Microsoft criticises India’s cloud policy

Microsoft has criticized the Centre’s proposal to empanel a set of cloud service providers for rendering government services, with Bhaskar Pramanik, chairman of the Indian unit of the American technology company telling ET in an interview that smaller vendors may not have the scale and capability to run complex projects that big players such as Microsoft, Google and Amazon do.

Making a strong pitch for a policy that leverages use of public cloud infrastructure by the government, Pramanik said Microsoft is not suggesting that the entire Aadhaar database be run on its data centres since it is very critical from a security point of view, but that other non-critical projects can definitely be run through the cloud.

“Our point to them (the government) was very simple. Anything which is under the ambit of the RTI (Right to Information), why don’t you keep it under a public cloud?” said Pramanik. Most governments across the world have figured out use of infrastructure that results in massive cost savings and efficiencies, said Pramanik. “It’s not rocket science anymore,” he said.

Earlier this week, the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY) released a request for proposal or RFP for empanelment of cloud service providers for use by departments, in addition to the National Cloud services offered by National Informatics Centre, the government’s IT arm, for their e-governance solutions.

Pramanik said that a definition of public cloud infrastructure is that it is hyper-scalable, hyper flexible and highly secure, and globally there are only three companies in this business – Amazon, Google and Microsoft.

“In India they want choice…the government is saying they need to open it up for everybody… now the guys who can play in this are really the big guys. They (smaller players) can’t have global footprint,” Microsoft India chairman said.

Microsoft has invested $15 billion to set up 100 data centres in 40 regions across the world including India, said Pramanik. “Tell me any Indian company that can provide that capability. We need a better evaluation process and we need to understand that they need hyper scale, otherwise they can do it out of their NIC data centres,” he said.

A senior government official, when questioned about Microsoft’s criticism of the policy, said that the government has held two rounds of consultation with the industry based on which the RFP has been drafted.

“We are not here to satisfy any particular company,” said the official. He said the idea is to create as much competition as possible so that prices fall and one day it could be even possible to offer cloud services for free.

As per RFP, one condition for qualification mandates there should be at least 30% headroom available for any unanticipated spikes in the user load.

“I think they need to understand what is hyper scale,” said Pramanik. Anybody who has put a couple of servers and storage in the basement; connects it to a fat pipe which has been rented, can supply to the government, he said.

Nadella, during his visit to India in 2014, announced that the company will set up local data centres in the country which were formally inaugurated in September last year

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