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Virtualisation can speed up innovation, time to market: VMware's Balasubramanian

Virtualisation can speed up innovation, time to market: VMware's Balasubramanian
Sundar Balasubramanian

VMware Inc., which provides cloud computing and platform virtualisation software and services, has been sharpening its focus on India. The subsidiary of Dell Technologies has just hired former eBay executive Ramkumar Narayanan as its R&D head. It has also launched an India tour this year to educate companies on how the use of technologies such as mobility, end-user computing and virtualisation can enable businesses achieve more with less.

While the tour will focus on specific cities, Sundar Balasubramanian, the company’s senior director of general business (commercial sales and partners), tells TechCircle in a conversation how VMware is targeting fast-growing startups and larger enterprises as the country undergoes a digital transformation. Edited excerpts:

What is virtualisation and how does it help companies?

Virtualisation is the process of creating a software-based, or virtual, representation of something, such as applications, servers, storage and networks. It is the single most effective way to reduce IT expenses while boosting efficiency and agility for businesses of all size.

Due to the limitations of X86 servers, many IT organisations must deploy multiple servers, each operating at a fraction of their capacity, to keep pace with today’s high storage and processing demands. The result: huge inefficiencies and excessive operating costs.

The answer is virtualisation. The process relies on software to simulate hardware functionality and create a virtual computer system. This enables IT organisations or departments to run more than one virtual system – and multiple operating systems and applications – on a single server. The resulting benefits include economies of scale and greater efficiency.

Cloud computing seems to be on the top agenda of CXOs when it comes to digital transformation. Can companies chose cloud computing over virtualisation? Are they interchangeable technologies?

The simple answer is no. Virtualisation and cloud computing are not interchangeable. Virtualisation is software that makes computing environments independent of physical infrastructure, while cloud computing is a service that delivers shared computing resources (software and/or data) on demand via the Internet. 

As complementary solutions, organisations can begin by virtualising their servers and then moving to cloud computing for even greater agility and self-service.

So, what cloud services does VMware offer in India?

To understand that, we need to understand how VMware works. What we did before was put a virtualisation blanket on top of servers, giving more agility for cheaper costs. As companies moved to the cloud to process their workloads, we tried doing the same with cloud computing. 

We put a virtual blanket on different types of cloud from different vendors – private and public – making it easier for companies to switch between workloads and applications. In terms of services, we offer VMware Cloud on AWS and Wavefront to help gain unified visibility of all your cloud applications.

What would warrant an organisation to take up cloud virtualisation services?

Typically, not every organisation would want to take up virtualisation. However, having said that, as companies look to go digital and look at adopting the cloud, they would want hybridity, or simply a choice of running different cloud services for different purposes.

What we have seen is that a company which is starting up is more akin to a service such as AWS because they have simple workloads and not many. The startup has the choice of swiping a credit card and getting started on AWS services or any other service for that matter. But a company that is growing fast and has multiple workloads would want to switch between workloads and cloud offerings. While it might want to keep some workloads on premises in the cloud, it might want other services to run on the public cloud.

Essentially, this means that as companies look to achieve faster time to market and more rapid innovation, preparing on-premises infrastructure to extend to public cloud is one of the most important things they can do. And VMware helps by letting the company plan to evolve to a modern infrastructure that lets it take advantage of having a common architecture and operational experience both on-premises and in the cloud.

Could you explain with some examples?

First, you must understand that no organisation uses just one cloud service after reaching a certain mature stage. When a startup gets to a critical growth phase, it might want to shift through workloads on the public cloud or on premises depending on the popularity of a service it has been offering. 

Let’s take the example of BookMyShow. While you may see BookMyShow as a ticketing platform, the nature of workloads looks very different at the backend. It is more like a pool of information that people are accessing. When Baahubali 2 was released, the site had registered 5 million views in just 48 hours. This could set back the capability for any cloud or server. And this change in consumer behaviour may warrant the company to switch workloads from public cloud to on-premises cloud. 

Now, this is going to be an IT and operational nightmare without virtualisation as it is not just switching workloads but also changing the apps to suit the new cloud service. That could take hours. With VMware you can get this done just by the click of a button.

Another such company is Chennai-based Engage. This company produces and stores all the one-time passwords used for digital transactions. After demonetisation, their services went down due to the huge growth in digital transactions in the country. The company sought our help and we have helped virtualised their workloads.

What happens when I click that button? What is the tech behind the click?

We have something called the hypervisor. A hypervisor is a computer software or firmware that creates and runs virtual machines. A computer on which a hypervisor runs one or more virtual machines is called a host machine, and each virtual machine is called a guest machine. Simply put, it lets you access all your group pool of resources in the form of a CPU for computing power or hard disk for storage.

What is the market opportunity in India and which are the other enterprises that you work with?

I can’t put a number but we are just starting to scratch the surface right now and the reason is the fast pace of changing technologies. Having said that, we are incredibly aligned to the BSFI (banking, financial services, insurance) segment. State Bank of India is a stated reference for us. We are modernising 25,000 branches. SBI is also the model brand for a lot of banks that we are hoping to acquire as customers. 

In the telecom industry, Bharti Airtel is the biggest customer and we have completely transformed their data centre to a software centre. They are using the NSX – one of our product offerings. 

We are also looking at startups, or what I would like to call new-age companies, which are maturing fast or growing at tremendous speeds. 

In the education sector, VIT is one of our clients who is using software-defined networking for its labs for students using our technology.

How have been your sales like and how much investment is the company making in India?

We can’t comment on India revenue or sales figures but I can tell you we have made a significant investment of $120 million in Bengaluru to open a 438,000 sq.ft facility. The new campus features a world-class executive briefing centre to showcase VMware’s entire portfolio of solutions, providing customers and partners across Asia Pacific with the opportunity to see the company’s products and services in action, and discuss them face to face with executives and engineers.

Having said that we have also launched our 2018 business tour in May. The tour will focus on helping companies understand the value of emerging technologies such as cloud in cities such as Delhi and Coimbatore.

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