Vodafone Idea’s universal cloud

Vodafone Idea’s universal cloud earns it Red Hat award

by | May 25, 2020 | Technology, Telecom

The telco’s universal cloud deployment over an 18-month long period has helped it handle vagaries of data traffic like a breeze.
Share to lead the transformation

An old proverb is that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. In the challenging times of Covid-19, it applies well to the telecom sector at large and Vodafone Idea Limited (VIL) in particular. The latest feather in VIL’s cap happens to be the ‘Innovator of the Year’ title. It’s a well-earned accolade that has its roots in Vodafone Idea’s universal cloud deployment announced on 21 October 2019 in a Red Hat release. (The actual work is understood to have started much earlier.)

Vodafone Idea Limited claimed the top honors at the Red Hat Summit 2020, for orchestrating the vision of a single, universal cloud into reality. The telco now owns the largest cloud deployment of its kind in India, linking its IT, network, and third-party applications using open source infrastructure.

The initiative

This cloud initiative, which VIL had kickstarted around 18 months ago, had started bearing fruits even before the pandemic had hit the scene. It had helped VIL transform its network infrastructure by a great measure and made it highly scalable and agile. The pandemic merely tested its limits.

When it did, VIL’s network seems to have responded quite impressively. Not only was it able to accommodate a multifold rise in traffic but also managed to handle the overnight shift in demographic patterns.

It is a known fact that after the pandemic-induced lockdowns, a majority of enterprises rushed to enable their employees to work from home. This amounted to near-zero traffic demand originating from the business clusters while a massive surge in demand happened from residential areas.

Moreover, as communication and entertainment became the lifeline for netizens during lockdowns, VIL’s network experienced a year’s worth of traffic growth within a week of lockdown. With the cloudifaction carried out over the past several months, the telco was able to scale up elegantly enough.

Not surprisingly, the company’s stock rose 86% between 1 April and 20 May, from Rs 3.04 to Rs 5.65 a share. On the day of writing this analysis, the stock traded had last traded at Rs 5.53 a share on the BSE.

The build-up

Vishant Vora

Vishant Vora: Driving cloud transformation

Vodafone Idea says it took on the challenge of transforming its network to make it future ready and building a ‘Universal Network Cloud’ that is workload agnostic from core to edge. The cloud enables Vodafone Idea to better serve its more than 300 million subscribers by simplifying and transforming its IT and telecom network operations. The new platform is deployed across many distributed Vodafone Idea cloud microsites across India, as well as its central IT operations.

Vodafone Idea’s universal cloud initiative was to rapidly transform the 100-plus data centers of the erstwhile Vodafone and Idea entities, through a shared software platform. The Red Hat OpenStack Platform was used to design efficient ‘pods,’ which could be geographically distributed and taken closer to the end- users, helping to reduce latency and enable an optimal user experience.

Better World sees these ‘pods’ as akin to microservices that leverage containerization techniques and could be orchestrated using the open-source Kubernetes container-management system.

Recognition a shot in the arm?

Vodafone Idea considers the Red Hat award to be a recognition of its early adoption of emerging technologies for enterprise and retail customers. The cloud deployment has helped the telco in reducing latency in carrying multiple workloads and optimizing costs.

VIL is now also gung-ho about its future potential, especially with regard to next-generation services like internet of things (IoT) and blockchain.

Vishant Vora, Chief Technology Officer, Vodafone Idea said, “A distributed universal cloud centrally orchestrated is an ambitious project for us, representing a vision for the telco future where “pods” could be geographically distributed across the country. Our vision is to build a universal cloud that will not only carry the traditional telco workloads but also carry IT and enterprise offerings for our customers. This will also position VIL very well for the nextGen services like IoT, Blockchain etc. These capabilities need to be accommodated with a versatile and scalable platform offering flexibility and control as an organization. We are extremely proud of receiving this prestigious award.”

Chris Wright, senior vice president and chief technology officer, Red Hat, noted, “We want to extend congratulations to Vodafone Idea Limited for receiving the 2020 Red Hat Innovator of the Year award. Vodafone Idea’s journey in building a Universal Cloud, hosting both Network and IT workloads, based on open standards, is truly impressive. By adopting Red Hat OpenStack Platform, Vodafone Idea Limited and its customers can more quickly adapt to changing market conditions. We are proud to be working with Vodafone Idea Limited on this shared vision and we look forward to continuing our work with them as they look to build out additional offerings on this flexible platform.”

