“The ac­cep­tance of open source among In­dian en­ter­prises has been re­mark­able”

What are the road­blocks to the suc­cess of an open source plat­form in In­dia? Ra­jarshi Bhat­tacharyya, coun­try head, SUSE In­dia, an­swers this ques­tion in an ex­clu­sive con­ver­sa­tion with Jag­meet Singh of OSFY. Edited ex­cerpts...

OpenSource For You - - Contents - Ra­jarshi Bhat­tacharyya, coun­try head, SUSE In­dia

Q How has SUSE grown in In­dia?

Com­plet­ing 25 suc­cess­ful years feels great! Founded in 1992, SUSE has come a long way in the Linux mar­ket. We are con­stantly in­volved with the open source com­mu­nity and have many ‘firsts’ to our credit. We were the first en­ter­prise OpenS­tack Cloud dis­tri­bu­tion, the first Linux on the main­frame, and also the first Linux to make KVM and Xen avail­able. Be­sides, we are the pri­mary spon­sor of the com­mu­nity-sup­ported openSUSE Project, which de­vel­ops the openSUSE Linux dis­tri­bu­tion.

Gone are the days when SUSE was known merely as a dis­tro used by a group of edgy techies. SUSE is now a com­mon name in the IT in­dus­try, and that has not hap­pened overnight. The com­bi­na­tion of a clear strat­egy, a strong and buzzing com­mu­nity, in­no­va­tion be­yond what any­one imag­ined and the con­vic­tion to make it big, have made SUSE a suc­cess story.

In In­dia, we are grow­ing by dou­ble dig­its, and with open source be­ing at the heart of the In­dian gov­ern­ment’s IT Pol­icy, we are ex­pand­ing at a sig­nif­i­cant rate. SUSE pow­ers the ‘Make in In­dia’ ini­tia­tive es­tab­lished by the gov­ern­ment, by en­abling cloud ser­vices and val­ueadded ser­vice providers with cut­tingedge, en­ter­prise-class open source tech­nolo­gies. More­over, adop­tion of open so­lu­tions from SUSE al­lows these or­gan­i­sa­tions to build prod­ucts and so­lu­tions that are com­pa­ra­ble to their for­eign coun­ter­parts.

Q Do you see any no­table dif­fer­ences be­tween In­dia and de­vel­oped re­gions like the US and UK, as an open source so­lu­tions provider?

In­dia has a very dis­tinct IT pol­icy which is gov­erned by open stan­dards and ac­tively pro­motes adop­tion of open source. So, be­ing an open source

com­pany, we have sig­nif­i­cant sup­port from the au­thor­i­ties. Apart from the gov­ern­ment, en­ter­prises in In­dia are go­ing global, and in a fiercely com­pet­i­tive en­vi­ron­ment, or­gan­i­sa­tions look for tremen­dous cost-ef­fec­tive­ness, as well as flex­i­bil­ity and re­li­a­bil­ity as the key de­cid­ing fac­tors when it comes to tech­nol­ogy adop­tion. Open source is the per­fect choice to help en­ter­prises over­come all such hur­dles.

Q What are the ma­jor chal­lenges for an open source com­pany like SUSE to op­er­ate prof­itably in the In­dian mar­ket?

To­day, the ma­jor chal­lenge that an open source or­gan­i­sa­tion faces in In­dia is the un­avail­abil­ity of skilled re­sources. Open source or­gan­i­sa­tions such as SUSE have been mak­ing huge ef­forts to pop­u­larise the adop­tion of open source right from the el­e­men­tary school to a higher level of ed­u­ca­tions. There are a lot of uni­ver­si­ties, school boards and tech­ni­cal ed­u­ca­tion cen­tres nowa­days that are adopt­ing open source ed­u­ca­tion as a part of their ICT cur­ricu­lum.

Q How do you over­come those chal­lenges?

SUSE in­vests heav­ily in de­vel­op­ing course con­tent on cut­ting-edge new tech­nolo­gies. There are on­line acad­e­mies as well as on-de­mand train­ing avail­able to mas­ter these newer tech­nolo­gies. On top of these, YouTube re­leases by ex­perts help in­di­vid­u­als to mas­ter the avail­able tech­nolo­gies.

There is a unique pro­gramme wherein SUSE en­ables aca­demic in­sti­tu­tions to sub­scribe to all its course ma­te­ri­als at zero cost. These ma­te­ri­als are reg­u­larly up­dated. Also, stu­dents and in­di­vid­u­als can get them­selves cer­ti­fied on tech­nolo­gies like OpenS­tack and soft­ware de­fined stor­age.

Q What are your prime strate­gies to en­able de­vel­oper en­gage­ment around your of­fer­ings?

We have SUSE Stu­dio that al­lows devel­op­ers to build ap­pli­ca­tions on open source tech­nolo­gies. Re­cently, the com­pany has also re­leased a Con­tainer-asa-Ser­vice (CaaS) to cater to the de­vel­oper com­mu­nity. The new model is the way for­ward for DevOps across In­dia.

