By Alexey Navolokin
According to IDC, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) spending in APAC is projected to “grow by over 4.9% to reach $924 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach $1 trillion by 2024”. As examined by Daniel Kum, Director, Data Center Infrastructure (DCI) and Product Management (PM), Lenovo, Asia Pacific, “Increased spending in ICT is a sign of Asia Pacific’s growing reliance and confidence in technology to be the decisive ingredient in an organization’s success now and in the future.”
Aptly explained by Daniel, “as companies become data-centred in their approach to business, smarter devices and infrastructure solutions that can meet tomorrow’s needs have to take centre stage.”
With all this in mind, staying ahead of the game involves constructing an infrastructure with a core competency in technology. This means three fundamental things: (1) leveraging and staying abreast of technology trends (e.g. 5G), (2) considering energy-efficient solutions and (3) investing in security.
Before delving into the specifics of the aforementioned points, it would be pertinent to first establish an understanding of two front-of-mind challenges faced by CIOs and IT leaders today.
APAC: Challenges Faced by CIOs and IT Leaders
Enabling an Agile, Effective and Protected Remote Workplace: While remote working is relatively commonplace across various enterprises today, this was not the case in the beginning of 2020. Early last year, CIOs were faced with a mammoth challenge as they had to lead an unprecedented organisation-wide shift to remote working. This placed enormous pressure on CIOs and IT leaders around the region to initiate digital transformation in an accelerated time frame to enable a remote workplace that is agile, effective and secure.
According to Deloitte, “up to 47.8 million people in the ASEAN-6 nations (Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam) could shift to working remotely over a multi-year time horizon,” therefore building a successful and sustainable hybrid workplace is an ongoing challenge that CIOs and IT leaders across the region will face.
Increasingly Tech-Driven Business Landscape: The shift to remote working is only one of the many challenges CIOs and IT leaders were faced with since the outbreak. The global pandemic completely transformed today’s business landscape into one that is highly tech-driven.
As analogized by Daniel, “Data is the new currency and IT decision-makers are the new bankers.” He continues to explain that “as contactless operations and remote work grows, every organization regardless of the industry today is a tech-first company. Creating smarter device and infrastructure solutions is the key to unlocking smarter technology for all.”
In support of the above, Peter Chambers, Managing Director, Sales, AMD Asia Pacific & Japan (APJ) states that “customers today are becoming increasingly reliant on digital platforms to carry out day-to-day activities, and this is especially relevant in the APJ region which is developing exponentially.” With reference to AMD President and CEO Dr Lisa Su’s address at COMPUTEX 2021, businesses of all sizes are challenged to meet growing to compute demands while managing infrastructure costs. Therefore, Peter points out that “it is critical to make the right investments in processor technology that would allow organisations to increase the capabilities of their current infrastructure. For instance, with the leadership core-density of AMD’s 3rd Gen AMD EPYC™ CPU based servers, e-commerce infrastructures can service more customers with the same number of servers.”
Technology, Innovation and Trends to Leverage (5G)
In order to effectively compete in an increasingly tech-driven business landscape, CEOs and business leaders believe that technology and innovation is key. This mindset is not just specific to the APAC region, but is common on a global scale. According to a Deloitte Insights article published in April 2020, CEOs are looking for CIOs to step up as strategic business partners who will shepherd the organization through ongoing cycles of accelerating transformation and disruption, indicating that there is evidence of awareness amongst CEOs that technology and innovation is the way forward.
As discussed above, CIOs and IT leaders are in a uniquely difficult position today in the face of a highly volatile business environment. However, the imperative remains: adapt and respond to evolving needs and trends through innovation. In order to do this, it is vital to stay abreast of relevant technology trends in order to leverage these strategically. While CIOs today are well aware of the significant revenue potential of the likes of cloud, hybrid cloud and edge computing, 5G, although relatively nascent, is another resource CIOs can consider leveraging.
5G’s Significant Revenue Opportunities: In a report by STL Partners, supported by Huawei, the unique benefits of 5G could unlock benefits worth $1.4 trillion in value across key industries in 2030, not just in the consumer market, but in various other verticals as well. With 5G, telcos would be able to provide and manage custom networks in a cloud-like way. With the ability to scale up and down, define parameters (e.g. latency), and add additional functionality (e.g. security features), 5G is expected to have a high penetration rate across multiple industries by 2030.
With the 5G capabilities stated above, leveraging 5G can potentially unlock significant new revenue opportunities in the enterprise space, enabling innovative use cases that are currently impossible to scale commercially with existing technologies. For instance, in the retail space, 5G can be used to include AR/VR experiences for customers and massive IoT for asset tracking and management.
Energy Efficiency Considerations
Energy efficiency is not a destination, it is a journey.
As data is being committed to the cloud at an exponential rate, demand for power efficiency across devices and servers in data centres is expected to increase. Data centers in leading enterprises are already beginning to see the need to reduce their footprint by seeking innovative solutions that would allow them to enjoy the greater performance while consuming less power for two key reasons.
From a processor standpoint, an energy-efficient processor can help reduce energy and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across a broad range of workloads and may require fewer servers.
Proactivity in this area will have significant long-term benefits. In addition to environmental benefits, when incorporated effectively, organisations would be able to see a marked improvement on the organisation’s bottom line with a lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).
Protection is Key
Data centers hold a large amount of sensitive, personal, and proprietary data and information. Infrastructure insecurity can leave businesses vulnerable to malicious cyber activity – this not only affects the company’s productivity levels in the short term but could also have significant long-term implications as customers may lose trust in the business.
For these reasons, protection in data centres is absolutely critical and should be treated with due significance. When it comes to data centre security, prevention truly is better than cure!
Unfortunately, most businesses fall victim to legacy systems. Simply defined as an IT infrastructure/system based on outdated technologies, this is one of the most significant challenges faced by IT leaders in today’s digital age. Further corroborated by IDC, legacy systems and dated operating models are challenging to maintain, and hinder the ability of IT organizations to effectively support digital transformation. They can impede transformation, especially among firms not born in the digital age, from accomplishing their digital transformation objectives.
Businesses should understand that the protection of applications and data hosted in a data centre or in the cloud depends on the server, storage, and networking infrastructure. Whilst I have stressed repeatedly that protection is crucial, there are differing levels of protection needs – and this depends on the activities of the business. It is crucial for leaders to conduct a holistic assessment of their business activities, how much data is being stored, processed and analysed within a given time period in order to make the right infrastructure investments.
While it is clear that innovation, pioneering energy-efficient solutions, security feature upgrades and more are how CIOs can lead businesses to success, all of these require significant investment. However, the fact is that larger enterprises often have the funds to pivot their business model and activities in a timely manner, more so than smaller businesses with a tighter cash flow.
Businesses are allocating a considerable amount of funds towards “keeping the lights on” as they attempt to manoeuvre today’s extremely volatile and unpredictable business environment, leaving little resources left for innovation. While this is understandable, and may even be considered necessary in several cases, CIOs and IT leaders should continue to study and stay on top of technology trends in order to be able to incorporate the relevant ones when feasible.
Alexey Navolokin, Director, Commercial Sales, APJ, AMD