As part of Red Hat Innovation Awards each year, a panel of industry expert judges select the top five winning projects from a pool of global nominations. These five projects are selected based on the set of criteria for outstanding and innovative usage of Red Hat solutions. From the five winners, the Red Hat Innovator of the Year is selected by the community through online voting.

MORE FROM BETTER WORLD

Here’s how the new Cyber Security Policy could reshape CISO roles

Here’s how the new Cyber Security Policy could reshape CISO roles

Gone are the days when cyber security was considered a poor cousin of IT. It has gained a strategic national importance today. The fact that India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke about it in his Independence Day speech is a testimony to that. In his statement, PM Modi said that the country would soon introduce a new Cyber Security Policy.

Indeed, it’s been seven long years when the first Cyber Security policy was brought into effect in 2013. The cyber security and IT security landscapes have phenomenally changed in these past years. In the last few years, India has made rapid strides in the digital technologies, and as such, cyber security has become an essential part of national security.

From a technology perspective, internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) are on the verge of seeing a burst in adoption in the coming years. Once 5G spectrum auctions happen and the services get rolled out, there is bound to be a flooding of IoT and AI applications.

Strategic shift from MeitY to NSC

Notably, National Cyber Security Strategy 2020 was being prepared by a task force set up under the aegis of the National Security Council (NSC) Secretariat. NSC is a high-powered government agency that was first brought into existence during the tenure of late Atal Behari Vajpayee, and has evolved significantly in its role under the leadership of PM Modi. Ajit Doval is currently the National Security Advisor.

On the other hand, the National Cyber Security Policy of 2013 was prepared by the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY), Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MeitY).

The shift from MeitY to NSC has clearly been prompted in the wake of a steep rise in state-sponsored cross-border cyber attacks from India’s adversaries. Concerns have been raised regarding the growing potential of attacks on government agencies as well as business establishments. A recent attack on e-mail servers of National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is a case in point.

National security linkages

With Lt. General Rajesh Pant taking over as the Cyber Security Chief in 2019 from Dr. Gulshan Rai, the role of NSC in steering cybersecurity frameworks became all the more pronounced. While Dr. Rai had transitioned from DeitY, Lt. Col. Pant is a veteran specializing in defense IT and telecom matters.

In future, Better World expects the new Cyber Security Policy to define a framework where enterprise information security goals could have deeper linkages with the overarching theme of national security.

This could drive some fundamental shifts in the enterprise infosec landscape and also require CIOs and CISOs to have some working understanding of cyber laws, which are expected to undergo some modifications to align with the new Cyber Security Policy.

For example, it would be important for CISOs to better comprehend the policy constructs. This way, they could meaningfully provision that information security policies at their respective organizations have well-defined linkages with the broader national security frameworks.

The opportunity for CISOs to broaden their horizons and up the value chain could be around soon. Keep watching!

New Dropbox features could make pro remote workers more sticky

New Dropbox features could make pro remote workers more sticky

Dropbox has launched a host of new features for its premium subscribers, a move aimed at facilitating better real-time collaborative work experience amidst the new work-from-home normal. The cloud storage provider has introduced three new Dropbox features: a password manager, a secure vault, and an automatic storage feature for its Dropbox Professional and Plus users. In June this year, Dropbox had made these features available to beta users.

According to Dropbox, the password manager will help its users save their different credentials in one safe place and autofill them so that users can instantly sign into various websites and apps. The new password manager works on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android OS.

This service, though not exclusive, will help Dropbox users put strong and unique passwords for different web-apps without any hurdle of remembering them.  There is already a flurry of free password managers such as Lastpass, Myki, KeePass, Dashlane, among others, in the digital marketplace today. Dropbox mentions that the feature will allow users to sync their passwords automatically from the desktop to mobile devices and vice versa.

The new Vault feature provides an extra layer of security for relevant documents to Dropbox users. According to the company, users can store files such as insurance cards, passports, and housing documents in the Vault and provide access to their trusted friends and family members in case of an emergency. Currently, the service is available to Dropbox Plus users only.

The last feature that the company has introduced is the computer backup feature. The feature eliminates the need for manual backup and automatically syncs folders on the PC directly with Dropbox. This service is available to all Dropbox users.

Eying new opportunities

With over 600 million registered users and around 15 million paid customers across 180 countries, Dropbox is undoubtedly one of the most significant players in the cloud storage segment. The San-Francisco headquartered company is competing closely with the likes of Google Drive, Microsoft’s OneDrive for Business, Box, Zoho Docs, ShareFile, and Apple’s iCloud in the market. Besides these, the industry is also witnessing the entry of several newbies who are chipping away the market share.

