From Singapore to the Philippines, through the cities of Malaysia and the regions of Indonesia, the cloud conversation is evolving.
At pace, some would suggest, as businesses begin to move past the hype phase and into mainstream deployments.
Such enthusiasm is heightening the need for external guidance through the channel, with partners well placed to assume an authoritative voice when writing the cloud narrative of ASEAN.
“Cloud adoption in ASEAN is at a tipping point and continues to accelerate,” observed Mike Chan, general manager of cloud and enterprise across Asia Pacific at Microsoft. “We are witnessing a new generation of ASEAN enterprises adopting cloud thanks to continuously improving infrastructure, greater connectivity and increases in employee skilling.”
From a global perspective however, Chan acknowledged that ASEAN’s cloud maturity is still in the early stages, due to evolving regulations, local cost of labour and the availability of workforces familiar with cloud technologies.
“The market remains a hybrid market where both on-premises and cloud technologies are still growing,” Chan said. “A main driver behind ASEAN cloud growth is a very large population base and high mobile connectivity which leads to a mobile-first consumer market highlighting the unprecedented cloud opportunity ahead.”
Speaking to Channel Asia, Chan said ASEAN could leverage new technologies to leapfrog mature markets and establish itself as the knowledge economy.
In terms of economic gain, digital transformation will add an estimated $1.16 trillion to Asia Pacific’s GDP.
“If ASEAN can continue to close the gap on Asia Pacific, cloud computing could prove to be invaluable to its economy and future growth,” Chan added. “For SMEs, which make up 95 per cent of all businesses in ASEAN, using the cloud to free up capital investments, traditionally tied up in software and hardware, could be an effective way to help boost competitiveness, accelerate business growth, intensify collaboration, and scale businesses to a global level.
“Cloud computing presents ASEAN with tremendous economic and societal opportunity. However, the future evolution of the cloud market in ASEAN will depend heavily on the region’s ability to raise digital literacy for workers, address existing gaps in infrastructure, implement cloud solutions securely and effectively work with regulators.”
In the ASEAN region, Chan said stringent compliance laws relating to data sovereignty are driving a need for hybrid cloud solutions.
“With a hybrid cloud approach, enterprises and SMEs benefit from having the ability to store sensitive, confidential data on-premise, while also taking advantage of the flexibility public cloud offers,” he outlined. “A hybrid approach can be strategically beneficial for organisations from a financial and security perspective.”
According to Chan, true hybrid cloud enables organisations to maximise existing investments, while continuing to innovate and transform business operations. For organisations in ASEAN, this is helping them to transition to the cloud in a ‘future-proof way’.
“Indonesian airline, Garuda Indonesia, adopted a hybrid cloud approach when it redeployed its existing, open source e-commerce websites onto the Microsoft Azure cloud service,” Chan explained. “The move saw the airline instantly benefit from enhanced security of its ticketing systems and greater scalability, leading to a huge boost in its online sales by as much as 200 per cent.”
Meanwhile, in Vietnam, retailer Nguyen Kim is using hybrid cloud for backup, disaster recovery, and business continuity, giving the shopping and electronic appliance centre the capability to switch between storage options as needed.
By reducing the time spent dealing with critical IT tasks, Chan said Nguyen Kim is now able to focus IT resources on value-added projects that deliver ROI for the business.
“In the Philippines, KROPS, a mobile Azure-based e-commerce application is empowering farmers by providing them with an online marketplace where they can sell produce to a much wider group of buyers, giving them greater control over pricing,” Chan added. “This innovative technology, hosted on Microsoft Azure, is seeing farmers leave the big cities and return back to their trade.
“Overall, customers are asking for the agility and scale of the cloud, maintenance of high trust, security and privacy controls while ensuring the solutions fit within existing cost structures of their own business.
“Being a leader in the on-premises and public cloud space allows Microsoft to uniquely balance new opportunities and existing operations to help ASEAN customers succeed.”
Research conducted by IDC and Microsoft revealed that for 84 per cent of IT professionals, hybrid is already a part of their cloud strategy.
“There is no question that companies in ASEAN are rapidly turning to the cloud and seizing the opportunities it brings such as increased agility and faster innovation,” Chan said. “The conversation is rarely ‘all cloud or nothing’.
“In fact, for most enterprises or highly regulated industries, it’s a hybrid approach to cloud that makes the most sense as it offers them choice and flexibility in where they run their business-critical workloads and applications; this helps address latency, regulatory and data sovereignty issues.”
By combining public cloud and on-premises systems, Chan said enterprises and SMEs in ASEAN are getting the best of both worlds.
“As they seek flexibility and choice, we are seeing a greater demand for the deployment of Microsoft Azure in customer data centres and in disconnected scenarios,” he added. “The market is also looking for a consistent development experience for cloud-native and traditional applications, with the ability to deploy in the cloud, on-premises, or at the edge.
“This is why we continue to invest in enabling a hybrid strategy, particularly as hybrid cloud evolves into the new application pattern of using intelligent cloud and intelligent edge.
“And Microsoft continues to allow for workloads to move seamlessly into the cloud, be deployed globally, and still allow for workloads to potentially be ‘brought back’ and run locally at the edge on platforms like AzureStack.”
In assessing the emerging technologies impact the market, Chan cited artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT) and big data are offerings capable of “truly transforming” the ASEAN cloud space in the upcoming years.
Within this Industry 4.0 era, Chan said businesses most balance agility with security, with hybrid cloud adoption representing the start of a “forward-thinking strategy”. And one that is continuing to pick up pace with IDC predicting a 19 per cent growth in cloud implementation from 2017 to 2022.
“We are now entering a new era of intelligent cloud, whereby units of computing are being made available at the ‘edge’ closest to where the computing resources need to exist,” Chan said. “With Microsoft’s technology, even the world’s most remote destinations is able to work in concert with public cloud solutions.
“This is even more critical in a world of AI and IoT where algorithms need to be deployed close to people, devices and businesses in order to be most effective.”
As hybrid cloud evolves to meet market needs, Chan said new innovation in technologies applications are emerging through new approaches such as containers, micro-services, serverless, and platform-as-a-service.
“Microsoft Azure Stack, which offers Azure in a customer’s data centre or in disconnected scenarios, is just one of our many solutions to help advance hybrid scenarios,” Chan explained.
Another major developing area is big data in ASEAN, outlined Chan.
“People and mobile devices create data at unprecedented rates,” he said. “With a fast growing population, the potential for big data is growing very fast leading to new opportunities that are unforeseen.
“Creation of an API economy that is backed by big data starting with data lakes, to integration with multiple data sources through technology like data factories are leading to new insights and business opportunities.”
Chan said the ability for businesses to harness big data, make sense of it and present it in a business relevant context and manner will become increasingly important in the next 3-5 years.
“The API economy also means core technology providers and the partner ecosystem around these solutions are themselves emerging as a new technology trend,” he advised. “Partners that can provide managed services integrating multiple ISV solutions optimised for specific industry and vertical scenarios will become more and more common.
"This ‘solution marketplace’ technology like Rhipe is needed in the market so everyone doesn’t rebuild the same solutions.”