Also, SUSE en­cour­ages the de­vel­oper com­mu­nity by bring­ing in a straight­for­ward ISV (in­de­pen­dent soft­ware ven­dor) cer­ti­fi­ca­tion process, which al­lows ISVs to get their prod­ucts cer­ti­fied eas­ily on SUSE. As a com­mu­nity pro­gramme, Open SUSE is a huge suc­cess.

Q Do you be­lieve com­mu­nity sup­port is im­por­tant to grow an open source prod­uct?

In­deed it is! Open source com­mu­ni­ties en­cour­age in­no­va­tion through col­lab­o­ra­tion. They pro­vide a plat­form for devel­op­ers to keep im­prov­ing the pro­grams or code in line with the lat­est tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ments.

With­out open source, many of the tech­nolo­gies we en­joy to­day would never have been de­vel­oped or would be re­stricted from be­ing widely used be­cause of the patent law. But thanks to open source com­mu­ni­ties, those tech­nolo­gies have de­vel­oped at a break­neck pace over the past few decades.

Q How do you man­age to mar­ket the en­tire SUSE port­fo­lio to In­dian cus­tomers?

We are a 100 per cent chan­nel-driven com­pany, and our part­ners are the key to our suc­cess. They are val­ued the most within the or­gan­i­sa­tion. We have sep­a­rate teams for manag­ing large, medium and small chan­nels. We also main­tain a well-de­fined tier­ing sys­tem among our chan­nels and have a wide net­work of both Tier-1 and Tier-2 to cater to the needs of var­i­ous mar­kets and cus­tomers across In­dia. Re­cently, we col­lab­o­rated with 70-80 part­ners, and it is a con­stantly grow­ing net­work in the coun­try. Chan­nel ex­pan­sion is of great strate­gic im­por­tance to our busi­ness. SUSE Linux is re­li­able, highly scal­able and in­cludes cut­ting-edge tech­nol­ogy. More­over, it comes with best-in-class sup­port. Q What makes SUSE Linux a dis­tinct op­tion in the grow­ing space of open source dis­tri­bu­tions?

Q Do In­dian en­ter­prises view Linux as a part of their IT de­ploy­ments nowa­days? Is there any dif­fer­ence from the past?

The ac­cep­tance of open source among In­dian en­ter­prises has been re­mark­able. Look­ing back at Linux adop­tion just five years ago — al­most 60 per cent of servers were on pro­pri­etary OSs, and only 35 per cent used to be on Linux in the data cen­tre space. Now, the mix has changed dra­mat­i­cally, and Linux has taken over pro­pri­etary sys­tems.

In the com­put­ing space, or­gan­i­sa­tions are look­ing at an al­ter­na­tive op­tion, be­cause most of the ap­pli­ca­tions are Web en­abled and need a browser to ac­cess them. They do not see the need to pay for a browser. Ap­pli­ca­tion soft­ware like Li­breOf­fice, which is a com­plete of­fice suite, does ev­ery­thing that Mi­crosoft Of­fice does. This is ex­actly why large cus­tomers like the gov­ern­ment of In­dia have con­sciously de­cided to em­brace open source. Nei­ther gov­ern­ment or­gan­i­sa­tions nor en­ter­prises want ven­dor lock-in. Also, with a pro­pri­etary sys­tem, you lose the free­dom of choice.

Q What are the key driv­ers en­hanc­ing Linux adop­tion in de­vel­op­ing mar­kets like In­dia?

Adop­tion of OpenS­tack Cloud and soft­ware de­fined stor­age (SDS) are the most dis­rup­tive tech­nol­ogy trends in the

In In­dia, we are grow­ing by dou­ble dig­its, and with open source at the heart of the In­dian gov­ern­ment's IT Pol­icy, we are ex­pand­ing at a sig­nif­i­cant rate.

In­dian mar­ket. There is a marked shift in the way we do busi­ness now. In­dian or­gan­i­sa­tions are look­ing for a much more scal­able plat­form, through which they can in­crease op­er­a­tional ef­fi­ciency as well as de­liver the de­sired re­sult in a short turn­around time.

Q Why should en­ter­prises go in for a soft­ware-de­fined data stor­age model in to­day’s world?

The amount of un­struc­tured data that floods an or­gan­i­sa­tion’s data cen­tre is just too high to ig­nore. And for busi­nesses that con­tinue to rely on tra­di­tional pro­pri­etary stor­age, this in­deed is a night­mare.

Soft­ware de­fined data stor­age has long been hailed as the panacea for all such en­ter­prise stor­age woes. It isn’t a new con­cept, but the abil­ity to sep­a­rate the stor­age soft­ware from the hard­ware is a game-chang­ing in­no­va­tion.

New ar­chi­tec­tures like Ceph-based stor­age so­lu­tions can scale in­fin­itely with­out the need to re­fresh the en­tire plat­form or dis­rupt the ex­ist­ing func­tion­ing en­vi­ron­ment. Ceph uses in­tel­li­gent al­go­rithms to store data in a highly dis­trib­uted man­ner. This means that it can op­ti­mise sys­tem per­for­mance with­out the need for teams of ad­min­is­tra­tors to mon­i­tor and man­age the stor­age con­stantly. Ul­ti­mately, with the data del­uge and shrink­ing stor­age bud­gets, the fu­ture of stor­age is in­deed go­ing to be open source.

