices do not necessarily speak the same programming language, they have difficulty connecting with each other. SD-WAN can solve this challenge, as well.

The vendor-agnostic nature of the technology and its ability to run on any existing communication network such as cellular, broadband, and WiFi helps organizations connect IoT devices even in faraway locations.

Cost-efficient, reliable, and better performing

Efficient bandwidth management is often an unpleasant process for companies. SD-WAN technology enables organizations to leverage all network connections to reach their full potential without worrying about managing standby backup links.

In the traditional premises of the network, the addition of any new device, say, in 50 branches may require a manual connection to, 50 routers or switches for necessary modifications to drive the new traffic. This involves not just considerable costs, but also massive human efforts. With an SD-WAN, such changes can be carried out through a central regional center, making networks more agile and resized.

While call-drops can still be pardoned, and many may not make much fuss about it, poor connectivity or lag in IoT enabled environments can create massive trouble for commercial endeavors. SD-WAN ensures that IT leaders are well-equipped with the necessary information to determine which traffic is required and what branch office for superior efficiency.

SD-WAN also enables automation and, reliable and inexpensive links across geographical sites for IoT projects.

Measure your options

By 2021, cutting-edge technologies such as 5G and IoT will further transform business operations. And technologies such as SD-WAN hold the potential to help organizations respond to changing customer patterns more effectively.

However, it is extremely important that enterprises think about their specific needs and requirements before considering SD-WAN deployments. Tech leaders should assess if they want to build their deployments on their own or if they need a managed service provider to deploy SD-WAN network architectures.

Some of the top vendors in this segment include Microsoft, Cisco, VMware, Fortinet, Huawei, Nokia, IBM, and Fujitsu. (See: AT&T and Microsoft join forces to develop secure IoT solution)

 

CIOs’ digital transformation focus accelerates recovery for IT firms

CIOs’ digital transformation focus accelerates recovery for IT firms

With the rise of telework and new ways of working for businesses, enterprise CIOs are rapidly accelerating their digital transformation investments, enabling faster recovery for global IT service companies.

More than 70% of the CIOs today, significantly focusing on accelerating their digital spending and drifting away from capital expenditure to operating expenditure, according to a recent report titled, Future of Technology Services — Navigating the New Normal, by the National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM).

While most companies are adapting to the new normal, CIOs are under relentless pressure to make their organizations competitive and improve speed to market. (See: How is digital transformation shaping the new future? and CIOs to focus on network transformation for business continuity)

The rapid transformation route toward digital transformation has heightened the adoption of cloud, artificial intelligence, automation, and analytics. The increased adoption of cloud workloads by enterprises has unfurled the need to modernize architectures with a sharp focus on even the most trivial user requirement. All this has provided an enormous opportunity for IT Services companies to address these challenges by delivering high-set engineering solutions to make the organizations productive and agile. (See: AI-driven analytics is CIOs’ mantra in the new normal)

Since most organizations have already issued a remote work order for an unpredictable future and the COVID-19 vaccine is not yet available, CIOs will continue to anchor digital transformation initiatives. (See: Tech majors extend work-from-home to keep pandemic at bay)

A huge growth opportunity

According to Nasscom, digital transformation deals have seen a 30 percent jump since the pandemic begins, cloud spending an astonishing 80 percent, and customer experience 15 percent. “With enterprises and CIOs rebalancing technology spend to prioritize digitization, major technology services players have reported better results than analyst expectations in the first and second quarter of FY2021. This is an indication that the global technology services industry may also be well on its way to early recovery,” the Nasscom study expounds.

What Nasscom observes is not surprising. Many industry observers have recently expressed optimism about the expected growth of the IT services market due to improved market sentiment in the US and Europe. In October of this year, the global rating agency Fitch forecasted upward revenue trends in the IT services industry in 2021-2022. (See: Growth of Indian IT sector set for revival in 2021)

Earlier this year, panic resulted in chaos at the onset of the pandemic. There was no way to predict how long it would take to recover. However, our discussions with CIOs and IT leaders have shown that digital technologies’ adoption is the only way companies can remain resilient and overcome disruptions. (See: Technology trends for businesses in 2020)

CIOs’ digital transformation efforts are aligned with the understanding that every aspect – from service delivery models to talent acquisition and risk management strategies – must be revisited and integrated with the new priorities of their clients.

IT Services firms are also aggressively enhancing their focus on providing smarter, practical solutions to construct agile, integrated, simplified, and more intelligent IT environments for their customers. This has also paved the way for rapid consolidation and acquisition in the digital transformation space, which is expected to continue in the near future. (See: Tech Cos take M&A route for digital transformation supremacy)

The challenge, however, for CIOs of small and medium businesses will largely remain around IT budgets. They will need to rationalize return on investment (ROI) and determine what technology is best suited to their needs.

