"There are two gale storms coming our way that will change how technology investments are planned and executed. ‘Cloud and consumerization of IT’ will transform how customers think of their IT and service providers rebuild their business models. We are betting the company that this will happen in the next three years. And we want to be the #1 cloud service provider on platform as a service." The conviction and passion is palpable in the voice of Pradeep Rathinam, CEO at Aditi technologies. Six months of manic activity, triggered by the acquisition of Cumulux, a full marathon and a 23 city cloud technology roadshow with Microsoft and his customers are asking for more. He has good reasons to bet the fortunes of Aditi on the cloud.
Aditi Technologies has always been a contrarian in a fairly homogenous Indian IT services sector. When the Indian IT services market was chasing Y2K deals, Aditi instead focused on building the first ‘made in India’ product. Years later, when large scale commodity services like enterprise application maintenance was propelling unheard of growth, it chose to focus on niche high value skills like user experience, program management and product development for ISV. The focus on emerging technology and paradigms has played out very differently for Aditi. It has remained in the mid-size bracket but clients regularly turn to them when a new paradigm emerge which requires serious technology depth. Today, the world’s largest ISV, largest insurance company, largest gaming company, largest information services provider, largest mobile carrier and second largest social network count them as their R&D innovation partner. And the emergence of cloud provides the perfect platform for an innovation blitzkrieg.
Cloud services are still at a relative infancy. Most companies have been considering cloud services and the early movers have around 20 odd cloud implementations for customers. In contrast, Aditi has worked with over 67 clients and notched up an impressive 100 cloud engagements over the past three years. Rathinam’s goal to be the #1 PaaS solution provider is well under way. Fuelling this breakout are two key leverages: a close relationship with Microsoft and addition of Cumulux to the fold. Cumulux is one of the top 3 Microsoft cloud service company in the world and has won the Microsoft cloud partner of the year.
"Emerging technology is core part of our DNA. Our customers have their preferred set of vendors who help them 'run the business'. We focus on helping our clients 'change the business'. We see cloud technologies, specifically platform as a service, change the way businesses will run," says Vineet Arora – the Chief Architect turned Managing director of the company. For context, most cloud implementations today are limited to using cloud as an infrastructure (IaaS) or implementing SaaS products like salesforce.com. Aditi is betting on the nascent cloud technology concept of Platform as a service. Their platform of choice - Microsoft Azure.
PaaS combines an application platform with managed cloud infrastructure services. Platforms like Azure provides an application platform for multi tenet cloud environment and spans development, runtime and management tools and services. Along with Azure, Google app engine (GAE), Force.com., Tibco and Cordys, the PaaS space is evolving rapidly and only a few vendors have developed a services strategy to implement Microsoft PaaS. This is where Aditi has a considerable first mover advantage. And the SI players might have missed a trick.
"For our ISV clients, the cloud, especially Platform as a Service is emerging as the biggest time to market accelerator. It is no longer a question of trying out a proof of concept. It is more of why aren’t we launching it yet? " explains Pradeep. One of its most recent customers, world’s largest personal finance ISV signed up Aditi to develop a PaaS driven solution to open up its platform to partners and extend market reach. ERP vendors are aggressively embracing PaaS to build light weight SaaS versions of their products to unlock markets at lower price points. And being at the forefront of 65 such clients have helped Aditi define vertical PaaS solutions, tailored for specific workloads that are moving to cloud. "Cumulux and Aditi have demonstrated credibility and excellence in building solutions on Windows Azure for Microsoft’s ISV and Enterprise customers," said Jenni Flinders, Vice President for the U.S. Partner Group at Microsoft. "Cumulux is a valuable partner for Windows Azure in the ecosystem and having them combine with the scale and depth of Aditi will give our customers a tremendous opportunity." Microsoft is throwing its weight behind partners like Aditi to win the platform battle in the field.
