Ahead in the Cloud Podcast
Ahead in the Cloud: Cloud’s Evolution from Infrastructure to Innovation with Anant Adya
Anant Adya, EVP and Head Cloud, Infrastructure and Security Services at Infosys discusses the evolution of the cloud from infrastructure to innovation. Anant explains how cloud has advanced from its keep-the-lights-on infrastructure days to the modern make-magic-happen multicloud days.
Hosted by Chad Watt, researcher and writer with the Infosys Knowledge Institute.
“In the last few years, one of the themes that we have been using within Infosys is, software is the new hardware. The future is all going to be software, which will drive high quality and high optimized hardware, so I would say it's complimentary in a way.
Today Cloud is no longer a destination. Cloud is part of everything. So whether you are writing a piece of software, expanding into new markets, building products and solutions, creating new experiences, Cloud is one such technology which is part of everything. Going forward, I think this is going to be one of the six technologies that I speak about which is going to be in everything that we do.
When you actually migrate your workloads from on-prem into Cloud by retiring your data centers, you are making a huge impact with respect to sustainability goals. Similarly, when you actually move to Cloud, the amount of power, the amount of storage, the amount of compute that you require actually gets rationalized. Thereby, you are using less and you are actually, again, using less power.
Phigital, the physical and the digital world coming together. We are all very early on, and we are looking at what Metaverse use cases are. We have more than a hundred use cases already at Infosys which are developed, and we are going to take them to the market, to our customers, and do prototyping and see how we can enable some of our customer's Metaverse journey.”
- Anant Adya
- A decade ago, cloud was seen as a way to move away from maintaining your own servers and shift the job to someone else’s computer. In that time, security and uptime were the main considerations around clouds.
- Today cloud computing is so much more complex. Instead of a different place to put your data, modern cloud is a network of systems, connected and orchestrated in ways that allow companies unprecedented flexibility. Simply managing a business’ connections with Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure is a full-time job.
- Understanding the basics of hardware is very informative in grasping the intricacies of cloud, multi-cloud and hybrid multicloud.
- Companies have swung from “not in the cloud” to “everything in the cloud” and back to a more nuanced middle ground of some things in the cloud, and others on-premesis. The challenge is determining what goes where.
- Scalability was the original strength of cloud. That helped small companies act like big organizations. For large companies cloud is a tool that allows for more flexibility and as a place to pursue innovation.
- Flexibility and scalability in cloud have made large enterprises braver, and more willing to take risks and try new things.
- Non-tech companies, such as global financial firm HSBC have begun to incorporate cloud and digital into their corporate strategies and financial metrics.
- Modern cloud is going green. Major cloud providers are building environmentally-forward data centers for companies to use. In turn, these companies can demonstrate that they are finding ways to invest in sustainability in their digital efforts.
- Cloud is the place where physical and digital (or “phygital”) will come together in the form of augmented reality, virtual reality and “metaverse.”
Chad introduces Anant
Tell us how long you've been with Infosys, and what led to your role leading cloud infrastructure and Cobalt?
What led you to be so fond of cloud?
Did you ever build your own computer?
How does hardware inform your approach to infrastructure?
How is it that cloud became so pervasive?
What is the most critical strength and benefit big companies are getting from cloud right now?
Tell us how the “why of cloud” has evolved since 2008 when you were dealing in cloud and infrastructure and keeping the lights on, to where we are today.
How is cloud enabling accountability?
What is multi-cloud or poly-cloud? And how should companies think about them?
What is Infosys Cobalt, and how it has all come together?
What is Cobalt 2.0? What comes in the next version?
Do you have any recommendations on some things that companies should NOT be doing in the cloud?
Is there any other new innovation that has you excited about the cloud right now?
Explain what metaverse is.
Anant describes the term “phigital.”
Chad Watt: Welcome to A Head in the Cloud, where business leaders share what they've learned on their cloud journey. I'm Chad Watt, Infosys Knowledge Institute researcher and writer, here today with Anant Adya, Executive Vice President for Cobalt at Infosys.
Anant Adya: Thank you.
Chad Watt: Anant, tell us a little bit about how long you've been with Infosys, and what led to your role leading cloud infrastructure and Cobalt?
