Technology Trends Revamping Business Operations

Excerpts from an interaction with B S Nagarajan, Senior Director & Chief Technologist, VMware India

B S Nagarajan is responsible for delivering VMware strategic roadmap, including insight on future projects and direction to customers. In an exclusive interview with Sudhakar Singh, Editor, CIOReviewIndia, he explains how businesses can use technology to continue running their operations in an efficient and secure way. 

Technology Trends Revamping Business Operations

Sudhakar Singh: Which technologies are salvaging enterprises during the pandemic? How are they helping businesses sustain and grow?

B S Nagarajan: The first and foremost technology that is helping customers is remote working. Whether you are in government or private sector, working from home has become almost inevitable for the last three months and it is expected to remain the same way for quite some time. In fact, even when COVID-19 pandemic recedes, we should find ways and means of embracing work from home because it will help cut down real estate costs and will enable lesser traffic on the roads, thus reducing pollution and so on and so forth. So, what are the technologies that customers use to work from home? One of the technologies they use is VPN (Virtual Private Network). VPN has been there for a long time, but may not always be the best solution as there are some shortcomings of a VPN, which is where the concept of VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) comes in. VDI has conventionally been used by organizations only for some specific use cases. But now that everybody has to work from home, they have no choice but to log in from their home devices to a virtual desktop which is in their organization premises. From the virtual desktop, they get access to various corporate applications and the reason why they do it is because they can rest assured of security. This is something that has seen a huge adoption in the last three to four months.  

The second technology that is being increasingly adopted is the cloud. In the initial phases of the lockdown, people could not access their data centers physically and anything that was there on premises became a huge concern. Traditionally, customers have been a little skeptical about public cloud or a hybrid cloud. But now, because of the pandemic, public clouds are not being questioned, and hybrid clouds are also getting very popular. So, that's the second technology which is getting adopted rapidly because of the pandemic.

The third one, which is probably the most crucial one, is security. There has been a significant increase in the number of security breaches worldwide. Although security has always been an important factor, it has become all the more pivotal because customers have not been able to devote much attention to imminent threats and hackers are taking advantage of that. Hence, security is something which a lot of customers are talking about today. VMware is doing phenomenal things when it comes to security. We are not trying to reinvent the wheel. We are not doing what other players are doing in the industry today. There are plenty of traditional security solutions available in the market today. We partner with many of them to deliver our solutions, but the entire approach we take to security is very unique and unconventional as compared to the rest of the vendors. We call it Intrinsic Security, and what it means is that security is not something that you can sell as a product, but security has to be built into every product that you sell.

Sudhakar Singh: More and more organizations today are planning to move their entire server virtualization environment to the cloud. How will it transform their virtualization strategy and what impact will it have on their business?  

B S Nagarajan: Public clouds are meant to run all kinds of applications. You can run old legacy applications; you can also run modern applications. However, some applications may run but you won't get any benefit out of them. To get the real benefits from a public cloud, your application should be modernized. Instead of an application being written in a very old proprietary language, if it is written in modern programming frameworks and language, it will be lightweight and hugely scalable to billions of users.

So, the biggest challenge is application modernization. The second one is that the tools used in a virtualized environment on-prem are generally different from the tools that are used in a public cloud. This disparity is a challenge that customers face. The third challenge pertains to the skill sets. AWS works differently; Azure works differently; Google works differently in your on-prem virtualized environment. The technical teams have to unlearn and relearn and that's the third challenge. The fourth one is security. It is not that the public clouds are insecure. Of course they are secure, but the way security is ascertained when you are in a virtualized environment on-prem is different from the way it is managed in the public cloud. This is because primarily you don't have a choice in the public cloud on which tool to use.

Last but not least, one of the biggest fears for them is how to come back, because most of the cloud migrations are one way. For whatever reason, if there is a problem, how does one come back to the on-prem virtual environment? These are some of the challenges that customers face. That's the reason why we came up with the hybrid cloud. So, in our hybrid cloud solution which is called VMware Cloud, all these challenges are addressed and there is no fear of not being able to come back. Our solution allows customers to do migration in both directions.  

Sudhakar Singh: Containerization is another trend that is emerging. How do you see its evolution with regard to virtualization?

B S Nagarajan: Containers are getting popular because they are lightweight and portable. But having said that, not everything will run on containers. That is a misconception. A lot of people think that the world is moving towards containers, which is not correct. Definitely, containers have a huge advantage, but there are a number of problems as well with containers, and the industry is addressing that. VMware is also a very significant contributor to this whole container project, which is an open source project. There is an organization called Cloud Native Computing Foundation which is a Linux Foundation project founded in 2015 to help advance container technology. The Kubernetes project comes under CNCF and VMware is actually the second largest contributor to the Kubernetes project today in the world. A lot of people don't know this. We contribute significantly to the open source community.

We do support containers and customers can run containers on a VMware platform. All these days, customers either had to use Kubernetes to manage containers or run applications on VMs using our vCenter software to manage that. Recently in March, we came up with a new release of vSphere 7, which allows customers to combine both containers and virtual machines. So, Kubernetes today is embedded inside our vSphere hypervisor. As a result of which customers can use both virtual machines and containers, side by side, using a single tool.  

In short, containers are definitely the way forward. They have a number of advantages and we have many offerings to enable building of applications using containers. We let customers manage containers, wherever they are. But the bigger problem for them is using containers from different people. We addressed that problem by allowing customers to manage their containers and Kubernetes environments, wherever they are. We allow them to manage their environments using our software.

Sudhakar Singh: In many cases, organizations struggle to plan, configure and deploy their virtual environment, which impacts their performance. What role is VMware playing in this context through its partner ecosystem?

B S Nagarajan: We have an extensive partner programme. We equip our partners with the required expertise and capability in advanced technologies by training them from time to time. We also partner with them in delivering large and complex projects. One of the good things for us is that we don't do any direct business with customers in India. 100 percent of our business is done through partners. So, every customer with whom we work, whether the technology is simple or complex, there is always a partner involved. There is a lot of funding for partners when we work together, especially on the larger projects, but we also have a very systematic educational programme, wherein we keep training continually. We conduct a lot of enablement programmes through which we train them on some of the newer emerging technologies and challenges. So, we have a robust partner ecosystem. 

Read more about B S Nagarajan's views on how to drive success in a hybrid cloud journey.