BANGALORE, INDIA: Remote Infrastructure Management (RIM) is touted to be the service offering for the future. India, in particular, is emerging as a leading offshore destination for this business.
As per a study conducted by Nasscom and McKinsey, titled: "The Rising Remote Infrastructure Management Opportunity: Establishing Indias Leadership", the global RIM industry has grown at more than 80 percent CAGR, from $2 billion in 2006 to $6 billion in 2007 to $7 billion in 2008.
Here, Anindo Sengupta, Head Services-Marketing, Microland, a leading specialist in offshore IT infrastructure services and tech support services provider, shares his views with CIOL. Excerpts from the interview:
CIOL: How is RIM (remote infrastructure management) services different from traditional IT, BPO or ADM (Application Development and Maintenance) services?
Anindo Sengupta: Most ADM based operations are project based. However, RIM services predominantly function on real-time mission critical responses. The approach for real-time, quick and efficient solutions drive organisations in RIM service space to follow a high level of standardization. Organisations in RIMs adopt an SLA-based approach of operations rather than an FTE based service model, which is adopted in BPO/ADM services.
RIM services require a high level of security while operating on business critical networks, working alongside other vendors and IT asset managers for prompt response and closure of any issues. This is completely different than a BPO/ADM service which functions as independent executive bodies.
CIOL: How has the RIM industry evolved in the past half-a-decade?
AS: In the past half-a-decade, barriers to RIM industry have reduced. There have been substantial improvements in third party and proprietary tools for managing infrastructure remotely. Improved performance and stability of international data telecom services have ensured continuous access to customer IT infrastructure.
The talent pool for RIM industry has significantly increased over the last five years. There have also been several success stories for RIMS, which have encouraged companies to start investing in this space.
CIOL: Can you elaborate upon your service model?
AS: Our service model is based on helping customers achieve higher SLAs at reduced cost on a continual basis. We have strong service delivery capabilities as a result of continuous focus on process improvements initiatives. Creation of proprietary methodologies (Service Intellectual Property) based on the process improvements provide significant value added benefits to the clients.
These methodologies, honed through several client engagements, ensure service quality, SLA compliance and cost effective service delivery. The Service IPs distinguishes us from others in RIM space.
CIOL: How large is the R&D team?
AS: R&D in a service business is quite different from other businesses. R&D involves enhancement and integration of new technology with existing technology so as to improve service being provided. This would also involve developing new training methods and best practices.
We have a dedicated Technology & Practices team that focus on developing new applications and in-house tools to ensure better service. The team is responsible for product evaluation and feasibility tests. We also provide technical solutions during deployment and development of new infrastructure networks. We also have a 100+ strong consultant team that work on cutting edge technology and help build and enhance the organisations capability development process.
CIOL: How cost friendly is the service?
AS: Microland, from the beginning, has been a strong proponent of outcome based pricing as compared to FTE (Full Time Equivalent) based pricing. This directly impacts the customer’s bottom line and provides transparency and predictability in pricing. This helps lower costs of operation significantly.
CIOL: How does it lend a hand in cost optimisation? What is the pricing model?
AS: Outcome based pricing is based on the nature of services delivered. For example, in a data centre management scenario, the pricing offered to the customer is on a per server per month basis, which helps in providing complete transparency to the customer on how costs vary based on the actual infrastructure the customer has.
Also, we offer to certain clients, volume based productivity that usually isn’t available in the generic FTE model. The single biggest advantage of this model is that it allows the vendor to focus on service levels, and drive internal process productivity and service excellence to continually meet expectations at lowest possible cost.
CIOL: What is the technology used to connect various centres under your Virtual Lab?
AS: Access to the labs from various global centres is predominantly over the Internet. Users make use of the SSL VPN connection to access the gateway server. Once connected, they can access any of the provision servers in the Virtual Lab.
For local users, access is through an RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) sessions to the gateway server. There is a dedicated network and link for virtual labs to ensure continuous connectivity.
CIOL: Security is the biggest concern in offshore IMS (Infrastructure Management Services). How are they tackled?
AS: We adopt a three-tier approach. The first and most fundamental level of security for us is to be in compliance with established industry norms and best practices. This would involve getting certificates like the ISO27000-1 certification, which Microland has. Once a foundation has been established, it becomes important to meet the security needs of the customer. Every customer would have various best practices and requirements as far as handling data is concerned.
The final level of security is to ensure all enhancements made to ensure complete security is in compliance with local government rules and at the same time suits the operational needs of the customer.
CIOL: What is the reason that there are not many players in this industry? What is the scenario now?
AS: RIMS is a niche industry that has come into prominence only over the last few years. The reason for having few players in the industry is due to the challenges in terms of managing diverse technology infrastructure and managing multiple vendors. Other challenges include customer concerns over security and data privacy.
Managing diverse technology infrastructure directly impacts the operational costs. However, as the industry is maturing, the IT infrastructure management tools available in the market have simplified over time with well-defined functions. These tools are integrated with governance features, which address management of multiple vendors.
As a result of the mentioned developments, an increasing number of organisations are focusing on RIMS space. The increasing availability of talent pool for the RIMS space is also facilitating the growth of RIMS focused organisations.
CIOL: How will reverse outsourcing affect the RIM market?
AS: How much reverse outsourcing will affect the RIMS is still not clear! This is a phenomenon that is still very new and can’t be completely judged to the potential it would truly grow upto. Speculation really does not help.
Since RIM in itself is a new concept and the majority of infra outsourcing is done by the global majors like IBM, EDS, Atos, etc., the trend that we see more is the emergence of the RIMS model.
CIOL: Is any new service in the offing?
AS: We are focusing on launching new, sliver based services like managed security assessment services, ITSM (IT Service Management) consulting services, managed storage and backup services, virtualisation and unified communications.
CIOL: What are the major concerns on the road ahead?
AS: There is still a considerable skill gap in the industry. This needs to addressed through improved curriculum and training. There are some regulatory constraints, in security laws and telecom policies, which need to be addressed by central and state governments.