In October 2019, Microsoft won a contract to build data centres for the US Department of Defence. The project would net the US tech giant a whopping $10 billion. A few months later, Microsoft attempted an encore. This time, in India.

It reached out to top officials in the Indian government, offering to set up a pan-government data centre. This time, Microsoft wasn’t looking to bolster its bottom line. What it wanted to boost was its public cloud credibility. 

According to an official at the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY), Microsoft offered to fund a majority of the capital expenditure required for the project. To reiterate that immediate revenues weren’t top of its mind, once the data centre was up and running, MeitY and National Informatics Centre (NIC) National Informatics Centre (NIC) National Informatics Centre NIC provides infrastructure and human resources to support the IT backbone of the government and the electronic delivery of citizen services officials would take charge of its operations. 

The proposal made its way from MeitY secretary Ajay Prakash Sawhney’s office to the ministry’s data centre team, said the official quoted above. While MeitY officials, who are often approached by other ministries which need handholding to use cloud services, found the offer tantalising, it—as government files are wont to do—is still gathering dust. The MeitY official says this could be due to US laws that could force Microsoft to hand over data stored on its infrastructure.

Microsoft isn’t the only one going all out to win cloud contracts from the Indian government. Indeed, major cloud companies are locked in a race to win over public sector buyers, and they are going full throttle. Amazon’s cloud arm, Amazon Web Services (AWS) Amazon Web Services (AWS) The Ken Ahead in the clouds, AWS tries to change engines mid-flight to enterprise Read more , also drafted a proposal similar to Microsoft’s. It has pitched the idea to MeitY already, an executive working closely with the company told The Ken.

Google Cloud Platform (GCP) Google Cloud Platform (GCP) The Ken Google Cloud’s India ambitions get an Adani-sized boost Read more , which has ramped up its growth in India over the past year, is also vying for a slice of the public sector cloud pie. It recently opened up a second data centre region—in the Delhi-NCR area—and has been empaneled as a cloud service provider (CSP) cloud service provider (CSP) CSP Only companies empaneled as CSPs are allowed to offer cloud services to government bodies by MeitY.

AUTHOR

Pratap Vikram Singh

Pratap is based out of Delhi and covers policy and myriad intersections with the other sectors, most notably technology. He has worked with Governance Now for seven years, reporting on technology, telecom policy, and the social sector.

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