VMware: Delivering Digital Foundation for Digital India

VMware has become synonymous to an “Enterprise Cloud Solution Provider” in a short span of time. After taking giant leaps internationally, the leading technology firm is also taking on the India market and helping the nation realise it Digital India dream

Digital India was launched with a vision to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy. At its core, the program envisages a better more empowered future for Indians even in the remotest parts of the country by allowing unfettered access to essential services. And cloud is becoming the bedrock of this empowerment movement. By allowing anytime, anywhere, any device and any platform access, cloud is inextricably tied with digital transformation strategies across the world. In India, especially, cloud technologies can play a crucial role in addressing the complexities posed by the country’s vastness and socio-economic differences.

Leading virtualisation & cloud computing firm VMware aims to bridge the private and public cloud worlds by providing a single software suite. This software virtualisation layer between apps and infrastructure allows companies to manage their assets across multiple clouds.

India’s digital adoption has been driven by the government’s commitment by using technology as a key means of achieving national objectives, combined with tremendous private-sector innovation and investment to promote digital access and usage. Today, government efforts to establish a strong national digital foundation of public platforms and infrastructure as well as a host of digital applications and services have created real incentives for citizens to get online.

Global trends and technology players are providing cloud services at affordable prices while also innovating offerings uniquely tailored for India. Sharing his views on how cloud is empowering and helping governments render citizen services better, BS Nagarajan, Senior Director & Chief Technologist at VMware Software India Private Limited says, “National Information Infrastructure is aimed to integrate the country’s digital infrastructure to provide high-speed connectivity and cloud platform services to government departments. In order to utilise and harness the benefits of cloud computing, National Information Infrastructure initiative aims to accelerate delivery of e-services in the country while optimising Information and Communications Technology (ICT) spending of the government. This has ensured optimum utilisation of the infrastructure and speed up the development and deployment of E-governance applications.”

Digital transformation in India: The present

The current state of digital transformation across Indian public sector is reaping good results, but there are some challenges that need to be addressed as well. The main question is, is the transformation keeping pace with the projected possibility? With the vision to ensure that technology is ‘accessible, affordable, and adds value’, the Digital India initiative was aimed at improving the life of the common person. The program centres on three key vision areas: a) digital infrastructure as a utility to every citizen, b) governance and services on demand, and c) digital empowerment of citizens. According to Nagarajan, achieving digital transformation is not easy. Several prerequisites must be met, and the right governance and execution enablers need to be put in place in order to move toward that goal. “The challenge is even steeper when it comes to building new and emerging digital ecosystems such as flow-based lending, technology-enabled healthcare delivery, and digital platforms to provide new-age skills and match job seekers with work opportunities, since profitable business models for these digital themes have yet to be fully developed and rolled out at scale. To realise this vision, government must work with the private sector and build a collaborative working model to spur innovation and investment.”

Nagarajan also adds that as far as the digital transformation vision is concerned, most of the government departments in the Indian public sector have recently embarked on that vision of digital transformation and building digital infrastructure. The organisations are at different stages of their IT systems. Some are completely on the legacy infrastructure but finding a little difficult to migrate to, which is critical. And then there are some that have not started at all. The implementation will vary based on the journey they have had so far. There are challenges related to implementation but yet transformation is something which is being undertaken by most of the public-sector undertakings today.

Indian Public Sector: Becoming Atmanirbhar

With PM Modi’s clarion call of Atmanirbhar Bharat, there is a renewed thrust in Indian public sector to adopt exponential technologies, be it central government or state governments or public sector enterprises. Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan, which translates to ‘self-reliant India’ or ‘self-sufficient India’, is the vision of the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi of making India ‘a bigger and more important part of the global economy’, pursuing policies that are efficient, competitive and resilient, and being self-sustaining and self-generating. The various themes in Digital India plan collectively represent some of the largest system-level digital opportunities and transformations possible, in areas where significant productivity gains, efficiencies, and citizen benefits can be achieved, and where initiatives already under way provide some basis for future growth.

For VMware, the response from growth markets has been excellent. The potential increase in economic value from India’s digital transformation would create a rapidly growing market for a host of digital services, platforms, applications, content, and solutions. This represents an attractive opportunity for global and local businesses, startups, and platformbased innovators who will be investing in emerging technologies customised to India’s needs. “So, fundamentally, Atmanirbhar Bharat will require the government to spend more and to deliver more services to build more capacity internally, which is not only taking care of internal needs but also of global needs. Technology will play a very important role and that is why we see a spur in demand especially from public-sector undertakings,” shares Nagarajan.

Digitalisation priorities on the rise

Digital transformation’ has already become the new governance paradigm and Digital India had put the nation-state on the path of being ‘paperless’, ‘faceless’ and ‘cashless’ and now this has been coupled with an urgent need of being ‘contact-less’ too. As a leading technology giant, VMware has outlined some top IT strategic priorities in today’s context.

Government is changing quickly and on many levels. From adapting to flat or declining budgets and shifting constituent demographics to increasing the relevance of private sector, every aspect of government must consider costeffective ways to keep pace with the demands of a digital society. The mobile-cloud era has put pressure on government agencies to modernise to deliver faster while controlling operational efficiency.

