Team Pro MFG

Today, manufacturing organisations have started their journey towards cloud adoption. What are the advantages of doing so? What are the challenges they face in this journey? And how can they prepare themselves to deal with these challenges? Here’s a quick overview from Pro MFG’s recent virtual event

The recently concluded Pro MFG Technology Leadership Think Turf powered by Velocis Systems Private Limited & Cisco focussed on ‘Keeping Your Enterprise Ahead of the Curve’. The virtual event witnessed participation from industry stalwarts who contributed with their expertise and experience. These esteemed industry speakers included Parna Ghosh, Vice President & Group CIO - Uno Minda Group, Mandar Kulkarni, CISO, Grasim Industries Limited | Pulp & Fibre, Vikram Dhanda, CISO, Virtusa, Ashwin Prajapati, Group CIO, Symphony Limited, Sanjiv Kumar Jain, Group CIO, Krishna Maruti Group, Jayanta Bhowmik, Group CIO, Kesoram Industries Ltd., Vilas Pujari, CIO, ACG World, Hemant Chadha, Sr. Vice President, Velocis Systems, and Ritesh Doshi, Regional Sales Director – Architecture Sales, India & SAARC, Cisco Systems. The discussion was insightfully moderated by Pankaj Mittal, Founder Digizen Consulting.

Adoption of cloud can help Indian manufacturing organisations achieve the objectives of scalability, agility and being future ready. While most organisations have started their journey towards the cloud, there are many challenges they need to deal with in this journey. Parna Ghosh, Vice President & Group CIO - Uno Minda Group shared his experience in this context: “At present, we have almost 90% of our applications hosted on cloud. The fact that we were already 90% on cloud helped us a lot during the pandemic as well because it enabled faster transition of working from premise to working from home. However, in the beginning of our cloud journey, our biggest apprehensions were cybersecurity and skill availability. Also, our cloud provider at that time had issues about capacity and performance. And we suffered because of that. Of course, things have matured a lot in the last few years. Currently, the benefits accrued from cloud in terms of quality, availability, expandability, scalability and security have dramatically improved. Another point that I would like to highlight about is the cost associated with cloud. When we were starting off, my CFO had doubts about the cost associated with cloud, but I explained to him that we were forgetting the cost required in managing and maintaining the servers. That cost is something that we do not take into account because it is part of the ecosystem. So if you calculate that cost then cloud is much cheaper. The biggest advantage is that it is scalable.”

Seamless access & flexibility

According to Vilas Pujari, CIO, ACG World, the cloud offers ease of access and flexibility to the organisation’s end-users. “Given a chance, they would love to have everything on cloud. We had worked out our cloud strategy over four years back. This strategy was driven by two aspects – be cost conscious but have cloud as the first choice. The cloud as the first choice does not override the cost factor because when you look at the overall cost you are looking at a period of five to seven years. Of course, in terms of challenges, cloud security remains a concern area primarily due to the phenomenon of remote working,” he said.

Jayanta Bhowmik, Group CIO, Kesoram Industries Ltd. highlighted the trend of multi cloud. “The first thing that comes to the mind when you talk about the multi cloud environment is the seamless portability between the clouds. Till now the cloud majors are mostly on their proprietary architecture. So once you are on a cloud, you have to plan for a multi-year or a decade of planning with them because if you have to migrate in-between then that is huge challenge due to the lack of standards between the cloud providers in terms of architecture. So in this area we are definitely looking forward to more progress in terms of seamless monitoring,” he shared.

Security is critical

Mandar Kulkarni, CISO, Grasim Industries Limited | Pulp & Fibre explained that if we have the right skill and right mindset in place then we can actually achieve better cloud security. “Security needs to be incorporated at the overall architecture of the cloud; not just in the infrastructure but at all the levels by design. That is really very important.”

Sanjiv Kumar Jain, Group CIO, Krishna Maruti Group, pointed out that the mindshift change has started coming into manufacturing organisations post the pandemic in terms of cloud adoption. “However, currently, you cannot move everything to the cloud because of the amount of data being generated on a daily basis at different plants where lot of automation is happening. So organizations have to balance out their requirements in terms of having the data centers with adopting a hybrid approach to really take the benefit of the cloud implementation and security,” he said.

Here to stay

Vikram Dhanda, CISO, Virtusa, emphasised that multi cloud is here to stay. “I doubt if any company can afford to stay on a single cloud because all the clouds will be having their unique features and services. So it will be multi cloud. And we will come up with solutions that will allow us to manage those multi clouds,” he expressed his confidence.

Practical approach

Ashwin Prajapati, Group CIO, Symphony Limited, presented the practical logic in terms of cloud adoption based his experience. “In terms of digital transformation, we always wanted to be asset light. So we did not want to host anything in-house. The first reason for this is that technology is rapidly changing. So there is no point in having the infrastructure for something that may change tomorrow. The second aspect is about scalability. Certain applications are not required throughout a month and so it does not make sense in hosting them in-house knowing that you are going to need them only for a few days. So, the two key aspects for me in terms of digital transformation are scalability and agility.”

Way ahead

Hemant Chadha, Sr. Vice President, Velocis Systems, remarked that everyone agrees to the fact that multi cloud is going to stay. “The challenge is that different clouds have different network constructs, different security constructs and different languages. Zero trust is something that we need to achieve in terms of security because more and more connectivity is going to happen. OT data getting to the cloud is a major concern. We have seen so many attacks happening on the OT; whether it is intellectual property thefts or the denial of service on the plant itself. Of course, we can now take care of the OT security as well as monitor the digital experience. It is important to monitor the experience of the user at the campus or of the user at home ensuring that the applications are working right and that there is zero trust in terms of security. In terms of technology, that is now possible.”

Ritesh Doshi, Regional Sales Director – Architecture Sales, India & SAARC, Cisco Systems, too pointed out that every organisation is on the journey towards cloud today. “Some may be ahead and some may be a little behind but at least there is a roadmap and a blueprint with the end objective of being in the cloud. That presents a couple of challenges. First and foremost, you need to give access to the users who are sitting out of anywhere; it can be home, hotel or the office. This brings in a lot of devices in the network beyond what it was in the pre-pandemic era. So networks are no more connecting branches to the datacentre but they are connecting users to the apps. It means that connectivity will have to be looked in a different way then what it was two or three years back. Secondly, organisations will need a lot of visibility into what kind of data is flowing on to the devices and on to the network. That’s where security comes into play big time. We want security at the center of everything while we also need enterprise scale and we also need to access multiple clouds. This brings us to understanding how do we maintain policy consistency when you have so many users accessing through so many mediums, so many data centers and so many clouds. That is where an architecture based approach can be useful.”