This year, as more companies are moving from recession to recovery, ISVs who have stalled new development and enterprises that had focused on cost cutting are finding the lure of cloud irresistible. A survey of over 100 CIOs revealed that by 2015, 40 percent of respondents plan to spend at least five percent of the their IT budget on cloud and 21 percent expect to spend close to 10 percent of their IT budget on this new technology trend. The cloud was the silver bullet to the CIO’s razor sharp focus on efficiency.
"We are seeing five core categories of applications and products moving to PaaS. It is still an evolving marketplace and our ability to understand it and build solutions before anyone else in the world will determine our long term success," adds John Schindler – VP of cloud services at Aditi.
Take the case of "Restaurant.com", an online group buying and rating business for restaurants. The biggest challenge for the site: scalability and spiky traffic. During weekends, the number of consumer using the site used to increase exponentially. This would in turn trigger massive computation spikes in the back end to keep up with the processing requests. Customer wait times would increase, sometimes culminating in outages and subsequent revenue loss.
Here is where the solution frameworks of Aditi and the Windows Azure platform come in. Says Adnan Adamji, CIO of Restaurant.com, "Aditi has been invaluable in helping Restaurant.com implement our cloud-based solution. Their extensive technical depth on Microsoft Azure has been extremely crucial to our success."
Such testimonials are rare to come by in the world of cloud services. Most companies are figuring out the place to start and an ideal solution profile. As the markets mature and service providers get more experience under their belts, the implementation concerns will reduce. As for now, Rathinam and his team are making sure that the company stays ahead of the curve.
Defending the lead
As in any rapidly growing and lucrative market, defending the lead can be the tougher challenge. The competition is getting intense but Aditi is confident that 70 percent of its new business would be cloud driven while at the same time 50 percent of its existing customers are expected to migrate in the next two years.
To retain the lead, the company is putting all its innovation and investment focus on scaling the cloud business. Some innovations include:
1. Implementing a strict ‘cloud first’ policy for customer solutions. Every customer, new or old, is offered a cloud based architecture first and only after that, a traditional model is proposed.
2. Building out a cloud delivery framework, driven by frameworks and best practices abstracted from over 100 cloud engagements.
3. Ensuring every single developer in the company is trained to deliver on cloud opportunities. Cloud Ninjas
"We make an unusual effort to recruit and retain the best talent available in any market. Aditi’s pace in PaaS couldn’t have been sustained just on our IP alone, the true heroes of the story have been the ‘Cloud Ninjas’ who have been constantly innovating and ensuring delivery of their project for each of our customers," elaborates Arora. To make up the ranks of the Ninjas, Aditi follows a simple strategy - recruit one of the top three PaaS architects in each region they operate in (they are proud to have a recruitment ratio of 1 out of 114 applicants at all levels). Employees are encouraged to get into cloud coding duels and overnight hackathons with each others and winners are inducted into the ‘cloud hall of fame’.
LEAD (Learning Engagement and Development), the employee learning division of Aditi, methodically ensures that every single developer is hooked on to cloud through online treasure hunts, mock customer role plays and cloud trivia quizzes. For Aditi, Cloud needs to be in the DNA and nothing less would suffice.
Practicing the sermon
In a demonstration of its confidence on cloud based technologies, Aditi is moving their entire internal IT ecosystem and to cloud. "The reason is simple", explains Rathinam, we tell our customers to believe in the cloud. Who could be better placed than us to show what they can do with the cloud." Aditi chose to build its solution using Microsoft virtualization and cloud technologies on a Hyper-V platform. This move had ensured a 40 percent reduction in costs while consolidating physical servers by 60 percent. This sort of complete transition to a new technology is unprecedented. The transition was so successful that Microsoft published a case study on it as a reference for future customers.
Future: Sink or Swim for Indian IT services players
The advent of cloud computing is going to be an inflection point in Indian IT services. Traditional services like application and infrastructure management, which accounts for 30 - 60 percent of revenue for most players slowly, cease to exist. The coming years are going to decide who the game changers are and who the also-ran. Only a few breakthrough players are going to gain the benefits of this inflection point. As clouds gather in the horizon, we are intently watching the transformation that Indian IT services landscape will undergo. And, we will definitely keep an eye on this breakthrough cloud company.