Exclusive Interview with Sheela Nambiar, Senior Director, Oracle Digital


Sandhya: The last two to three quarters have witnessed a huge surge in cloud adoption by SMBs as well as organizations of all sizes. As per Gartner, cloud spending rose 37% to $29 billion during Q1CY 2020 globally. Gartner believes this trend will persist, given the rise in remote working, which will need a scalable, secure, reliable and cost effective technology infrastructure foundation.

Indian SMBs are also adopting cloud much faster than before, but they need to do their due diligence to get their cloud journey right. To discuss further on how Indian SMBs are adopting cloud, and why they need to choose the right cloud provider for their set of infrastructure and their workloads, we are delighted to invite Sheela Nambiar, Senior Director, Oracle Digital – to this exclusive video interview at CRN India.
Sheela heads SMB Business for Oracle in India. She believes that while adoption of cloud technology among startups and midsize organizations has increased, they need to plan their move to the cloud carefully.

Welcome Sheela to this exclusive video interview of CRN India, I heartily welcome you.

Sheela: Thank you Sandhya. Thanks for inviting me on this forum. Thank you so much.

Sandhya: So Sheela, I would like to begin by asking you – how do you really see the adoption of cloud technology when we talk about startups and SMBs in India?

Sheela: We’ve been seeing a surge in the adoption of cloud in the last six to eight months. In fact, cloud was the right technology for SMBs all throughout, but you know it actually went from good-to-have to a must have in the last eight months. Many organizations have suddenly realized the importance of cloud. Look at various industries – Manufacturing, BFSI, Pharma, Healthcare, you name it. Every industry today is looking at ways and means of adopting cloud now, and rightly so.

Look at what SMBs are focusing on right now – recovering revenues, reducing costs, figuring out which routes to take to market, and process optimization – to become more robust.

Clearly, cloud is the right choice. Adopting cloud has become far more easier and much faster now, with all the tools, further aided by our partner network. So I think all SMBs are actually moving towards cloud to adjust to the new normal.

Sandhya: But do you think that are they really making the right cloud moves? Do you think SMBs require more hand-holding than large enterprises? How is Oracle approaching this?

Sheela: Startups I’d say are more adaptable, because most of them are born in the cloud organizations. SMBs that have a hybrid IT setup, are showing the right approach when it comes to cloud adoption. From an Oracle perspective, we understand SMBs’ current scenario and make sure we have a very clear cut plan on how to help them move to the cloud. Essentially, we’ve become trusted advisors in that sense.

Let me give you some industry specific examples. In BFSI, we see customers are very comfortable in moving non-core banking applications to the cloud right now, so we are actually working with them to see how they can move such workloads along with disaster recovery (DR), or how to move their peripheral applications to the cloud, which will make them access those applications faster. A lot of test and development is actually moving to cloud as well because customers don’t need it on their data centers. In many of the manufacturing organizations we are looking at customers who are actually moving their data centers to cloud, the entire data center to cloud – Sigma Electric is a very good example where we’ve actually moved their datacenter to cloud and they see more than 30% improvement in performance as well as cost savings.

So each of these customers have now started looking at a phase-wise journey to the cloud – the key workloads that need to go to the cloud in the first phase, and which are the ones which can follow as and when they are ready with, as the next phase. So it’s a very structured process that has been adopted, and we as consultants, along with our cloud implementation partners help them succeed in their journey to the cloud. We have actually invested a lot of time, efforts and resources in recruiting, training and skilling some of the key partners – SMB specific partners who actually work with us on our technologies, and they have certified Oracle Cloud engineers who actually work with the customer to see how this migration paths can be as seamless as possible.

Sandhya: So my next question is to you is about how Oracle has evolved its cloud infrastructure to meet the rapidly changing SMB requirements. So can you throw some light on that? And how your investments for SMBs are paying off?