Sharing more details, Nagarajan says, “Without a digital transformation strategy, government IT teams could end up hindering their organisation’s mission fulfilment. Government IT teams recognise that maintaining infrastructure silos is costly. To improve mission agility, efficiency, and effectiveness, agencies must modernise and build secure applications that conform to today’s digital society. Cloud-native and software-as-a-service (SaaS) apps, as well as modern development frameworks and agile methodologies are becoming the norm.”

Also, for VMware, it is about keeping the citizen or user at the centre of the entire paradigm. Especially during this pandemic, the user and citizens need to be provided access to all the e-government services, applications, etc. at their doorstep in a secure manner. So, VMware has a vision of delivering any application from any cloud to any device irrespective of where the user is sitting. To deliver that vision, VMware has created the below 5 solutions based on the strategic priorities of their customers:

1. Application Modernisation transforms how the government departments can build, run and manage existing traditional apps and new cloud-native apps on Kubernetes.

2. Multi/Hybrid Cloud allows government departments to migrate existing apps to a public cloud without rewriting them with tremendous choice and flexibility (no vendor lock-in) in their cloud and app strategies. It also enables consistent, highly automated operations on inconsistent multi-cloud infrastructure, providing centralised visibility and simplifying the operational burden.

3. Virtual Cloud Network connects citizencentric services, data & apps everywhere with consistent end-to-end networking, fully defined and managed in software, that is programmable, automated, and intrinsically more secure than hardware-defined networks.

4. Digital Workspace integrates access control, application management, unifies and automates multi-platform endpoint management to ensure that people can safely use any government application, whether they run in the cloud or the data centre.

5. Intrinsic Security helps the government to implement a “zero trust” security model across all environments, and greatly reduce the attack surface preventing cyber attacks.

“So, this is how we are working on our five strategic priorities that are paramount for keeping citizens and end users and the e-governance services and applications at the centre of it all,” shares Nagarajan.

Taking on the Indian market

VMware has become synonymous as an “Enterprise Cloud Solution Provider” in a short span of time. Despite the giant leaps the company has taken internationally, India is a growth market. Talking about their key thrust areas for the Indian market, Nagarajan shares, “India has some unique needs and the way we look at India from the cloud perspective is that there is a very fast pace of cloud adoption and application modernisation that is happening due to the Digital India program and Atmanirbhar Bharat initiatives.”

VMware sees a huge demand for such services and the way they are trying to help and work with the government is by helping them to build their own capacity through NIC, national clouds, state data centres, state clouds, etc. so that they can deliver e-governance services through government clouds. At the same time, VMware has also partnered with multiple cloud providers which are India based to provide a platform which provides consistent infrastructure and operations across multiple clouds.

Cloud lies at the heart of any digital transformation strategy and it is heartening to note that India is not only continuing to focus on driving cloud adoption but also increasingly considering multicloud strategies to meet its varied objectives. Clearly the future still lies in the cloud.

Unlike pure public cloud providers, VMware’s primary focus (while historically has been on private clouds) is to deliver the best of both worlds for customers by building a hybrid cloud. So basically, the customer does the data classification. If the data is critical and cannot move out of the customer premises, then they help them build and host these applications and services from their private cloud. At the same time, if the data can go to the public cloud but still needs to have a completely separate infrastructure, not shared by another organisation or customer and they need an isolated environment in the public cloud, VMware has a solution for such requirements as well where they build a hybrid cloud.

“Apart from that, we also enable a multi-cloud management for customers who tend to host their applications on the normal shared public cloud but are looking to have a consistent management across multi clouds. Based on the data classification, we are able to provide the right kind of solution to the customers by helping them get all the tools to manage compliance and security across modes,” shares Nagarajan.

Ensuring data security

There is a feeling in the IT sector today that data is the new oil. Analysts expect IT companies to reach the level of oil companies in revenue and profits. At the same time, it has brought in privacy concerns and manipulation by foreign elements/ companies.

Data security is definitely a high priority for organizations today. And on this front, VMware has a plethora of solutions for its Indian clients.

Today’s approach to security is too complex and relies on too many products. An organisation on an average deploys 70-100 security products, each with its own management console and many with their own agents. Most are focused on blocking threats at the perimeter, without understanding context. They don’t know enough about the applications or the infrastructure.

The virtualisation layer sits in the ideal place to have deep visibility into apps, data and endpoints, while being very hard to compromise from within an app or operating system process. VMware leverages this to help implement a “zero trust” security model with far fewer products. You can protect remote workforces against cyber attacks without any additional infrastructure, by leveraging the resources you already have. You have visibility & understanding of app behaviour that allows you to compartmentalise the network and control traffic through micro-segmentation, access, and traffic inspection. You can monitor and analyse the configuration of the public cloud infrastructure. You can learn an app’s known good behaviour in terms of how it interacts with the processor, memory, storage, data and the network, and then you can automate actions based on behavioural anomalies. This capability enables you to detect a zero-day threat, for example, before a malware signature even exists.

“And we have centralised the analytics, so teams can share information in integrated workflows and zero in on threats and vulnerabilities. Security becomes a team sport across Sec-ops and IT ops. So, that is how security becomes an important factor while building the infrastructure design itself rather than an afterthought,” shares Nagarajan.