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Cloud computing is not only about cost-cutting: Sanjay Manchanda

Director, Office 365, Microsoft Corporation

Rohit Nautiyal 

Sanjay Manchanda

In its next phase, cloud computing will help companies react to market changes faster, Sanjay Manchanda tells Rohit Nautiyal

What changes you have noticed in the understanding of cloud computing among your enterprise solutions clients in India?

Over the last two years, I have seen an increased interest among our Indian customers in making cloud computing part of their IT plan. It will not be fair on our part to expect that customers will fully embrace this new reality sans their concerns about data security. There are three major concerns around data security. First one is about meeting government and industrial regulations on where and how the data is stored. For instance, while selling our productivity software Office 365 we comply with all the industry regulations. Secondly, as more and more information is thrown into the web or clouds, customers are worried about malicious leakage of crucial proprietary or confidential information like business plans, IP or customer data. To address this, Microsoft has built tools like Bit Locker, which provides better data protection for your computer by encrypting all data stored on the Windows operating system. Our DLP (data loss prevention) capabilities allow customers to define policies on how a piece of data will behave with different users, depending on access rights. Then there are rights capabilities that allow you to define access for confidential information.

The last security concern is about accepting the reality of multiple devices. A handheld device is now a major point of access. This has resulted in companies focusing on mobile application to prevent the loss of proprietary information. For instance, not allowing a user to cut and paste information between proprietary and non-proprietary applications.

Currently pay-as-you-use subscription models are bringing in razor-thin margins for leading cloud computing companies. Beyond competitive pricing strategy, what steps will Microsoft take to fuel innovation in this space?

Customers are already thinking about how cloud computing can make their businesses more competitive. Debunking traditional perceptions about looking at cloud as just something one can use to cut costs by achieving economies of scale, clients are now interested in knowing how this technology can bring down their reaction time to market changes and innovate faster to bring new products and services to their customers. With more organisations allowing employees to work from remote locations, the idea of the workplace has undergone a sea change. As technology partners, we are keeping pace with our customers. For example, our productivity tools are focused on making the lives of information workers easy. For instance, Today, a cloud-enabled kiosk SKU can be tailored for someone using a handheld device at a point of sale to improve collaboration.

How is Microsoft focusing on creating cost effective cloud computing solutions for small and medium enterprises?

Small- and medium-sized companies (SMEs) have needs that are less complex and can be addressed with a smaller footprint of services. We have come up with business SKUs that cater to companies with a workforce of 300 people. In October we launched a range of SKUs meant for small businesses. Interestingly, more than owning multiple devices, a lot of people running businesses in India are using the smartphone as the only device. Imagine how easy the lives of a company's sales-force will become if they are able to get vital information on their smartphones.

What kind of clientele will Microsoft focus on in India for Office 365?

We are focused on pushing cloud computing across big, small and medium enterprises. While using Office 365 a large company could look for high-end archiving and compliance capabilities. At the same time, any large, medium or small enterprise will value cloud computing over multiple devices. In last two years, we have made investments to push higher adoption of cloud computing solutions. Fastrack, a set of methodology and technology automation that simplifies and expedites the on-boarding of new Office 365 users, has been very useful for SMES that do not have large IT staff.

Cloud computing companies get flak often for undermining the role of the traditional IT administrator. How has Microsoft dealt with this issue?

One of the clients I met recently talked about how he thinks managing emails is a pain. When companies move to cloud, IT resources can be redeployed in a more strategic way. One of our client's core businesses is cell tower around the world through software. The CIO of this company told me how, before moving to cloud computing solutions, half of his sales team was wasting time in coordination over pagers and emails. Now his in-house IT team spends more time in helping the software development team in making the company's infrastructure more robust than managing some routine IT tasks.

This year Microsoft emerged as the biggest seller of cloud services to business customers. To what extent has the new leadership at the company been responsible for this?

Satya (Satya Nadella, chief executive officer of Microsoft) has had a long and distinguished career at Microsoft and so he embodies what our organisation stands for. This is evident in his leadership style. His working style is very collaborative as he believes in interacting with everyone within and outside the company. He pays great attention to customer feedback. I believe he has leveraged Microsoft's own values in reshaping the culture of the company.

  • Manchanda leads the global enterprise product marketing group for Office 365 and the other Microsoft business productivity solutions for business, education and government. At Microsoft, he has been in product management, marketing and business leadership roles
  • Prior to joining Microsoft, he co-founded B-Bop, a Silicon Valley venture-funded start-up that developed and marketed an XML Data Management platform. The company was acquired in 2002
  • Manchanda started his career at SCO, Inc, the Unix-on-Intel pioneer, where he held product development and consulting roles for SCO UnixWare and OpenServer

First Published: Mon, December 22 2014. 00:12 IST