Sheela: I think in the last two years, we’ve actually done a lot of changes in our technology and how we deliver it to the market. We’ve heard from all our SMB customers on what they really are interested in. With two second generation cloud regions in India – one in Mumbai, one more in Hyderabad – our customers can do away with managing their own datacenter and disaster recovery bits, as they can also have a DR on our cloud within the country. That’s the flexibility they gain. Both cloud regions are quite popular with our customers, because they see that they’re able to actually immediately move their workloads, see a lot of improvement in latency etc.

In terms of the technology itself, Oracle is probably the only cloud provider who can actually give the very same technology on premise and exactly the same technology on the cloud. There is no difference in terms of what technology the customer can use. So moving to the cloud isn’t complex with Oracle.

Also, we have a full-stack approach to the cloud, meaning we’re the only enterprise-grade cloud provider that has an end-to-end cloud proposition – SaaS, PaaS and IaaS.

Ours is the most secure cloud. We take security very seriously, whether it’s delivering services just for infrastructure and platform or for SaaS. So, it is most critical for us. Security is something, our customers are very happy about. The technology is such that we do not touch the customer’s instances, even the control plane does not touch customer’s instances. This is the kind of security that we provide to customers.

Last but not the least, is the price-performance equation. If you look all of our large customers or our small customers, they see the value in using our cloud infrastructure. They’ve consistently seen a significant increase in performance and reduction in costs. Take Zoom for example.

In summary, Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) is the right cloud platform for start-ups and SMB organizations to unearth more value from their data, accelerate innovation with the industry’s most secure cloud, remain relevant and regain/sustain growth in the new decade.

Sandhya: Most of the SMBs are not tech savvy, how do you start conversations with them? What are the basic challenges that they face?

Sheela: SMBs have skilled resources, but not many. They do not have too many resources. Many of these customers are facing challenges in maintaining their legacy infrastructure. With cloud obviously, it becomes much easier. The entire infrastructure management is with us. Whether they want to move their applications to the cloud or something else, we help them with the complete transition, from on-prem to the cloud.

We have a robust set of partners that we have nurtured in the past two – two and half years. They are typically aligned to the SMB business. So we ensure customers get all possible support throughout their cloud journey.

The good things is, you do not have to do pay upfront. You could also start with pay as you go model.

We also give them the flexibility to use any cloud service within our overall cloud portfolio, unlike many other cloud vendors, with our Universal Credits model. Most customers would like to start with infrastructure, slowly they want to move to platform, sometimes use analytics etc. So we offer SMBs the flexibility and choice to use any of the cloud services they would like with just one single contract.

Overall, we have simplified the contract procedure for SMBs, we have simplified the process of migration. We have also made sure that we hand-hold them so well that it becomes a very smooth, seamless experience for them when they go to the cloud from on-prem environment. As a result, more and more SMBs are finding it very easy to do business with Oracle.

Sandhya: Can you share some of the recent examples, where Oracle has helped SMBs?

Sheela: Sigma Electric wanted to move to the cloud to accelerate their digitalization efforts, so as to unlock more value from IT for the business. However, they were constrained by an on premise IT setup – with application continuity, availability and scaling challenges. Additionally, data centre management was taking a toll on their resources and efficiency. After assessing a number of cloud partners, Sigma decided to go with Oracle’s second generation cloud infrastructure as it fit their requirements the best. With OCI, they’ve gained access to enterprise-grade capabilities such as advanced security, guaranteed high performance and high availability along with superior cloud economics. They have already moved three business critical applications including ERP to Oracle Cloud and in the due course of time they will be moving more workloads onto OCI. As a result, they’re looking to clock 30% improvement in performance. Further, by switching to an OPEX IT model with cloud, they’ve realized upfront cost savings to the tune of 20-30%. That’s not all. They no longer have to worry about the infrastructure, maintenance and upgrades, as these will all be managed by Oracle automatically. Further, with Oracle’s universal credits model, they’ve gained access to a vast number of second generation cloud services, while Sigma only pays for what they truly use.

