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Malaysian IT shifting from cost to business intelligence centre: VMware interview

AvantiKumar | Feb. 25, 2015
As Malaysia has set 2020 as the year to become a developed knowledge economy, Computerworld asks VMWare's Laurence Si for an industry perspective of the journey so far.

During a recent media briefing in Kuala Lumpur when virtualisation technology solutions giant VMware's Asean head of strategic business development, Matthew Hardman and VMware country manager for Malaysia & Brunei, Laurence Si, outlined the components behind the company's 'One Cloud' offering, they also noted a shift of thought among many of the IT leaders they talked with in Malaysia.

The changing role of IT from cost centre to  a centre of transformation  by driving business opportunities with the application of cloud, Big Data analytics, social enterprise and mobility, was timely, they said.

And as Malaysia's pace to become a developed knowledge economy by the year 2020 intensifies, Computerworld Malaysia asked Laurence Si for a more in-depth ICT industry perspective of the nation's progress.

Laurence Si  - VMware 

Photo - Laurence Si, MD, VMware Malaysia & Brunei


To set the stage, could you talk about some of the achievements you feel good about in Malaysia during 2014?

The year 2014 was a very interesting year for VMware. It marked the transformation of IT, shifting from a cost centre to a centre of business intelligence.

Cloud, Big Data analytics and enterprise mobility remained as priorities for businesses. In Malaysia, it was also the year where we saw aggressive adoption of ICT focused initiatives such as the deployment of the largest virtualised desktop environment in Malaysia by the Ministry of Education (MOE). This initiative enabled access of technology, internet and online learning resources to more than 300,000 students in rural areas across Malaysia. The project brought new hopes and opened up possibilities for students and got awarded the 2014 VMware Innovation Awards for Transforming IT by Defying Convention and was highlighted by MOE as an enabler of technology in the market. Additionally, VMware also supported Telekom Malaysia in developing, designing and implementing the unified computing platform as a part of a transformational project for the company.

VMware's innovations over the course of 2014 was also guided by how we can best support businesses change and drive transformation in a manner that helps them become globally competitive. In Malaysia, our extended our partnership with VADS Berhad to offer businesses with Managed Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) and enterprise social networking for the highly connected and mobile Malaysian workforce.

Globally, we delivered annual growth of 16 percent and a record US$6.04 billion in total revenue. All regions have played an equally important role in this growth, including Malaysia.  

Malaysia continues to be a priority market for VMware and continues to grow and add to the momentum in ASEAN and APJ. We however do not give a performance split for individual countries.

What kind of IT and other trends will influence business in Malaysia (and also Asia) this year?

In 2015, software defined enterprises will truly make IT flexible and agile through advances in virtualisation.

The Malaysian government forecasts economic growth holding steady at 5 to 6 percent in 2015. In the 2015 budget announcement, the government reiterated its focus on boosting the internet connectivity, laying the necessary infrastructure and allotting funds for supporting local businesses to promote the use of new technology, and automation and innovation. Through this announcement, we will see increased uptake on various IT enterprise services. For a country as ambitious and bold as Malaysia, an economic transformation calls for strengthening of IT to ensure robust sustainable economic growth. The coming together of IT to enable businesses to overcome some of their infrastructure challenges will be key in 2015.

Malaysian businesses have long recognised the criticality of technology to improve service delivery, operational efficiency and resource utilization. According to VMware Malaysia Business Survey 2014, we found that Malaysia businesses possess a positive outlook on technology adoption, as 57 percent of respondents expect to be 60-90 percent virtualised in two years. The survey also pointed out that ensuring IT security and data protection, reducing enterprise costs and guaranteeing business continuity will remain as significant contributors of technology adoption in Malaysia. These will also be the key priorities that will differentiate winners from losers. Proven to save up to US$934 million and reaping savings of up to 216 percent for the next six years, a software-defined approach to managing IT may be the answer to businesses productivity and agility.

As such, VMware outlines Software Defined Data Centre, Hybrid Cloud and End-user computing as the three key areas of IT deployment businesses must consider in 2015. Building on from this momentum we recently launched our One Cloud any App announcement that enables businesses to perform better and scale up faster in the highly mobile and virtualised environments.