Dropbox’s new feature announcement is in line with the company’s strategy to increase its user base and become profitable by the end of 2020. During the last couple of years, Dropbox has taken aggressively steps to bolster its proposition in the digital collaboration space. In September last year, the company launched Dropbox Spaces, a machine intelligence-enabled smart feature that lets teams reorganize and bring all their documents together in one place so that multiple users can access everything from one central location. Besides, Spaces also enables Dropbox users to scan and find their records immediately by inserting keywords.

Earlier, Dropbox’s strategic partnership with Zoom Video in 2018 was aimed at helping its users to seamlessly communicate and discuss content in real time.

Dropbox ended the second quarter fiscal 2020 on June 30, with US $1.931 billion in revenue and over 15 million paying users. According to Dropbox, it witnessed a revenue increase of $67.3 million quarter-on-quarter and 17% year-on-year. During the last one year, the company has also been able to increase its average revenue per paying user from $120.48 to $126.88. 

Tough competition ahead

The cloud storage market is gaining enormous traction today. Given the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the remote work environment has become a new reality. As such, the traditional way of storing data is becoming obsolete, and cloud storage companies are exploring new opportunities to benefit from the work-from-home trend.

Enterprises and professionals are rapidly moving towards collaborative workspaces and prefer storing data in a way that can be accessed and shared anytime with anywhere digitally. As such, players like Dropbox, who have strong fundamentals, will continue to gain market share. However, even with the growing opportunity, the market is expected to see significant consolidation in future. Tech giants like Microsoft and Google are speedily enhancing their digital portfolios with an eagle’s eye on cross-selling opportunities. As such, industry observers expect the document cloud storage market to consolidate into four to five major players in the next 12 months. It will be exciting to see if players like Dropbox can maintain the momentum with new pathways for growth or decide otherwise.

LinkedIn forgoes SlideShare to focus on more premium services

LinkedIn forgoes SlideShare to focus on more premium services

In a significant development, SlideShare, LinkedIn’s presentation-sharing service platform, has been acquired by Scribd, a digital library giant, for an undisclosed amount. As LinkedIn forgoes SlideShare, it also undoes the acquisition done eight years ago. The deal with Scribd is likely to be completed by September this year.

SlideShare has been part of LinkedIn since May 2012 and has helped LinkedIn users increase knowledge and share best practices in areas such as marketing, sales, and digital transformation, among others.

“On September 24, Scribd will begin operating the SlideShare business, its 100 million users, along with its presentation upload and hosting tools, and tremendous archive of presentations and documents,” said LinkedIn in an official statement.

Launched in October 2006, SlideShare has been considered as the YouTube of slideshows by the tech industry. LinkedIn acquired the SlideShare platform in 2012 for $119 million. At that time, LinkedIn said that the acquisition would enable it to deliver more value to its users who can share their experiences and knowledge in the form of various documents, videos, and presentations. Later, Microsoft acquired LinkedIn in 2016 as part of a wider UC&C strategy.

Through its blog post, LinkedIn has informed that existing SlideShare users can continue to access their account with the current login information. Post transition, Scribd will manage the existing SlideShare accounts as per their terms and conditions.

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A good fit in Scribd’s portfolio?

Scribd has been on an expansion spree for the last few years. The company was launched in 2007 with a sole focus on document-sharing service and then added an e-book subscription service in 2013. Over the years, it started sharing almost everything under the skin on its digital platform.

By acquiring SlideShare, Scribd will be able to further diversify its offerings to users. The company currently has over 100 million digital assets, including audiobooks, music, e-magazines, podcasts, and e-books, hosted on its platform. Now, with SlideShare purchase, it will further expand its portfolio in professional content and presentation space as well.

Last year, the company had raised $58 million from growth firm Spectrum Equity for its expansion and growth plans.

“Our acquisition of SlideShare is a major step towards creating the world’s largest digital library,” said Trip Adler, co-founder and CEO of Scribd. He further elucidated that the acquisition will enable Scribd to continue to diversify offering while driving even more readers to the books, audiobooks, magazines, and other professionally published works in its digital library.

LinkedIn does away with a misfit?

As LinkedIn forgoes SlideShare, the move seems to be in line with its future strategy of focusing on its premium services for the next level of growth. For the first few years, the professional networking site wanted to build a repository of contacts senior executives, enabling real-world professional relationships. At that time, it offered almost everything for free without concentrating on revenues. However, with over 700 million registered members in 150 countries, it is now majorly focusing on premium services with a monthly subscription model. Some of the key services it has been offering under its premium plans include In Mails, premium insights, online training, among others.