Anant Adya: So, first of all, thank you, Chad, for this opportunity. In fact, I've been looking forward to doing this podcast because Cobalt and cloud is my passion. In fact, it's also a big bet for the company. I've been with Infosys for 14 years now, I joined in 2008, in what we used to call that time as Infrastructure Management Services. So it was all about services and we were very focused on making sure that we keep the lights on of our customers, infrastructure, and data centers, and network, and everything else.
Anant Adya: So, if you look at my role at Infosys, it has evolved from what we used to do in 2008 to what I do today, and essentially all of that has been because of the shift that we have seen in the world of digital. Or, in general, customers moving to digital. So today my role is all about cloud infrastructure security, and I also play a role of the go-to-market person for the Cobalt ecosystem, where we take all the offerings under Cobalt, across all the service lines to the market, working very closely with the hyperscalers like AWS, Azure, and Google. So that's essentially my role.
Chad Watt: So you say cloud and Cobalt is your passion, what led you to be so fond of cloud?
Anant Adya: Yeah, so if you look at my background, in fact, I started, I don't even know if you remember these technologies, but I started with what we used to call Disk Operating System, DOS.
Chad Watt: Oh yeah.
Anant Adya: 2.2 by the way. I remember it. And essentially, and this was way back in 1996, and my guru, as we call in India, my mentor, came and told me that mainframes are going to die, so everything is going to be open systems. It's going to be Intel, it's going to be Windows, it's going to be SCO, and it's going to be Novel Netware so you should start training on that.
Anant Adya: So there was a natural tendency for lot of the folks during that time to get into software, but I was more passionate about hardware, so I wanted to get into the bare metal, as we called it. I mean, the nuts and bolts, and we didn't have laptops as mainstream at that time, but opening the desktop and repairing the drives, repairing the motherboard, soldering, cabling, so I come from the core of hands-on background. And essentially, that's what led me to build a career in the world of infrastructure, and slowly I moved into the data center world, and then of course we have network, we have security. Today, if you look at cloud, essentially it is a scalable elastic compute that's available globally for customers to use, to embark on their digital journey. So I would say the passion of hardware is what led me to what I do today, and it has become a natural extension of what I do.
Chad Watt: So there's a little bit less solder involved in cloud today.
Anant Adya: Yes, absolutely.
Chad Watt: But that's fascinating. Tell me, did you ever build your own computer?
Anant Adya: Absolutely. Many, many of them. In fact, even today, I don't know if people understand this, we used to have RJ45 cables, which we used to make all by ourselves. So crimping and doing all the coaxial, using coaxial cables, and soldering, all of that was very mainstream. I think, these days I joke about it, but the folks who work on the computers, they get their troubleshooting skills from Google, and not from what we used to do during that time.
Chad Watt: I want to push you a little bit here on the hardware versus software. What is it about the hardware background that helps you deliver solutions in cloud? How does hardware inform your approach to infrastructure?
Anant Adya: Yeah, in fact, things have changed. In the last few years, in fact, one of the themes that we have been using within Infosys is “software is the new hardware.” I'll tell you the reason behind that. Essentially, if you look at what is happening today, whether you use apps like Uber, or you use Instacart, or you're using applications like Airbnb on your cell phone, you are actually dealing with an app rather than dealing with a physical hotel, or a physical car, or a physical grocery store. So essentially software is enabling everything that we see around us, so anything that you have today, whether it is bare metal infrastructure or network or security or devices, it's all abstracted with a layer of software. So I would say you need to have a very good understanding of what the hardware does, but to make it operate in an efficient way, I think we require robust software. And I would say that the future is all going to be software, which will drive high quality and high optimized hardware, so I would say it's complimentary in a way.
Chad Watt: So cloud is everywhere. It's essential to companies regardless of their size, large companies, as well as small. Cloud is how my kids kept learning through the pandemic. How is it that cloud became so pervasive? Go back to like that 2008 period where you're talking infrastructure and the task is keep the lights on, to today where that's only one portion of it, right?