Could you talk some more about VMware's recent new positioning regarding the software defined data centre and also when and how this will become important to the Malaysian market?

Fluid, instant and secure are the definitions of today's brave new model of IT - and this means giving businesses the speed, flexibility and secure way of managing IT. The uptake of applications has led to acceleration of both private and hybrid cloud adoption across enterprises' enabling a highly mobile workforce and move towards a software-defined enterprise. While businesses enjoy the benefits of agility, flexibility and scalability the software-defined model brings, creating and provisioning applications often result in multiple challenges and complexities such as having to manage multiple cloud environments.

VMware recently announced the industry's first unified platform of virtualised compute, networking and storage for the hybrid cloud. Defined in software, VMware's platform will enable customers to create one consistent environment across the private and public cloud to run, protect and manage any cloud-native or traditional application. The platform will also offers customers openness and choice in how to build and manage their applications and cloud environments based on their specific needs.

In Malaysia, we are already moving towards a liquid world.  By that, I mean that traditional, rigid business structures are melting away and are being replaced with new, agile, and dynamic business models. Businesses are embracing mobility and enterprises are investing in setting up IT infrastructures that contribute to the business outcome. In a study we carried out last year, 89 percent of people said that they used their smartphones for work and personal matters in the last 12 months.  In a separate study done by IDC, the results showed how BYOD trend is catching on in Malaysia with over 50 percent of the companies surveyed saying that they have been deploying 'Bring Your Own Device' (BYOD) or corporate-provisioned mobile devices policies.

This shows that 2015 is a pivotal year for VMware as we build the systems, platforms, and operational capabilities we need to scale while continuing to expand our solutions portfolio.  

Various industry leaders have commented on the increasing significance of the hybrid cloud in Malaysia: What is your take on this?

Yes, that's true. We are seeing increased interest in Hybrid cloud in Malaysia. The move to hybrid clouds is largely being driven by a desire to extend the reach of existing IT environments into the cloud. Across the region, according to the VMware APJ Cloud Index 2013, we see that around two-thirds of IT decision-makers have told us they intend to invest most heavily in private and hybrid clouds.

More importantly for Malaysia, more than 39 percent of businesses are currently planning to implement cloud, making Malaysia the second ranking country in APAC to be planning a cloud migration. Meanwhile, 31% have already adopted cloud. In a similar vein, IDC analysts predict that the hybrid cloud will be the choice data centre infrastructure in 2015. By end of 2015, 20-25 percent of enterprises will be in a hybrid cloud environment with SDDC and/or integrated infrastructure.

Consumer-led computing has driven much of the growth - especially in Asia - during the last few years: do you think there will be any changes to this moving forward?

Yes indeed, consumer-led computing is definitely a factor in driving growth for VMware.  Additionally, the rise in Millennial workforce is adding to the growth of mobile cloud workforce.  Through the MeConomy study, conducted last year, we found that 65 percent of Malaysian millennials said they preferred working at home or at a home office and 70 percent of Malaysian workers also expect their employers to provide equipment and hardware that allow them to work anywhere and enable access to application on their own devices. For the next 10 years we can expect to see more millennials entering the workforce and transforming today's desk-bound workforce into a mobile cloud workforce.  

This shows that companies will begin to look for solutions to address the move to mobile cloud and this is where VMware will be able to provide them with the support they need to propel their business further.

Let's talk about virtualised networking/NSX: what is exciting you about this from a Malaysian and then an APAC perspective?

Businesses in Malaysia are on a journey and are progressively evolving their IT infrastructures from traditional physical environments to more agile and efficient environments based upon virtualisation and cloud.

The IDC Data 2020 study, which was done last year also showed that businesses in Malaysia are walking towards the virtualisation path with 31 percent of them expecting to fully virtualise in the next two years. Speed, cost and security are also the top three reasons why businesses consider virtualisation.

With businesses in Malaysia expecting to virtualise to meet their company's needs, we expect to see a growing interest in VMware NSX.