SlideShare, for all the reasons, has not been aligning well with LinkedIn’s long-term plans. First, it was a free service where everyone could share and distribute professional content, which may or may not have been attributed to genuine authors.

Second, through its verified training courses and downloadable resources, it can strategically focus on building exclusive content repositories for its premium users. In future, virtual platforms will likely become more mainstream mediums to learn, collaborate, and share.

Embee launches VirtuaPlace for SMBs in India

Embee launches VirtuaPlace for SMBs in India

Embee Software Pvt. Ltd. has announced the launch of VirtuaPlace business continuity solution aimed at small and medium businesses (SMBs) in India. The solution is aimed at facilitating SMBs in cloud adoption. VirtuaPlace for SMBs runs on Microsoft Azure and brings together offerings across Azure, Microsoft 365, Octane HRMS, SAP Business One, and Windows Virtual Desktop.

The launch comes amidst a growing assumption that remote work scenario is here to stay even beyond the pandemic situation, and seamless teamwork, collaboration, data security and more at controlled prices is going to be a need for the SMBs.

Embee has been a partner of Microsoft India for more than 30 years and has empowered 2500+ organizations of all sizes with customized digital solutions in the IT services market. It also has one of the largest cloud consumption and adoption of portfolios in India, with more than 2 million entitlements in Microsoft 365 and 70% growth in Microsoft 365 business in FY2019.

Sudhir Kothari

Sudhir Kothari, MD & CEO, Embee

“This COVID-19 adversity can inspire organizations to rethink their digital strategy and adopt the offerings to transform their businesses. VirtuaPlace is designed to empower small-medium businesses and enterprises with business continuity, robust security, and productivity while scaling their operations at reasonable costs. Businesses can choose from a variety of solutions and services, curated to their needs, at an attractive monthly subscription. Embee is eager to be the partner in growth for organizations in the digital age,” Sudhir Kothari, MD & CEO Embee Software Pvt. Ltd, noted.

With VirtuaPlace, Embee is focusing not just on smooth onboarding but also on ensuring customer adoption of the new technologies on a foundation of successful digital transformation. To its credit, Embee has onboarded more than 200 schools to utilize Microsoft Teams as a remote learning tool during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Krishna Sai

Krishna Sai, CTO, Embee

“With the solution, schools have found themselves equipped with a digital platform to ensure continuity in learning. The swift implementation, taking as little as 3-days per school, establishes Embee’s credentials to empower organizations digitally. We are looking to replicate this success with VirtuaPlace across the country,” Krishna Sai, CTO, Embee Software Pvt. Ltd, said.

Venkat Krishnan, Executive Director, Commercial Partners, Microsoft India said, “Small and medium businesses form the economic backbone of our country. Bringing together the power of the Microsoft cloud and other offerings in a secure and scalable environment, VirtuaPlace by Embee can helps SMBs transform digitally and be future-ready in a world of remote everything.”

Apart from creating a virtual place for business to overcome remote working challenges, Embee offers a secure environment and advanced threat protection to its partners so that they can adapt to remote work environments, more smoothly.

Combating cyber threats in the new normal

Combating cyber threats in the new normal

The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the information security priorities of enterprises drastically. With remote working becomes a new normal, IT and cybersecurity risks have grown manifold. The go-to-market needs of users have also transformed, and meeting client expectations in real time have become a challenge in the new environment. Combating cyber threats now needs a multi-pronged approach.

Despite stressed technology budgets, there has been a massive surge of optimism in the cloud and managed services solutions market due to organizations’ innate need to drive agility and scale. Businesses are continually looking at new-age solutions that could help their workforce deliver exceptional results even in the work-from-home environment.

Since millions of people are working remotely, there has been a deluge of new cyber and IT security threats that organizations are witnessing. According to a recent cyber threat report by SonicWall, a leading cyber security player, ransomware continues to be the most concerning threat to corporations and the preferred tool for cybercriminals, increasing a staggering 20% (121.4 million) globally in the first half of 2020. Moreover, 7% of phishing attacks capitalized on Covid-19 pandemic while there was 50% rise of IoT malware attacks. The report said it analyzed threat intelligence data gathered from 1.1 million sensors in over 215 countries and territories.

According to the Covid-19 Threats Report by McAfee Labs, the first quarter of 2020 saw significant increases in several threat categories. During this time, cybercriminals seem to have exploited the vulnerabilities caused by the pandemic and tried to make a substantial impact on the networks. The report states that the new mobile malware increased by 71%, primarily due to trozons, and total mobile malware grew by about 12% over the previous four quarters. Interestingly, new IoT malware saw a 50% increase.