Q What are the ma­jor ob­sta­cles in the present SDS space?

There aren’t any par­tic­u­lar chal­lenges when it comes to adop­tion. But there may be a lack of the economies of scale gen­er­ally as­so­ci­ated with the cloud. Many SDS providers claim that they pro­vide the data cen­tre with a cloud­like hy­per-con­verged ar­chi­tec­ture.

But in re­al­ity, only a few pro­vide cloud-like mod­els.

Q Where do mi­croser­vices stand in the ever-grow­ing IT sec­tor in In­dia?

Apart from DevOps and con­tain­ers, mi­croser­vices have been gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity in the IT sec­tor re­cently. Mi­croser­vices is not an en­tirely new idea, but the con­cept is fresh. It can play a cru­cial role in the cur­rent, dy­nam­i­cally chal­leng­ing busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment by help­ing com­pa­nies to bet­ter align their busi­nesses and IT needs.

Ba­si­cally, mi­croser­vices is a com­bi­na­tion of sev­eral smaller ser­vices, or sim­ply, a suite of small ser­vices, where each ser­vice has a well-de­fined bound­ary and all ser­vices are in­ter­faced through the API. This new ap­proach en­forces a level of mod­u­lar­ity, mak­ing the in­di­vid­ual ser­vices run faster to de­velop, test and de­ploy. Even devel­op­ers get the added ben­e­fit as they only need to fo­cus on a sin­gle ser­vice, rather than the en­tire mono­lithic ap­pli­ca­tion, which is easy to un­der­stand and main­tain.

Q Is it only the in­crease in cloud adop­tion that has started push­ing mi­croser­vices, or is there an in­trin­sic in­ter­est among devel­op­ers to be­gin with mi­croser­vices?

I don’t think that it is only one or the other that has in­creased the adop­tion of mi­croser­vices. Both the cloud and the in­trin­sic in­ter­est among devel­op­ers has led to this. The cloud pro­vides an easyto-de­ploy op­tion with­out get­ting into cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­ture.

Q What do you feel about the In­dian gov­ern­ment’s in­ter­est in open source?

Un­doubt­edly, In­dia is one of the big­gest users and con­trib­u­tors to open source tech­nol­ogy. It has come a long way and has evolved tremen­dously in the past few years—from view­ing open source as just a cost-ef­fi­cient al­ter­na­tive to pro­pri­etary so­lu­tions, to an im­per­a­tive tech­nol­ogy in the gov­ern­ment’s flag­ship ‘Dig­i­tal In­dia’ pro­gramme. Be­sides, the dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion has in­creased the adop­tion of open source both by en­ter­prises and the gov­ern­ment, across the coun­try.

To­day, digi­ti­sa­tion, dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion and dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion are the three key words gov­ern­ing busi­ness en­vi­ron­ments at dif­fer­ent lev­els for dif­fer­ent in­dus­tries. For IT-ITeS or­gan­i­sa­tions, dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion is one of the most de­mand­ing roles that the CIO must play. The gov­ern­ment sec­tor, on the other hand, is witnessing a com­bi­na­tion of digi­ti­sa­tion and dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion. In the BFSI (bank­ing, fi­nan­cial ser­vices and in­sur­ance) space, it is more about dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion and then em­brac­ing dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion through mar­ket­ing to en­sure that the bank reaches out to its end con­sumers through all pos­si­ble ways.

Con­sid­er­ing the vol­ume of data that the gov­ern­ment needs to deal with, open source is the only scal­able and ro­bust plat­form that can en­sure a bet­ter re­sult. An­other as­pect that goes in favour of open source is ‘in­ter­op­er­abil­ity’. The gov­ern­ment’s in­fra­struc­ture and sys­tems need to sup­port mul­ti­ple sys­tems, stan­dards, ap­pli­ca­tions and pro­cesses, which is pos­si­ble only through the adop­tion of open tech­nolo­gies. Open source can be run on main­frames or desk­tops, with­out com­pro­mis­ing on per­for­mance or qual­ity. The gov­ern­ment, as a cus­tomer, also ap­pre­ci­ates free­dom of choice— the big­gest ad­van­tage of open source.

Q What are your views on the gov­ern­ment’s open source pol­icy? Is it ben­e­fi­cial for open source providers in any way?

The gov­ern­ment has a well-de­fined open source pol­icy. Yes, as the tech­nol­ogy space con­tin­u­ously changes, it is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of open source or­gan­i­sa­tions like us to con­trib­ute and en­able the gov­ern­ment to adapt to the changes in the land­scape.

Q Lastly, what’s next at SUSE to at­tract en­ter­prises to open source in In­dia and across the world?

Our soft­ware de­fined stor­age and Con­tainer-as-a-Ser­vice are the next two at­trac­tions for global en­ter­prises.

Ra­jarshi Bhat­tacharyya, coun­try head, SUSE In­dia (Sri­lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal)

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