NSX is a transformative architecture from VMware which enables the full potential of a Software-Defined Data Centre. This results in faster deployment of workloads, as well as greater agility in the face of increasingly dynamic data centres. Besides speed and cost savings, NSX delivers a new model for network security with secure micro segmentation in the data centre.

Expanding on our work in NSX in 2014, VMware started the year by launching vCloud Air hybrid networking services that will help customers bridge VMware's vCloud Air public cloud service and VMware vSphere-based private clouds to enable a single, secure network domain through a gateway appliance.

VMware NSX is a network virtualisation platform that delivers the entire networking and security model from L2-L7 in software. VMware NSX is being deployed as the networking foundation for VMware vCloud Air. Available via a phased release starting in the first half of 2015, VMware vCloud Air hybrid networking services will enable customers to maintain hundreds of virtual networks spanning the private cloud and vCloud Air over a single WAN connection, and share the same fine-grained "zero trust" security policies and network isolation for applications, unchanged.

Globally, we are also seeing strong momentum behind VMware NSX with more than 400 customers today, 40-plus partners, and we have now 14 integrated solutions that are available and shipping. We are confident that the Malaysian market would add to the growing number of customers.

Could you also give some more details from the IDC Data 2020 study?

Findings from the IDC Data 2020 study revealed that US$ 1.36B (RM4.08Billion) of costs could be avoided from 2003 - 2020 with server virtualisation in Malaysia alone. Of which, here is the breakdown of savings in the following areas due to servers avoided:
o US$777M (RM2,331M) in hardware spending savings to customer revenue from the sale of physical hardware
o US$197M (RM591M) in power and cooling savings to power and cool a physical hardware in a datacentre
o US$21M (RM63M) in real estate and maintenance fees with land or construction costs associated in housing a physical hardware
o US$371M (RM1,113m) in hardware administrative costs including the manpower and overheads needed to manage each physical hardware component

Findings from the study also revealed that Malaysian businesses will be at the forefront of technology adoption with at least 15 percent organisations rating themselves as fully virtualised and a majority of 31 percent expecting to join the more than 90 percent virtualised category in the next 2 years.

More than a third (34 percent) of Malaysian businesses surveyed reported their organisation as 60-90 percent virtualised and at least 30 percent between 30-60 percent virtualised. While deployment statistics are promising, costs followed by lack of information and business culture seem to be the primary reasons for barriers in adoption.

Moving ahead: what is VMware's focus and roadmap in the next 12-18 months here?

Malaysia is an important market for VMware and we think we are uniquely positioned to empower our customers as they move from the client-server era to the mobile-cloud era of computing.

We are setting the foundation for the next 12 months, together with the industry and are focused on driving momentum and customer adoption in each of our three strategic growth areas: Software Defined Data Centre, Hybrid Cloud and End-User Computing. The relevance of these announcements is at a time when Malaysian businesses are realizing the need for making forward looking investments and technology commitments. Our recently commissioned IDC Data 2020 study indicates virtualisation as a priority with (37%) expected to join the over 90% virtualised category in the next 2 years. We also see the benefits of doing this and the ability to avoid US$1.36B in costs between 2003-2020.

As mentioned before, in order to survive in today's liquid world, businesses need to realize that Technology is at the heart of disruption in the marketplace, and software is playing a key role with two of the largest, most dominant technological forces - mobility and cloud.  

If we look at our innovations and our new architecture for IT, everything we do starts with an orientation around applications. What business cares about is expedient access to applications. Businesses have already started realizing how a software-defined data centre is the best architecture for this instant, secure and fluid model of IT.  

VMware's architecture for the SDDC builds upon the core concepts that made compute virtualisation and can be leveraged not just in your on premises data centre, or your private cloud, but also by your public clouds. The result is one unified hybrid cloud. All of these environments are managed from a common cloud management platform.

Built upon the software-defined data centre architecture, we call this unified hybrid cloud "One Cloud for Any Application". This is industry's first unified platform of virtualised compute, networking and storage for the hybrid cloud. It runs on a wide variety of hardware infrastructure, including an option to leverage your existing infrastructure, or adopt converged or even hyper converged infrastructure. One Cloud offers complete choice. 


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