Anant Adya: Oh, absolutely. In fact, when cloud started becoming mainstream, and I would say it was somewhere in 2004, 2005 timeframe, it was still considered as compute and storage that was available to the customers, in a globally elastic way. So for those who did not want to spend money on CAPEX, and for those who did not have time to get the delivery of infrastructure, build that infrastructure in their data centers, and deploy all their projects, they started leveraging cloud, and we used to call it burst capacity. So if the customer does not have the capacity on prem, they will use the capacity that is available in the cloud to get their work done. So it all started with that.
Anant Adya: Essentially, there were only three reasons why customers used to look at cloud when it started. It was, one, for burst capacity. Second, it was all OPEX, which means you didn't have to spend money to buy the CAPEX. And number three, you did not have to worry about having physical data centers. You don't have to worry about where it resides and you can basically use it on tap. So those were predominantly the reasons when it started, but as we got into the pandemic, there were customers who started fast tracking their journey of technology and they didn't have the time and energy to look at buying infrastructure or writing codes, so they started using cloud in a big way to enable their workers and their employees to work from home and to be productive, to collaborate, and to make sure that they delivered what they actually are supposed to do. So it all became very, very pervasive during the pandemic.
Anant Adya: And now, as we get out of the pandemic, I think it has become the foundation for all the innovation. So today cloud is no longer a destination. I mean, cloud is part of everything. So whether you are writing a piece of software, you are expanding into new markets, you are building products and solutions, you are creating new experiences, cloud is one such technology which is part of everything. So I would say that, going forward, I think this is going to be one of the six technologies that I speak about which is going to be in everything that we do.
Chad Watt: Scalability was that original strength of cloud, and it's still powerful for especially small companies that want to look like they're big companies. But what about the big companies you work with? What is the most critical strength and benefit big companies are getting from cloud right now?
Anant Adya: Well, I think this is a great question. In fact, one of the things that has transformed the way enterprises were looking at cloud is, why cloud? In fact, there was a very tactical way customers used to look at cloud, as we were calling it burst capacity, operational expense, and looking at capacity on demand and those kind of things. But now, they have realized that cloud is becoming the foundation for innovation. And I'll tell you, innovation, or as we call it, as enabling the digital journey as we call.
Anant Adya: Now, what is digital? I mean, digital is not about technology, and I'll give you a simple example. So we have this beauty products company that is a Japanese beauty products company, and they wanted to expand in North America. And they didn't have the time, like one year to set up their IT, and look at implementing ERP software, building a data center, and establishing a network. They had 12 weeks before they went live in North America. They actually partnered with us and they said, "We want to go live in three to four months, and we want you to set up IT in totality." In a sense, IT as a service, this will include building infrastructure, setting up collaboration, implementing an ERP software and enabling all our business process. So, "Hey, Infosys, can you help us?" And this is where we actually partnered with Microsoft Azure, and of course SAP as our implementation partner for ERP, and we set up their entire operations in US, in North America, in less than 12 weeks.
Anant Adya: So this is a great example of how customers who are wanting to establish in the new markets, open new markets, sell their solutions, or sell their products in new markets, can use a part of cloud. So I would say that that's one example. And essentially, cloud actually is enabling all those digital imperatives for the customers, whether it is expanding to new markets, building new products and solutions, as we call, fail fast, learn fast. Customers are no longer scared to try new things today, and that is what has changed in the enterprise, the way they look at cloud today.
Chad Watt: Anant, tell us how the why of cloud has evolved since 2008 when you were dealing in cloud and infrastructure and keeping the lights on, to where we are today.
Anant Adya: Absolutely. In fact, the way to best explain this is, customers never spend time on thinking about why they should be leveraging the power of cloud, or why they should use cloud as one of their technologies. In fact, one of the great examples, I just saw it last week, HSBC actually released their results, and one of the line items in the presentation of the CEO, which he is making to the investors, he's talking about…
Chad Watt: This is HSBC, the big global bank?
Anant Adya: Global bank, yes, and this is in public domain, so it's something that we can share. There is a line item called digitize. And in the report that he's presenting to the investors, there is three things that they're talking about. One is how many agile teams have been set up to build new products and solutions, second is the percentage of workloads that are residing on the cloud, and third is the percentage of transactions that are automated. So even the large enterprises and banks like HSBC have now started measuring the power of digital, and they have started reporting to the street the quality of work that they're doing to enable the digital journey, and this includes a big component called cloud.