Salesforce buys Slack to expand its cloud footprint

Salesforce buys Slack to expand its cloud footprint

Enterprise software major Salesforce announced today that it is acquiring workplace chatting app Slack in a massive $27.7 billion cash and stock deal. As part of the agreement, Slack shareholders will receive $26.79 in cash and 0.0776 shares of Salesforce common stock against each Slack share. Salesforce is buying Slack to meet the new digital transformation demands of enterprises.

For unversed, Slack is the workplace collaboration software used by organizations as an email alternative. By far, this acquisition is the largest in Salesforce’s two-decades-long history, exceeding its Tableau software purchase, which was estimated at $15.7 billion. Once the transaction is complete, Slack will become an operational unit of Salesforce and continue to be run by the CEO Stewart Butterfield, popularly known as Flickr co-founder.

As Covid-19 cases surge, businesses are re-architecting how they are working and communicating with customers, users, and employees. For organizations, collaborative tools and solutions have become essential in ensuring business continuity and providing an exceptional experience for a growing distributed workforce. That’s what sparked Salesforce’s attention for Slack. (See: How is digital transformation shaping the new future?)

For Salesforce, the most exciting aspect of the purchase is to link its Customer 360 tool with Slack Connect. Salesforce Customer 360 tool enables businesses to connect Salesforce apps and create a unified customer ID to get a complete overview of the customer.

Slack currently has over 70,000 paying customers that are using Slack Connect.

Transformative approach

Slack was first designed for internal office communication. It then became one of the most popular messaging and collaborative tools for virtual meetings, focusing on making it easy for employees to get essential information at a glance. Today, it offers easy instant messaging, rapid file sharing, and integrations with many top-notch services.

Slack’s technology engine allows developers to add the Slack API to their existing ecosystem or merge with various other tools through integration. The most significant advantage Slack boasts about today is its ability to integrate more than 2,400 diverse apps that people use to work together and connect.

With the acquisition, through its cloud-based platform, Salesforce aims to create and provide workspace apps to connect customers in a whole new way. The CRM major is hugely optimistic that the amalgamation will create the broadest open ecosystem of apps and workflows for organizations and allow millions of developers to develop the next generation of apps, using clicks instead of code.

Marc Benioff, Chief Executive Officer of Salesforce, seems to be so thrilled about the deal that he has declared the acquisition as a match made in paradise. “This is a match made in heaven. Together, Salesforce and Slack will shape enterprise software’s future and transform how everyone works in the all-digital, work-from-anywhere world. I’m thrilled to welcome Slack to the Salesforce Ohana once the transaction closes,” Benioff said in a press release.

Face to face with Microsoft

In 2021, cloud technology will continue to play a pivotal role in driving business for most organizations. The focus will be on integrating new technologies and analytics to link people and data across systems, applications, and devices. Salesforce is preparing to address these needs faced by commercial enterprises in today’s digital universe and maintain pace with its rival Microsoft. (See: Technology trends for businesses in 2020)

Slack’s buyout is an effort by Salesforce to beef-up the communication apps ecosystem. The purchase of Slack Technologies will enable Salesforce to compete head-to-head with Microsoft Teams, the industry leader in the enterprise communication space, and Cisco Webex.

Over the past few years, Microsoft Teams has achieved several new improvements and achieved substantial growth, primarily since it integrates well with the MS Office 365 subscription productivity package with the Azure Cloud. (See: Online project management tools: Top office suite analysis)

Even in the CRM software space, where Salesforce’s Sales Cloud has been leading for a long time, Microsoft is making rapid progress. Microsoft’s Dynamics platform appears like a serious threat to the supremacy of Salesforce. Businesses that are already running plenty of Microsoft tools mostly prefer the Dynamics platform because of their quick integration.

Salesforce seems to have also sensed the urgency to expand its horizons into the collaboration software space, which has become lucrative amidst the COVID-19 turmoil. The Slack buy will also help Salesforce take a quantum leap in meeting its customers’ new transformation needs.

“As software plays a more and more critical role in the performance of every organization, we share a vision of reduced complexity, increased power and flexibility, and ultimately a greater degree of alignment and organizational agility. I believe this is the most strategic combination in the history of software, and I can’t wait to get going,” says Stewart Butterfield, Slack CEO and Cofounder, in a statement.

