Raghu Raghuram is the chief operating officer for products and cloud services at VMware Inc. A technology veteran, he also co-leads the company’s software-defined data centre division and previously worked with AOL, Bang Networks and Netscape. He will be speaking at EmTech India 2018—an emerging technology conference organized by Mint and MIT Technology Review—on 9 March in Gurgaon.
In an interview, he talks about the challenges companies face in making their operations more agile and the role of big data, analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) in a multi-cloud world. Edited excerpts:
How have the twin trends of cloud computing and mobility made companies more agile?
Cloud has changed the way applications are developed, deployed, and used. As a result, these distributed applications can be accessed from any device at any location. This framework has enabled organizations to automate the development and delivery process to pivot more quickly to market trends, deliver services faster than before, and deliver enhanced services to employees and customers.
What are the key challenges you see in realizing the vision of “any cloud, any app, any device"?
It goes back to the problem of silos and perimeters. Siloed application stacks, disparate management solutions, static perimeter-based security, and inconsistent networking and security have proven to be challenges in realizing this vision. Application and workload portability is key and being able to support the consistent infrastructure with consistent software-based networking/security and managing it all with consistent operations are all huge first steps. By abstracting from physical hardware and focusing on software-defined compute, storage, networking and security on the application, it opens up the ability to support consistent services for the application on any device in any location.
Are there still many CXOs out there who shun cloud because of security issues?
I don’t think the idea of security has gone away but there is a notion of the cloud as being secure enough to enable continued and initial adoption. The advantage cloud has is that security is built-in as part of the cloud fabric—it is a native capability with native orchestration and automation built-in versus brown-field, bolt-on, and fractured. This creates a concept of security being simple in the cloud.
Many analysts believe the hybrid cloud is way ahead of businesses. Yet we see the private cloud gaining credence among companies too. Your thoughts on the same?
Organizations are increasingly using more than one cloud. This often begins as they evaluate the full breadth of their applications and decide which make the most sense to maintain on-premises, which they will migrate to the cloud, and which new applications they will develop natively for the cloud. It is a mistake, however, to think that cloud-native applications should be kept in a separate environment and operations framework from the rest of your information technology (IT) landscape. Integration is key to avoiding the creation of modern silos and cloud-native has more in common with traditional applications than you might think. So, along with hybrid cloud efforts, we’re seeing a modernization of the data centre/private cloud to keep pace and offer the same efficiencies of public cloud.
A lot of companies have been talking of “software-defined data centres" with some extending it to “software-defined everything". How much of that has come true and what is its impact on businesses?
Fundamentally, the idea of taking software-based approaches to all manner of business problems is now an accepted norm. While still in the early stages of implementation as companies modernize their data centres, software-based data centre approaches have clearly won the argument by truly liberating the application from any hardware dependencies and providing businesses with the ability to encapsulate full application requirements. And, by eliminating hardware dependencies, businesses are able to fully automate their infrastructure and respond more rapidly to changing market needs. They can leverage any commodity hardware on-premises, choose any cloud, and extend applications to the edge. This really gets businesses started on their digital transformation journey.
Big data, analytics and AI are being increasingly employed by companies in a bid to stay relevant. What are companies doing right, or wrong, on this journey?
AI, big data and analytics can all be momentum-changers if they are used strategically to increase a business’s core value proposition. Even then, there are several key issues that should be addressed before they are included in your plans. Since the output is only as good as the data input, is your data accurate and reliable? Are there legal or reputational constraints to using the data? Are there extenuating factors or other data sources that can improve your results? Are the results in line with your expectations, and if not, why not? For instance, there are some recent examples where companies intentionally changed financial analysts so competitors wouldn’t be able to predict their outcomes. AI, big data and analytics will be important and valuable business tools as we move forward, but it will be a learning curve and companies should plan accordingly. Investing in skills specific to the infrastructure needed and the ability to gather the necessary data to maximize results should be your first priority.