India: The latest battleground for big cloud computing providers

Indian students pose for photographers as they hold up painted and decorated blouses at a college in Chennai on October 9, 2015. Some 3,500 students painted 7,000 blouses in one hour on October 9 in an attempt to enter the Limca Book of Records. AFP PHOTO / STR (Photo credit should read STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images)
Photograph by STRDEL — AFP/Getty Images

IBM opened a SoftLayer cloud data center in Chennai on Tuesday. It’s the company’s first in India, and the latest in a tech industry trend. A few weeks ago Microsoft announced three new Azure cloud data center regions in Pune, Hyderabad, and Chennai. Amazon Web Services executives also call India a key strategic area.

You have to wonder why it took so long, given India’s technological strengths.

As IBM (IBM) pointed out in its press release, India is home to a super-heated tech scene. Evans Data Corp. estimates there are 2.75 million developers in India, making it the second-largest country (after the U.S.) in that regard. And it expects the Indian developer population to soar 90% to 5.2 million in the next three years. India’s preponderance of developers should be no surprise; after all, it has been home to many large outsourcing and custom development shops for a decade or more.

None of that is lost on the big companies building public cloud infrastructure—the massive pools of servers, storage, and networking available for corporations to rent. Many companies are turning to this shared public cloud infrastructure for new tasks instead of extending their own in-house data centers or building new ones.

And in cloud computing, as in terrestrial real estate, location is key. The further the computing is from the person who computes, the longer the lag times. So the major cloud providers—Amazon (AMZN), Microsoft (MSFT), Google (GOOG), IBM, et al—are all building out data centers as fast as their budgets will allow. China is another super hot market where Microsoft, IBM, and Amazon have all partnered with local providers to build out cloud presence.

In June AWS announced plans to open an Indian data center in 2016. Last week, at AWS Re:Invent, Amazon senior vice president Andy Jassy stressed that India is a critical geography for Amazon’s cloud business.

Oddly, Google does not yet field any data centers in India for its Google Cloud Platform. Tick, tock.

For IBM CEO Ginny Rometty’s take on the Dell-EMC merger, check out the video below.

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