Microsoft and Reliance Jio team up in 10-year cloud deal to ‘transform Indian economy and society’

Updated 1650 BST Indian network operator Reliance Jio has announced a 10-year partnership with Microsoft to utilise and promote Azure and ‘accelerate the digital transformation of the Indian economy and society.’

The alliance will comprise a variety of initiatives. Jio will move its non-network applications to Azure, as well as set up data centres across India with Azure housed there. The telco’s internal workforce will be supplied with the Microsoft 365 collaboration suite, while Jio’s connectivity infrastructure will promote the adoption of Azure as part of the company’s cloud-first strategy.

The move will extend beyond Jio internally to its customer base; startups will have greater access to cloud infrastructure, while Indian SMBs will have access to a range of cloud-based productivity apps. For larger organisations, the companies state that new Jio solutions can be leveraged which work with Microsoft offerings already in use.

“In combining efforts, Jio and Microsoft aim to enhance the adoption of leading technologies like data analytics, AI, cognitive services, blockchain, Internet of Things and edge computing among small and medium enterprises to make them ready to compete and grow, while helping accelerate technology-led GDP growth in India and driving adoption of next-gen technology solutions at scale,” the companies said in a statement.

India’s role in the cloud computing ecosystem is an interesting one. The country’s potential is unmistakable; a report last November argued more than one million cloud jobs will be created in India by 2022 while figures in April suggested the overall cloud computing market will break $7 billion by the same year.

Yet glaring weaknesses remain. The most recent report from the Asia Cloud Computing Association (ACCA) last April ranked India only above China and Vietnam in its 14-nation ranking of best cloud nations within Asia Pacific. Many of India’s problems are similar to China’s – the country’s vast expanse means that while certain areas are prosperous, the overall score for connectivity, sustainability and data centre risk are low.

The ACCA report noted at the time that one of the key areas where India could gain leverage is through its tech-literate workforce to improve its attractiveness as a data centre hub. It is however a slow process. “Cloud infrastructure is the weakness that is weighing India down,” the report noted. “Lack of access to quality broadband and sustainable power remain serious issues throughout India, making it difficult for even the most polished security and governance frameworks to drive cloud adoption.”

CloudTech understands that AWS and Microsoft are, like many other countries, the dominant players in India; AWS is a clear number one and Microsoft a clear number two. Satyajit Sinha, an analyst at Counterpoint, told the Economic Times that the Jio and Microsoft team up would require AWS and Google to come up with ‘new, perhaps cheaper’ pricing models for the Indian market.

John Dinsdale, a chief analyst and research director at Synergy Research, a long-term cloud infrastructure analyst, agreed that while it was still ‘very early days’, the potential for cloud services in India was high.

“This is a smart move by Microsoft,” said Dinsdale. “Clearly it doesn’t need the partnership for financial reasons as it could easily fund expansion plans in India itself. But for non-local companies India is a very tricky place in which to do business, a lesson that many large telecom and IT companies have learned the hard way.

“By partnering with an Indian company that is huge, forward looking and disruptive, Microsoft can reduce risks and increase its growth potential,” Dinsdale added.

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