Where the clouds meet the ocean

Where the clouds meet the ocean

Enterprise Tech

New York-based cloud infrastructure provider, DigitalOcean, recently set up its data centre in India with a strong focus on capitalising on the growing developer and SMB community in India. Apart from introducing new product features, in the coming years, it aims to grow its market by forging alliances with more stakeholders.

PRABHAKAR JAYAKUMAR, COUNTRY MANAGER, DIGITALOCEAN
PRABHAKAR JAYAKUMAR, COUNTRY MANAGER, DIGITALOCEAN

When DigitalOcean was incorporated in 2011 there were a lot of players in the cloud computing space. However, the solutions on offer were complex and pricing was not competitive, especially, for developers or the startup segment. That is how New York-based DigitalOcean, a cloud infrastructure provider, came into being with a focus on simplifying the experience for this community.The aim was to make its products intuitive so that the time taken for someone to understand and spin up a server on the cloud was shorter and simpler. In 2015, DigitalOcean became the second largest hosting company in the world, as per Netcraft, a cloud infrastructure research firm.

The company recently launched its first data centre in Bengaluru, and with this, it has 13 data centres across the globe.  DigitalOcean’s country manager-India, Prabhakar Jayakumar, talks about the parent company’s plans for India, its competitive strategy, the future of cloud technology and the global growth trajectory for Digital Ocean.

(As narrated by Prabhakar Jayakumar)

India getting ahead

Looking at India in the next two years, our target customer segment, including developers and startups, is going to lead the pack. In fact, the developer community in India is expected to overtake its U.S. counterpart and touch five million in the next couple of years.  India is the fastest growing startup market in the world and it made sense to have a presence here with our data centrewhich was established in June this year.

This enables two things the first of which is latency, that is, the speed with which one can respond to a request (server application) is much better if a server is located in the region.  The second is data integrity. Certain type of businesses cannot store data outside their region either due to regulatory requirement or on the basis of need. For example, as per regulations, banking and financial services have to store data within India. We were not relevant for those businesses until we launched our data centre in Bengaluru.

Defining its target market

We are looking at targeting the business needs of software developers. When we started, by virtue of our product being simple and intuitive, a lot of individual developers started using our platform and eventually, teams of developers within an organisation started using it. The next step for us is to target SME businesses so that the entire organisation can use our platform for their infrastructure needs.

The SME outlook is very similar to what an individual developer would want like price-to-performance, simplicity, since in these organisations there isn’t too much technical help available.

We aim to take away the complexities in the process so that they can focus on their core businesses.  For example, software development activity rather than configuring the infrastructure, which a company like ours can take care of for them.

Impacting sector growth

Our focus on simplicity enabled our product to streamline the platform for next-gen companies where they can spin up a server in less than a minute. We also have the best price-to-performance in the market. We have built content for the community to understand this concept and spin up something irrespective of whether it is doing it on our platform on not.

Customer support is another key aspect. Most other players charge for premium customer support, which we don’t do, irrespective of the volume of business that one does with us. This is useful for a company that is just starting out and needs help setting it up apart from the written tutorials.


Customer support is another key aspect. Most other players charge for premium customer support, which we don’t do, irrespective of the volume of business that one does with us. This is useful for a company that is just starting out and needs help setting it up apart from the written tutorials.


Marketing through community building

The key growth driver for us is our community. We focus on organising community meet ups which is where we listen and learn. We have started these in Bengaluru and Hyderabad and plan to do it in other cities soon. These community events foster a sense of understanding and they aren’t just sales pitches. We want to be an enabler for the community.

We have built partnerships with relevant companies and associations within the industry. For instance, in India, we have partnered with NASSCOM for its 10K startup program (an incubator / accelerator program.) The intention is to reach out to 10,000 startups over the next couple of years.  By virtue of partnering with an organisation like NASSCOM, we work with all startups who are part of its ecosystem. We help the young companies through mentorship, workshops and boot camps.

Essentially, our marketing strategy is to partner with relevant industry bodies or associations, build our own community and create content and tutorials and use that to drive people to our platform.

Finally, referrals from our existing customers are an important marketing tool for us.

While we follow our global strategy for the Indian market, over a period of time, as the startup ecosystem becomes more mature, we want to engage with it in more meaningful ways.

Looking at the cloud’s future

People are increasingly looking at cloud a lot more positively than they were before. Previously, one of the key concerns was about security of data and another was about the possibility of the server going down and business not being available to the end-customer.

If you look at the trend now, the financial industry is looking at cloud a lot more aggressively for a couple of reasons. The total cost of ownership is much lower as you require fewer people to maintain the infrastructure and less capital investment. This apart, there is less worry about their investment in hardware getting obsolete.

We provide an SLA of 99.99 per cent which means that the probability of our application going down is negligible. These comforts have ensured that lot more people are open to trying public cloud. Within cloud there are multiple types; private cloud, where the company can choose to have something on cloud which is exclusive to it that no one else shares and public cloud, set of virtual machines shared with anyone else.

Many companies start with the private cloud infrastructure and once they are more comfortable with it, they move to the public cloud. This is a shift we have seen over a period of time.  Even if the shift is not complete, people use the hybrid approach, part private and part public.

Increasingly, as companies have a lot of their applications on the cloud and availability is much higher, companies like ours, ensure that that we put in enough measure for their data safety. Their data is will not be misused and increasingly, there is enough confidence in companies and individuals to use public cloud.

Launching into the future

As we are moving our focus to teams of developers and SMBs, we are introducing a lot of product features that these companies might require. Just a few weeks ago we launched a block storage product (like a flash drive.) You have a certain amount of compute capacity associate with a droplet (virtual server). If a company required additional storage but not CPU processing capacity, the only way of doing it previously, was to upgrade to the next biggest droplet available. Now, with block storage, additional storage can be added to its existing server.

Over the next few months to years, our focus is on rolling out more products that will help customers in the business segment.  These could be enhancements to our networking, storage and capabilities in computing requirement. In India, our focus is to ensure tie-ups with more stakeholders and play a significant role in the startup and developer community.


Key growth metrics  for DigitalOcean

  • Number of virtual servers that have been spun up. In our internal parlance we call them droplets. We have 20 million droplets spun across 13 datacentres. This number was close to 10 million six months ago.
  • Number of customers who use our platform. We have 7,25,000 customers globally who have registered with us at some point in time.

Poornima Kavlekar has been associated with The Smart CEO since the time of launch and is the Consulting Editor of the magazine. She has been writing for almost 20 years on a cross section of topics including stocks and personal finance and now, on entrepreneurship and growth enterprises. She is a trained Yoga Teacher, an avid endurance Cyclist and a Veena player.

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