Anant Adya: So the thing that I spoke about in terms of why cloud, is more and more customers and enterprises are now thinking about, what is cloud going to do to have a business impact? Or to deliver a business impact for them? And the business impact is measured in three ways. One is there going to be an impact on the bottom line, which is all about improved operational expense?
Chad Watt: Saving money.
Anant Adya: Saving money, and all of that. Number two, is it going to have an impact on the top line, which is generating more revenue, expanding to new markets, using new products and solutions, sort of getting more consumers to use their products and solutions and those kind of things. And the third and the most important thing is, is it helping them to become more agile in the way they do things? So I would say that essentially everything is being measured with respect to the business impact, and now there is a new thing that has got added to this, is the ESG impact. In fact, more and more customers have started looking at sustainability and carbon footprint as one of their sustainability goals.
Chad Watt: ESG being environmental, social, and governance.
Anant Adya: Absolutely. And in fact, that also is becoming one of the big parameters, and cloud is helping in a big way. So I would say top line impact, bottom line impact, becoming agile in the way they do things, and fourth is, of course, the ESG impact.
Chad Watt: These kind of accountability things, how is cloud enabling those?
Anant Adya: Oh, big time. In fact, there are several things that customers are doing. At a very tactical level, getting rid of your data centers, and moving your workloads to cloud. These, if you look at all the hyperscalers, whether it is Azure, Google, AWS, Alibaba, and of course, IBM, Oracle, they're all building data centers which are green data centers. They are using green energy, they're actually partnering the energy consortiums to drive carbon footprint goals. So essentially when you actually migrate your workloads from on-prem into cloud by retiring your data centers, you are making a huge impact with respect to sustainability goals.
Anant Adya: Similarly, when you actually move to cloud, the amount of power, the amount of storage, the amount of compute that you require actually gets rationalized. Thereby, you are using less and you are actually, again, using less power. So there are a lot of these tactical things that are impacting sustainability goals, and many of the enterprises are reporting them as well, so I think that's the impact.
Chad Watt: So cloud has grown more complex, it can deliver more for companies, it's much more strategic, but let's dig in on the complexity a little bit. Can you tell me, what is multi-cloud or poly-cloud? And how should companies think about them?
Anant Adya: Oh, absolutely. Even the cloud journey has gone through an evolution. I mean, essentially when enterprises started embarking on a journey of cloud, the thought process was that everything should reside in public cloud. And there was this…
Chad Watt: And tell us what public cloud is now?
Anant Adya: The AWS, Azure, and Google, where you predominantly work with the public cloud providers.
Chad Watt: Amazon, Google, Microsoft.
Anant Adya: Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Alicloud and IBM cloud, and those kind of things. So essentially, that was the thought process, in the sense everything will reside in public cloud, and nothing will in on-prem, there won't be data centers and all of that. But fast forward, 2021 and 2022, we see now three clouds. One is the edge cloud, the cloud that is at the edge where you have retail stores, you have factories, you have warehouses, you have distribution centers, you have service providers doing the work. You have the data centers and the on-prem cloud, which is cloud as we call as a private cloud. And then you have, of course, the public cloud. So essentially the world is going to be hybrid, from edge to core to cloud, it's going to be hybrid cloud, and that's where customers have started leveraging the power of multiple clouds. So sometimes we use the word poly-cloud, sometimes we use the word multi-cloud, but essentially it's going to be hybrid cloud world.
Chad Watt: Cobalt is the name of Infosys cloud systems. Tell me what that is, and how it has all come together.
Anant Adya: Absolutely. So when we launched Cobalt, and I remember the date, August 12th, 2020, we actually said that Cobalt is a set of services, solutions, and platforms that are coming together to accelerate customers journey to digital. So that's the definition of Cobalt. The reason why we launched this brand and we brought everything together under Cobalt is, everybody was talking about cloud, everybody had their own solutions, their assets, their platforms, and products. Everybody had their own narrative to go to market, everybody used to differentiate their cloud story in a different way. And we thought it's better to bring all of this together, so as you know, we are the first provider in the world to launch an integrated brand under cloud, which is called Cobalt. And soon after we did it, some of our other competitors actually followed us, but the whole definition of Cobalt when we started was a combination of art and science.