This emerging threat landscape has compelled organizations to aggressively focus on disruptive technologies and solutions that could enable them to innovate confidently and provide consistent value to their clients without breaching trust.

Let’s look at how organizations can enhance their security architectures during these unprecedented times and reduce IT security risks.

Focus on threat lifecycle management

A continuous focus on the entire threat lifecycle management (TLM) provides much-needed assurance for tackling any unforeseen scenarios. Organizations need to evaluate the information assets that they need to protect continually, and then take advanced measures for detecting and mitigating cyber threats.

The depth and quality of threat intelligence softwares can help enterprises achieve the much-needed IT security resilency, even for employees who are on their home networks. Some of the major companies that are providing robust threat intelligence management solutions in the market are: IBM, Dell, Trend Micro, Symantec, Check Point, F-Secure, McAfee, and Juniper.

Upgraded tools and methodologies

As cloud deployments become more and more intricate, organizations should ensure to assimilate multiple ways of inventory classification and include them in overall asset management strategy. In the multi-cloud environment where organizations want the best of public and on-premise worlds, the list of cloud applications can change very quickly. Hence, enterprises should have the necessary tools and methodologies to know:

  • List of cloud inventory on their network
  • Why they exist
  • Are they still important?

Incident response automation

By employing security automation in cloud environments, organizations can control the damage at the right time. Automated incident response tools enhance the detection capabilities of vulnerabilities and threats. It accelerates the response time in the event of a security alarm and free up the time of security teams to focus on high-impact alerts. Some of the leading players in this segment are: FireEye, IBM, AT&T, Symantec, Verizon, and DXC Technology.

Browser isolation technology

Enterprises have been using sandboxing, a software management technique to isolate various enterprise applications from critical resources, as part of their efforts to strengthen security against new-age threats. However, in the current environment, information security practitioners consider web browsers as a chief target for cyber attacks and recommend to implement isolation technologies to physically isolate an employee’s web browser and related activities from the local machine and the network.

This model enables enterprises to track and identify the routine infiltration points on their networks and take remedial measures immediately.  Major vendors operating in this segment include Symantec, Cyberinc, and Web Gap.

There are also other tools available through which organizations can quickly isolate affected systems and analyze the breach methodology to prevent such instances in future.

Wipro hardens its LIVE Workspace suite with Intel vPro

Wipro hardens its LIVE Workspace suite with Intel vPro

Wipro Limited, a leading global information technology, consulting and business process services company, today announced that it will join forces with Intel to enable Wipro’s LIVE Workspace, Wipro’s digital workspace solution with the Intel vPro platform. This joint collaboration will help customers drive business continuity by enabling remote IT support and solutions, as they seek to keep employees productive amid social distancing boundaries and other remote-work limitations that have become the new normal.

Wipro integrated the Intel vPro platform into LIVE Workspace, a suite of digital workplace services to provide remote manageability of devices. This extends to users at home or in the office and provides enhanced protection and security against firmware-level attacks. The combined solution provides practical business continuity services to enable enterprises to rapidly design, deploy, and manage a true remote work experience. Intel recently introduced its 10th generation Intel Core vPro processors that are built for business to power next generation business computing needs. Wipro will leverage the Intel vPro platform which features Intel Active Management Technology (Intel AMT) and Intel Endpoint Management Assistant (Intel EMA). This will enable remote work and drive seamless productivity and collaboration while giving employees the flexibility to work from anywhere in a safe, more secure and reliable manner.

Satish Yadavalli, Vice President, Cloud and Infrastructure Services, Wipro Limited said, “The collaboration is a testament of our strength and our joint resolve to enhance the value we can create for our customers. We intend to bring together our strong complementary capabilities on remote working tools & platforms, desktop & application integration and managed services, to help mitigate the impact of the pandemic. Wipro is a leader in workplace management services and Intel in client computing solutions. Together, we can equip enterprises to enhance employee experiences and connectivity to help achieve strategic business outcomes.”

“Our partnership with Wipro has been strong and we applaud Wipro’s laser focus on driving customer value. The Intel vPro platform is built for business, and Wipro’s digital workspace solution is perfect for customers adapting to the new normal of remote workplace management. Together we are delivering on a vision for seamless productivity and collaboration, so people can contribute at the highest level regardless of where they are,” said Stephanie Hallford, Intel Vice President of the Client Computing Group and General Manager of Business Client Platforms.

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