The Slack buy came after Salesforce had put a lot of effort into creating its enterprise collaboration tool, Chatter, in 2009, and very recently, Salesforce Anywhere with limited success.

 

Ravindra Kumar, President, IIT Delhi Alumni Association

Ravindra Kumar, President, IIT Delhi Alumni Association

In Focus

Ravindra Kumar

President, IIT Delhi Alumni Association

IIT Delhi can help develop an Indian equivalent of Google or Facebook.

The global pandemic has transformed our way of working and pushed us further towards digital transformation. Digital technologies such as online streaming, collaborative tools, videos, internet of things (IoT), virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) have made access to health and public utilities easier, even during the pandemic. Despite the unprecedented and challenging times, digital technologies have enabled us to discover new ways to work, collaborate, and innovative.

Changing consumer behavior and the digital ecosystem’s growth has created many opportunities for startups and next-generation entrepreneurs to develop ideas that can help society fight the crisis, create future engagement models, and reinforce productivity.

The alumni of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi, the country’s elite engineering and tech school, are leading the country’s tech-startup space. According to Tracxn, as of October 2020, there were 830 companies, including seven unicorns, founded by the alumni of IIT Delhi. These companies have raised over the USD19.68 billion in funding from 1,050 investors. The likes of Grofers, Flipkart, and Inshorts are some of IIT Delhi alumnus’s well-known products.

One of the biggest challenges that many early-stage tech startups face is the limited mentorship programs, ideas to generate funding, and establishing industry linkage. IIT Delhi has recently taken several new initiatives to create an enriching tech-startup ecosystem in India and guide deep-tech entrepreneurs.

Jatinder Singh of Better World recently interacted with Ravindra Kumar, President of the IIT Delhi Alumni Association (IITDAA), to understand IITD’s role in fostering its entrepreneurial ecosystem.  Kumar spoke at length about IIT’s focus on deep technology, digital transformation, new initiatives from the legacy network, and building solutions to address the COVID-19 outbreak.

Excerpts of the interview: 

Better World: In the current context of crisis and uncertainty, how do you intend to take advantage of your strong heritage network’s experience and potential to foster entrepreneurship and develop future-proof solutions?

Ravindra Kumar: The alumni of IIT Delhi are well known to play a pivotal role in India’s economic growth by building new startups and creating millions of employment opportunities (direct and indirect) in the country. Fostering entrepreneurship and nurturing tech startups has always been a key priority area for IIT Delhi. Over the last five decades, we’ve been one of the most successful institutes in creating entrepreneurs.

Our mandate is to interact with our students and alumni network every week to discuss the economy’s challenges and how entrepreneurship can help address those issues. We discuss and deliberate on ideas and cutting-edge solutions that can help resolve challenges, let’s say, related to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, in an effective way.

To address the COVID-19 crisis, IITDAA has adopted a renewed vision. We are stepping up our efforts to become a world leader among alumni organizations from universities worldwide.

Amidst the unprecedented COVID-19 scenario, we’ve taken several new initiatives such as building new digital networks for our alumni, introducing a new annual event, mobile app, and virtual connects, among others. These initiatives have been taken to ensure that our students get well connected with our alumni and take inspiration and guidance frequently. We utilize technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, and cloud to get all our students and alumni together and build a global outreach.

Through our AI-based tools, we also try to find out who (former of IIT Delhi) is working where and their key areas of interest and connect all our students through alma connect channels. Various digital forums and learning sessions are regularly organized to keep future leaders (students) informed about industry needs.

Moreover, at IIT Delhi, there is an inbuilt ecosystem of intrapreneurship. From faculty and students to alumni, everyone forms a group of self-motivated and action-oriented people who are always ready to help each other. They share a very symbiotic relationship. It’s a culture that has taken a lot of time and effort, and collaboration to build. Nothing happens overnight.

Today, IIT Delhi is home to more than 50% of Indian origin Unicorn companies. That shows how strong our fundamentals are. Going ahead, a massive opportunity exists in the space of deep-technology and digital transformation. Our faculty and students regularly exchange their observations and potential ideas with industry thought leaders and alumni network. A lot is work in progress!

You will find it interesting to know that even our faculty is now actively involved in developing startups. Until last year, most faculty members focused on mentoring students. However, that will change because they will be working on building their companies. This year, we’ve launched Faculty Innovation and Research Driven Entrepreneurship (FIRE) for our faculty members. Through this initiative, faculty will receive the necessary infrastructure, paid leave, and financial support to develop innovative solutions for societal challenges. The shortlisted ideas will be given a grant worth Rs 50 lakh. We are optimistic that such steps will further spread the learning culture to students of all departments.

