6 March 2019
Flawed Implementation Cutting Cloud Efficacy in 85% of Installations
- Photo: The cloud: Plenty of silver linings, but not always precipitating the optimum change. (Shutterstock.com)
- Photo: JD: Prioritising bespoke customer interaction.
- Photo: 5G: Low on latency, high on reliability.
- Photo: Cloud Expo Asia 2018: Largely sunny, with a few storms likely over the near term.
Poor strategic considerations and limited integration are stopping the full benefits of the cloud from being wholly exploited within the wider Asia-Pacific region and beyond, according to many of the keynote speakers at the recent Cloud Expo Asia.
Billing itself as "Asia's largest and best-attended cloud event for business", the Singapore-hosted Cloud Expo Asia is always at pains to differentiate itself from the region's many "tech-porn" trade shows, where new innovations are lauded, but seldom cynically assessed from a commercial point of view. The most recent iteration of the event was no different, with the majority of the high-level speakers keen to illustrate how the cloud could be integrated into existing working flows, while easing bottlenecks and maximising data security / recovery. Others, however, remained concerned that businesses were yet to fully implement the required protocols, while more than one speaker maintained that all the required technology was not yet in place for the cloud to become the truly transformational resource it has long promised to be.
Kicking off proceedings by addressing the hub role the cloud could play in ensuring the appropriate convergence of emerging technologies, C. R. Srinivasan, Chief Digital Officer of Tata Communications, the Mumbai-headquartered global telecommunications group, said: "Above all, today's Chief Information Officer is concerned with managing business risks, fostering a future ready environment, optimising the customer experience, delivering real-time insights and connecting with the business ecosystem. At present, there are 10 technological innovations that will have a huge impact on all these objectives – IoT, edge computing, 5G, serverless computing, micro-services, analytics, AI, blockchain, AR / VR, and SD-WAN [software-defined networking in a wide area network] and they are all inter-dependent and inter-connected.
"In 2017, there were 8.4 billion connected devices. By 2020, there will be 20.4 billion. These devices will all require real-time data processing, which entails edge computing via 5G networks. In combination, this will see various new business applications become viable, including real-time customer services and data processing. In addition, as part of the wider data-driven world, micro-services will facilitate greater speed to market. In the banking and financial-services sector, for instance, it will be possible to rapidly analyse social data and sentiment and generate personalised recommendations.
"In addition, AI will deliver a huge range of new possibilities, including precision agriculture, personalised medicine and enhanced fraud detection. For its part, blockchain will help when it comes to managing business risks in the digital realm by assuring the integrity of smart contracts and data records. Turning to AR / VR, by 2020, people will be spending the majority of their time interacting with such resources, whether for educational purposes, entertainment, healthcare or in terms of working remotely and collaboratively, while, over the next four years, the deployment of SD-WAN will grow by a staggering 94.3% per annum. At the heart of all these technologies – and acting as the convergence point – will be the cloud."
Looking at both the particular challenges facing the Asia-Pacific region and the more general technological issues that still need to be addressed, Martin Chee, Analytics and Cloud Vice-president for IBM Asia-Pacific, said: "While many organizations in the region are now adopting cloud as part of their digital transformation strategy, 85% of cloud implementation, to date, has been ad hoc and opportunistically motivated. This has resulted in the creation of enterprise silos and not driven innovation to anything like the degree that was initially envisioned, resulting in a loss of control and a poorer overall performance. Essentially, successful digital transformation requires greater flexibility, open standards, access to trusted data and the adoption of proven methods for changing cultures, skill-sets and overall processes."
Sounding a similar warning as to the likely penalties of unstructured implementation, Nav Chander, Global Head of Service Provider Marketing for Silver Peak, a California-based secure networking specialist, said: "In total, some 87% of enterprises are using multi-clouds, which has prevented the full potential of the technology from being realised. In addition, 93% of such businesses say that their cloud apps suffer from monthly disruptions, 97% say that their networks cannot keep up with the demands of the cloud and 85% feel that they are years away from fully realising the benefits of the technology.
"Ultimately, the success of cloud-based systems will be dependent on the adoption of SD-WAN. Only about 30% of enterprises currently deploy SD-WAN technology. It requires wider adoption, however, to provide the required support for multiple cloud applications, reduce the complexity of WAN architecture, cut back on infrastructure sprawl and deliver real savings."
Looking at the benefits that can accrue from the adept implementation of cloud-based technology within a particular sector, Robin Martens, Head of Strategy for JD Central Commerce, one of Thailand's leading e-commerce operators, turned the spotlight onto retail. Summarising both the looming challenges and a few possible solutions, he said: "Retail, in both its online and offline incarnations, is moving ever closer towards borderlessness and personalisation. In line with this, vendors need to leverage data as a means of delivering bespoke customer interaction and optimised supply chains. These days, customers go online to research and share and then buy either online or offline. Retailers need to tap into this behaviour, while integrating online and offline supply chains as a means of increasing delivery speeds and maximising inventory turnover.
"For our part, we have implemented a three-phase approach to delivering on that strategy. The first phase saw us focus on growing our customer base. As a result, last year we had 300 million users and a gross merchandise volume of US$200 billion. The second phase, then, saw us set out to improve the customer experience. We did this by introducing e-wallets, while vastly expanding our logistics and delivery system. The third phase, which we have now embarked upon, will see us use our experience and resources to try to empower others. Ultimately, our aim is to establish a viable e-commerce ecosystem across the rapidly expanding Southeast Asia market, which all our partners will play a full and active role within, while sharing our values and technology."
For Bernie Trudel – Head of Cloud Infrastructure at Stockholm-headquartered telecoms of giant Ericsson – regardless of structured integration, investment or compatibility, universal cloud adoption would remain undeliverable without the addition of a further element to the mix – 5G. Outlining the transformational potential of the incoming high-speed cellular mobile communications standard, he said: "Part of the core appeal of 5G is that it provides low and stable latency, while reducing backhaul traffic. At the same time, it boosts network resilience, enhancing reliability and allowing for a wider range of security options.
"In the manufacturing sector, 5G will allow for such innovations as private cloud to the edge, cloud robotics and a new generation of remote-control capabilities. It will also make a real difference to the world of connected vehicles, delivering real-time vehicle information and a previously unimaginable level of autonomous control. Looking to the possibilities in the energy and utilities management sectors, it will, for the first time, deliver real-time machine intelligence, while, in terms of healthcare applications, low-risk remote surgical operations would become practicable.
"Basically, 5G overcomes the problem of latency. With 4G, even in the optimum environment, there is a lag of least 50 milliseconds. With 5G, this will drop to an average of 1 millisecond in a real-world situation. This reduced latency means that data processing can take place on the edge, rather than centrally, transforming cloud operability in time-critical environments, such as autonomous cars or surgical theatres."
Cloud Expo Asia 2018 took place from 10-11 October at Singapore's Sands Expo and Convention Centre.
Ronald Hee, Special Correspondent, Singapore