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The realities of Malaysian cloud adoption: EMC interview

AvantiKumar | Oct. 21, 2014
EMC Malaysia MD Cheam Tat Inn talks about the cross-industry cloud challenges, which include security and privacy, facing Malaysian organisations today.

Businesses in Malaysia see the benefits of investing in IT and have shown significant interest in cloud computing, according to EMC Malaysia managing director Cheam Tat Inn.

However, he points out that barriers and challenges vary across different industry sectors. He outlines some of his discussions with business leaders on how best to navigate these challenges, including the thorny topics of security and privacy, in this interview with Computerworld Malaysia.


EMC Malaysia MD

Photo - Cheam Tat Inn, Managing Director, EMC Malaysia


In your conversations with existing and potential customers, what are the specific challenges faced by family-run and traditional verticals such as oil and gas when it comes to making IT investment decisions?

Although inarguably IT adoption is recognized as highly beneficial from the perspective of operational excellence, affordability remains a question for SMEs and family run businesses operating on smaller capital. In addition to deploying IT infrastructure onsite, the need for IT specialists to run and maintain the department becomes an additional overhead.

On the other hand traditional sectors such as oil and gas or even medium to large family owned companies in Malaysia may face challenges such as a traditional mindset among decision-makers, security concerns, or just lack of awareness. Imagine the transformation from legacy storage to cloud for businesses with close to no IT specialists. Trusting a data storage system that is not only invisible but not directly owned and controlled by them is not an easy bet. Moreover, when it comes to highly regulated industries, regulators demand far more transparency and accountability than a regular SME or enterprise.

In a recent survey that we held in partnership with IDG Connect, we found out that although businesses see the benefits of IT investment, even today, security and regulatory and governance concerns form a big part of the barriers in adoption. Flexibility, the ability to scale IT capacity up or down as required to match business requirements is another key factor in determining the IT investment in Malaysian businesses.

The challenges and requirements really depend on specific company and industry requirements. We must understand that when it comes to IT transformation in business, one size does not fit all. The transition to 21st century IT infrastructure, especially for traditionally run firms or family owned businesses, will take efforts from the entire ecosystem. At EMC, our goal is invest to educate and consult customers with the focus keenly on the unique need of each businesses- this is the only way to make modern IT infrastructure the new normal and unleashing its positive impact on business.

At the same time, IT decision makers must understand that their most important role isn't provisioning and running the computing environment, essential as those activities are. It's to encourage and enable the business to use technology strategically. That includes both implementing business strategy and formulating it in the first place.


Is this the right time for such businesses to adopt a cloud model: is the infrastructure in place across the country to ensure a secure and fast cloud-driven process?

The connectivity landscape in Malaysia is stable and it retains its strong position as a potential data centre hub. The 2014 edition of the Cloud Readiness Index (CRI) confirms that the overall cloud awareness and readiness of Asia Pacific countries has improved across the region. Data speeds have increased across the board, data centre connectivity options are growing as the Asia Pacific Gateway cable is completed, and regional broadband charges are among the lowest in the world. Malaysia has steadily maintained its position in cloud readiness. Recent government efforts to develop Malaysia's data management policies such as its Personal Data Protection Act and a Big Data Analytics pilot prepare Malaysia to be one of the most cloud-friendly markets in Asia Pacific.

It is no longer a question of whether businesses in Malaysia should be looking at moving to a cloud-enabled environment, it is a question of how, and the focus is on selecting the model that works best for them and on impeccable execution.

At EMC, our focus is on the immense benefits of Hybrid Cloud in the new workplace. The main business driver for Hybrid Cloud adoption is the imperative to participate effectively in a highly mobile, networked and data-intensive marketplace. Most traditional business activities have been standardized, commoditized and automated with software packages. Businesses today are connecting with customers in new ways, and people inside and outside the enterprise are collaborating on new business solutions. Innovation is happening at the intersections with the marketplace, and Hybrid Cloud is the best platform for driving business innovation and competitive advantage.


How should businesses choose between private or public cloud models?

Private cloud is essentially a description of a highly virtualized, on-premise data centre. Private Clouds have proliferated in recent years, both in Malaysia and across the world, especially because they give businesses more control over their data, and hence a stronger sense of security in their journey to cloud. In many cases, Private Cloud has been a stepping stone to an organization's use of Public or Hybrid Cloud.

On the other hand, Public Cloud is basically cloud infrastructure and services available to the general public on a subscription model. Although businesses do have less control over their data, as long as their cloud service provider is a trusted name in the industry, data security should not be a big concern. Public cloud model comes with the ability to consume IT and related services on a pay-per-use model, with fast access and flexibility.

According to the EMC Malaysia Hybrid Cloud Survey, off- premise, Public Cloud services with the approval of the IT department and on-Premise, private cloud solutions managed by the IT department are the most used models of cloud computing.

I place very high emphasis on understanding company-specific workloads so that businesses can make an informed decision about their cloud model. Agility and security must be the guiding factors of a cloud decision in a business of any size. Businesses must also focus on open technologies in their cloud ecosystem in order to retain choice and interoperability. They must also remember that the transition from private to Hybrid Cloud also depends on the choices businesses make today.

One mistake that businesses must avoid is being short-sighted when making their cloud investment. The decision should not just be based on today's needs and today's budget. The market place is undergoing massive transformation as we speak. As structured and unstructured data in organizations continue to grow, and with security and cost continuing to be a concern, it is important that businesses remain agile in the choices they make today.


What are the pros and cons of choosing and implementing a hybrid cloud solution?

In essence, a hybrid environment is the promise of the best of both worlds to businesses. Taking a call between private and public is a matter of contention, simply because no matter what their budget, businesses will always have some data that is meant to be on premise because of its sensitivity.

Hybrid Cloud is an integrated, automated, scalable and secure platform for provisioning and consuming business applications, datasets and other technology services that originate either inside or outside an enterprise. Now, that's not yet the universal definition of Hybrid Cloud, mainly because it sets a standard that can be difficult to meet. But we've put a lot of effort into implementations based on that definition because that's the capability businesses need today. No contemporary corporation should settle for less.

Hybrid Cloud gives IT much greater flexibility to determine where to run individual workloads including applications and services - in-house, with service providers, or in the public cloud. That in turn makes it much easier to "replatform" applications by migrating them to more current and robust technology.  Hybrid Cloud also provides IT with a richer set of automated monitoring and management tools for a better integrated computing environment. With mundane tasks automated and management simplified, IT is better able to control and optimize the platform while improving infrastructure performance and cost. Back to ITaaS for a moment: Hybrid Cloud makes it easier for IT to provision and manage business services. Some services may be primarily for IT, such as the rapid and on-demand spin-up of test-and-development environments. So IT benefits as a consumer of services as well.

It's an open truth that IT security is perhaps the biggest barrier to cloud adoption - we have surveys and real life conversations to prove that. I like to start the discussion with three realities:

  • Mobile devices, social media and big data all increase demands on security. Yet they're part of the extended environment and here to stay
  • Traditional perimeter defences must be redefined and supplemented to have any chance against the growing onslaught of cyber-intrusions. You can't build a hard shell around the enterprise when your employees and customers can be anywhere anytime
  • Securing sensitive business assets in the public cloud has turned out to be a serious pain point. You have to negotiate how to map and recreate your security apparatus to fit into an external service level agreement. It's laborious and the results have not inspired confidence. Companies lose data and transactions in public cloud failures. Public cloud security issues have limited the business flexibility that cloud is meant to deliver.

 

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