Better World: That’s remarkable to observe. Are you also opening doors for aspiring entrepreneurs with perhaps no IIT background but revolutionary ideas?

Ravindra Kumar: Indeed, yes. Our endeavors are not just fixed or confined to IITians. After all, we are all indebted to this country, and we understand that there is a massive repository of exceptionally talented people out there in the market. We recognize that everyone can’t study or go to a premier engineering institute despite great talents.

We have undertaken several initiatives to enhance our engagement with the startup ecosystem and provide new entrepreneurs with rapid access to our workspaces, cloud platforms, faculty, and alumni.

We offer space, funding, and mentoring opportunities for entrepreneurs, students, and faculty from different universities and countries. Our effort is to become a global startup destination and enable a path for a wave of entrepreneurship. 

Ravindra Kumar

President, IIT Delhi Alumni Association

A technocrat, Ravindra Kumar is now an entrepreneur with over three decades of industrial experience. Currently, as President of IIT Delhi Alumni Association, he is spearheading various alumni initiatives and strengthening the startup ecosystem at the country’s premier institute.

Ravindra is an eloquent speaker and is regularly invited to various seminars and events covering TPS, legal metrology, law and technology, and alumni issues.

Ravindra has previously worked with Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) and the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC), Department of Income, Ministry of Finance, Government of India. He also runs Global Tax Guru, a customs and GST tax advisory firm; and Global Supply Chain Guru, an export and import logistics company.

Expertise

  • Indirect tax consultant: Customs, service tax, excise, goods, and service tax (GST)
  • Global supply chain & logistics
  • E-customs
  • CAD as a teaching tool for engineering students, CAD as a language, and design skills through case studies.

Education

  • Bachelor’s in Law (LLB), CCS University, Meerut, 2015
  • Executive MBA (Logistics and Supply Chain Management), Loyola Institute of Business Administration, Chennai, 2007
  • B.Tech, Civil Engineering, IIT Delhi, 1987

Besides the incubation facilities in Delhi, our extended campuses in Haryana (Sonepat and Jajhar) are also aligned with our mission to nurture startups and create new entrepreneurial opportunities.

Better World: You also mentioned technology innovations to manage the COVID-19 crisis. Please share a few of the latest ground-breaking solutions launched with the internal support of IIT Delhi.

Ravindra Kumar: To contain the spread of the pandemic, E-TEX and Clensta, two startups incubated at IIT Delhi, have recently unveiled anti-viral t-shirts and COVID-19 protective lotions at affordable prices. The products have been supported by IIT Delhi’s Chemistry and Textiles department. Antiviral t-shirts and creams reduce the rate of contamination and transmission by destroying micro-organisms upon contact. The cellulosic fiber-based t-shirt’s antimicrobial property is so robust that it remains effective up to 30 washes. These are breakthrough advancements and first of their kind. IIT Delhi had earlier also facilitated these startups to develop N95 masks at a price of less than a dollar.

IIT Delhi teachers also bought the products during their launch, and they even gave the kits to their loved ones. So, we intend to promote new-age startups and try to support them with their business models as well. This is entirely consistent with the Indian government’s effort for Atmanirbhar Bharat.

Better World: While India has produced many startups recently, its startup ecosystem still hasn’t offered anything to take on a Google or a Facebook? Should we expect IIT Delhi to play the role of captaining such a fight?

Ravindra Kumar: Well (laughs), that’s an interesting question. The country’s startup ecosystem is undoubtedly growing, and at IIT Delhi, we act as enablers. Our Chairman has issued a mandate that we should develop an ecosystem for entrepreneurship, especially to develop internet startups like Google, where entry barriers are challenging. (See: Paytm Mini App Store: A threat to Google’s dominance?)

Having a breakthrough product like Google from India is possible shortly, and at IIT Delhi, we are geared up to facilitate the necessary support and mentorship. However, we must understand that a great deal of research and development is needed to achieve that.

Better World: Do you face any challenges in supporting young ideas or expanding the IIT Delhi’s entrepreneurial culture?

Ravindra Kumar: Ideas are the bread and butter of entrepreneurs. Like I said, whatever are the challenges at IIT Delhi, we find a way out through idea generation. That’s how our DNA was formed. Our students and teachers will never complain about the challenges in India. They are always supportive and hope to be the agents of change. Whether they stay in India or overseas, you won’t find them using Indian systems as an excuse. India is home to untapped talent. In addition to their areas of study, students also learn to be humble at IITD. They learn to stay calm, and once you get there, you stop criticizing the system. One sees what the system has contributed and we all feel very grateful to this country.