Traditionally, Lipi Data Systems’ business data involved a mix of Oracle as well as non-Oracle products. When designing their cloud strategy, they chose to go with the enterprise-grade OCI. In fact, they strategically decided to bring all their data into the Oracle fold and then moved to OCI. With this move, Lipi’s internal users are enjoying 3X application performance improvement, and their developers and DBAs are able to work more efficiently. They’ve also experienced superior cloud economics, achieving 40% more cost savings. By virtue of data consolidation on OCI, they’ve also acquired the capability to better use Oracle’s analytics and business intelligence cloud services, in a much more comprehensive manner to unlock more value for the business.

Sandhya: How important is SMBs as a business unit for Oracle overall? And how is this business growing for Oracle India?

Sheela: This is a very important unit for us from an SMB perspective. Our team was put in place specifically to address SMB market requirements better, because we see huge potential with Indian SMBs. Overall, Oracle India has been clocking double-digit growth for the last 3-4 years and we are bullish on this year’s growth prospects too, given the surge in cloud adoption. Our two local cloud regions are helping SMBs accelerate cloud adoption and improve business growth, so we’re committed to the market. We have made it very simple for SMBs to adopt our technology. Cloud has levelled the playing field for SMBs. Today SMBs have access to the very same technology firepower that a large enterprise does.

Sandhya: For SMB customers, security is important, right? Tell us more about how secure your cloud is?

Sheela: There are certain industries which are heavily regulated. Like, for example the banking and telecom industries are obviously heavily regulated. They have stringent laws for data protection etc, they absolutely understand the reason why we are talking about enterprise-grade security.

But as we speak now, the importance of security from the data perspective is becoming more and more critical for every organization; it doesn’t matter whether it’s banks or telcos but everybody is finding it very important for them to do that and that actually helps us a lot; because I don’t think there is any other cloud provider in the market today to actually compete with us on how we can secure data in your systems whether it is with regards to data accessed by the employees or any of the external sources. Oracle has managed the bulk of the world’s data, securely, for over four decades!

To help customers improve their security posture, we’re continuously innovating. We recently made available Oracle Cloud Guard and Oracle Maximum Security Zones to all Oracle Cloud customers by default.

Sandhya: Can you share a couple of technology trends which you feel will be relevant for the SMB Sector?

Sheela: If you look at overall public cloud adoption globally, it’s barely touched 20-25%, which means nearly 80% of the market is open for business. Given digital transformation is something which is key for SMBs’ existence, we will see a lot of investment moving in that direction. SMBs will focus on modernizing and digitalizing their core – starting with literally ‘lifting and shifting’ applications from on prem to cloud. With the data explosion, and data increasingly being considered as a business asset, we are seeing a lot of demand for advanced analytics and insights to aid better, faster business decisions in a highly competitive business environment. And when it comes to analytics, you obviously have to look at all the different systems in your environment so which means you have to do a lot of integration of data across multiple, hybrid implementations that they have had in their organization so integration becomes another vital thing. So I think from a data perspective, analytics, integration and data warehousing kind of opportunities, lot of opportunities exist in the SMB Market. Also, personalization – analytics-driven insights leading to personalized offerings to customers – is becoming the key.

Amidst all this, SMBs will continue to look for security.

Sandhya: How does it feel to be a woman leader in IT, heading the SMB Business?

Sheela: I’ve been in this industry for over 25 years now, so it’s a part of me. It was difficult in the early days when my children were still growing and I had to travel. But the industry has evolved quite a bit. It does help that diversity is a key focus at organizations like Oracle.

I think there is a lot of scope for women in IT and I am a great proponent of the fact that more women should look at IT as a career option, especially IT Sales. Getting to meet the customer and getting to understand the new technology that comes our way, more importantly the joy you get out of solving a customer’s business problem, is very fulfilling. So it’s been a great journey for me and I hope many more women join IT sales.

Sandhya: Thank you so much for taking the time out and sharing details of your overall SMB Business, and how it is becoming a very important business growth segment for Oracle, and the kind of solutions and offerings you have, and how you are making it very simple and scalable for SMBs to take advantage of cloud.


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