Chad Watt: That said, let's ask, what is Cobalt 2.0? What comes in the next version?
Anant Adya: We at Infosys internally call it Cobalt 2.0, but I would say this is the next evolution of Cobalt. And we are looking at Cobalt in two ways. One is we want to go industry cloud. So every business and every industry has specific needs when it comes to how they leverage cloud. So financial services has a way of doing things, because if you look at financial services, and you go and ask any financial services guys, they will say we have five objectives. One is we want to reduce the risk of all the things that are happening in the finance world. We want to basically make sure that we improve our security posture with respect to what's happening with the cyber attacks and ransomware and everything else. They want to modernize the way banking is done, because they want to modernize the core systems that they have.
Anant Adya: Some of the banks that we deal with, they still run mainframes, and they're so tied to mainframes, so they're very rigid and they can't be agile. And last, but not the least, they want to basically cater to consumers like us and improve our experience, where they can give personalized experiences to us. These are the imperatives of a banker.
Anant Adya: Now, if you go to a manufacturer, they will have very, very different imperatives.
Chad Watt: Right.
Anant Adya: So essentially what we are doing is we are customizing our cloud story to cater to these industries, and we call it as industry clouds. So every industry will have a narrative, every industry will have a reference architecture, and every industry will have specific solutions that we are going to take to the market. So that's the next evolution of what we are doing in Cobalt, and that's what we mean by Cobalt 2.0 internally.
Chad Watt: We've talked about all the possibilities and things cloud can do. Do you have any recommendations on some things that companies should not be doing in the cloud?
Anant Adya: Yeah, so essentially, I think, don't look at cloud as a destination for your data center. So cloud is not just about…
Chad Watt: That's what it used to be used for though, right?
Anant Adya: It used to be used for that. So it is not just about taking a piece of infrastructure that you have on-prem and putting it in the cloud. cloud is not just about moving your workloads or cloud is not just about setting up compute. cloud has become the foundation for innovation. So use cloud for business innovation and don't just use for tactical reasons, so that's what I would say.
Chad Watt: Is there any other new innovation that has you excited about the cloud right now?
Anant Adya: I think metaverse is going to be big.
Chad Watt: Explain to me what metaverse is.
Anant Adya: See, in fact, I will say it's everything about “phigital.” How do you actually…
Chad Watt: Phigital?
Anant Adya: Phigital, the physical and the digital world coming together. We are all very early on, and we are looking at what metaverse use cases are. We have more than a hundred use cases already at Infosys which are developed, and we are going to take them to the market, to our customers, and do prototyping and see how we can enable some of our customer's metaverse journey. But I would say that some of these new things are going to be becoming mainstream, including AR/VR, and blockchain, and multiple other things. So I would say that's essentially what a lot of customers are embarking on. But otherwise, again, as I said, cloud is going to be the foundation for everything and anything that we'll do, so as you rightly said, cloud is going to be everywhere.
Chad Watt: Cloud is everywhere. Anant, thanks for your time, and thanks for sharing your insights with us. It's always a pleasure to talk with you about cloud.
Anant Adya: Thank you. Thank you, Chad, for the time, and look forward to many more conversations.
Chad Watt: This podcast is part of our collaboration with MIT Tech Review in partnership with Infosys Cobalt. Visit our content hub on technologyreview.com to learn more about how businesses across the globe are moving from cloud chaos to cloud clarity. Be sure to follow Ahead in the Cloud, wherever you get your podcasts. You can find more details in our show notes and transcripts at infosys.com/IKI, in our podcast section. Thanks to our producers, Catherine Burdette, Christine Calhoun, Dote Bigley and Yulia DeBari. As we like to say at the Knowledge Institute, until next time, keep learning and keep sharing.
About Anant Adya
Anant Adya is EVP- Infosys Cobalt & Cloud, Infrastructure and Security Services (CIS). He and his team are responsible for designing solutions to help customers in their Digital and Cloud journey. They use a combination of AI-led solution sets combined with capabilities from partner and startup ecosystem to design best solutions for customers. Cloud and Infrastructure Service line include infrastructure operations, security, data center and network transformation, cloud (public, private and hybrid), workload migration and service experience.
Connect with Anant Adya