Although we are a developing country, this country has provided one of the world’s best educational platforms. If you look at value for money, it’s one of the lowest globally, with world-class education. On behalf of IIT Delhi, I firmly believe that this is our duty and that we must all give back to our society in the best possible way.

How COVID-19 has changed cybersecurity focus for 2021

How COVID-19 has changed cybersecurity focus for 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic – and the unprecedented lockdowns that followed soon after – dramatically changed the way of working for all enterprises. Before COVID-19, many enterprises were halfhearted to adopt the work-from-home concept, even on a trial basis. However, due to the pandemic, they quickly modernized their processes and fortified cybersecurity focus to deliver an effective remote-work environment.

While 2020 has been a year of adjustment to the crisis, 2021 will be a year of more robust digital transformation initiatives to expand the remote workforce capabilities and strengthen corporate resilience. This unparalleled workplace transition also requires businesses to build newer strategies to protect employees’ networks by augmenting their cybersecurity architectures.

In a recent report titled McAfee Threats Report: November 2020, Cybersecurity firm McAffe observed the rise of an average of 419 new threats per minute in the second quarter of 2020, with an astounding 11.5 percent growth of new malware samples.

cybersecurity focus

A tough year from a cybersecurity focus standpoint

During 2020, cybercriminals adopted a range of diverse tactics to target network vulnerabilities and found new opportunities to launch attacks. Companies have witnessed a massive rise in targeted ransomware attacks, large-scale DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks, and malware spread throughout the year.

From the Twitter Bitcoin hack to the temporary halting of the New Zealand stock exchange (NZX), the year impacted diverse industries in a colossal way. In March 2020, hospitality major Marriott International stunned everyone by acknowledging a major hacking incident on its information networks, revealing 5.2 million guests’ data.

The year saw many cybercrime campaigns being launched with pandemic themes of Covid-19 in a bid to exploit the rising remote workforce. Phishing and malware-driven intrusion has drifted away from the organizational network to end-user devices in the distributed workspace environment. Even with the best of breed tools and resources, many big companies could not predict cybersecurity attacks’ patterns.

Another growing concern is the emergence of deepfakes, where sophisticated technologies such as artificial intelligence are exploited to manipulate audio-visual content, such as cloning the voices of influential people to commit financial crimes. A notable example that made headlines during 2020 was Belgium’s deepfake video release showing Belgium’s prime minister speaking of a pressing need to handle the economic and climate crises. The speech was considered real by many viewers.

Many industry observers have warned that fraudsters could leverage such technologies in the future to bypass voice-recognition systems and access critical data.

New strategies for dealing with emerging threats

Most IT security and data management specialists have been showing concerns around the rising sophistication of attacks and the complex cybersecurity landscape. There is no crystal ball to accurately forecast the IT Security landscape. However, the year 2021 will see enterprises making substantial efforts to deploy real-time solutions that can immediately detect and halt anomalies and suspicious behaviors. (See: Top enterprise cybersecurity trends of 2020).

According to Sophos, a global cybersecurity solutions provider, by 2021 industry could witness more sophisticated cybersecurity attacks, targeting larger organizations with multimillion-dollar ransom demands.

Cybersecurity Ventures, another global security solutions firm, projects that Ransomware attacks will continue to accelerate. And businesses in 2021 will suffer one ransomware attack every 11 seconds. It also predicts that the cost of ransomware to businesses will reach $20 billion and that global damages from cybercrime will reach $6 trillion in 2021.

This emerging threat landscape will push organizations to focus on disruptive technologies and solutions to get real-time security assessments across various endpoints, irrespective of employees’ location or network (See: Combating cyber threats in the new normal).

In the year 2021, a considerable cybersecurity focus will be on reviewing the IT security areas that are too expensive to implement. While risk parameters and the likelihood of data breaches are steadily increasing, organizations would also need to keep financial viability in mind and focus on solutions that could give them a better return on investment.

With the expansion of IoT connected devices shortly, networks will be more vulnerable to large-scale multi-vector cyberattacks. In the second half of 2021, organizations’ cybersecurity focus is likely to revolve around fast-tracking their deployment efforts around advanced solutions to protect their networks and clouds and enhance security controls.

Going ahead, CISOs are expected to focus on technologies that could drive the adoption of secure cloud solutions, align technologies closely with business objectives that can foster innovation and growth (See: Here’s how the new Cyber Security Policy could reshape CISO roles).

There will be a continuous focus on remote monitoring capabilities, automation, and zero-trust models for robust user access patterns (See: CIOs to focus on network transformation for business continuity).

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