Across many markets, ‘digital transformation’ started as some sort of distant nirvana. It’s often a throwaway line with no realistic and concrete application, or opportunity payback. The Singapore government however is placing data as key to its vision for the future economy and is taking real steps to reap the benefits of data, applying it to everyday applications to increase the quality of the lives of those who reside here. Using data to improve safety, security, health and wellbeing has been successful, as a result of innovation driven out of various types of collaboration.
This is all great given that data is the most valuable economic resource for businesses competing on the world stage, especially in Singapore due to geographical and natural constraints. Becoming a digital leader hinges on gaining speed, insights, efficiency, and agility from data — and all at less cost.
So the march towards real digital transformation must continue even as the latest World Digital Competitiveness Ranking ranked Singapore as the most digitally competitive country in the world. We should also continue to foster initiatives such as IDA’s Cloud Service Provider Registry, which aims to help companies adopt cloud services for faster and easier access to data.
But it’s not quite time to celebrate yet; we should acknowledge that other markets aren’t far behind. To keep this momentum going and take ownership of the cloud era, we need to translate Singapore’s digital vision into reality by being incredibly strategic with implementation.
Where should data sit?
One of the misnomers of a digitisation strategy seems to be that ‘the cloud’ fixes everything, and that data and compute will all come from the cloud. Indeed, it’s one way to build capability but it is definitely not the only way to achieve your digital objectives. Performance, security, network latency and other issues underpin private cloud purchasing and self-operation. Regulators also require a bullet proof approach to data availability via an on-premises approach.
There is also no doubt that an exponential explosion of data is rapidly increasing complexity in business operations and we need to re-think where data is stored. Cloud is a critical tool in this process and provides many options with speed to provision and ease of use making it very attractive. So far, we’re on the right track. A study of 9,000 businesses worldwide revealed that businesses across Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ) are some of the biggest adopters of public cloud services. Around 54% of business applications in the region run on public or private cloud, and this figure is slated to rise in the coming years. Most application vendors also offer on-premises and SAAS options.
Yet, despite the benefits cloud offers, a fair number of businesses remain hesitant to jump on the bandwagon. Nearly two thirds of businesses in APJ cite security as a primary drawback of public cloud (a valid concern today), while a third of Singaporean companies that ran workloads in public cloud environments moved them back on-premises. In fact, some businesses are also discovering that public cloud may not be as cost-effective as first thought. As a result, they are now trying to strike a balance between public, private, and on-premises infrastructure.
This is why the emergence of hybrid cloud in recent years has been a game-changer. It combines two or more clouds (private, public, hosted), and is designed to reconcile the trade-offs between infrastructure options, and blend hardware with digital services to create real business value.
Hybrid cloud: A clear, digital goal post
When businesses get it right, a hybrid cloud model delivers reliable, fast, and secure solutions that underpin digital momentum. Research firm IDC predicts that more than 65% of enterprise IT organisations in APJ will commit to hybrid cloud architectures by the end of this year.
The good news is that digitally-connected Singapore is one of the most advanced hybrid cloud adopters in APJ, and adoption is set to rise as cloud becomes the backbone for its Smart Nation drive. Businesses can work with service providers and system integrators to create hybrid environments; to choose where applications reside short and long term; and be able to move them between public and private platforms.
To develop a meaningful cloud strategy, business leaders need understand the strengths and weaknesses of different options in meeting specific business performance requirements, and leverage the most suitable data platform to future-proof success. IT leaders need to be able to advise and orchestrate this strategy. Test applications across private and public platforms to see how they perform and at what costs. It may surprise many business users to find that on-premises computing is cheaper than the public cloud!
A measured approach to the mix of data offerings available is necessary to fuel innovation and digital transformation in Singapore, especially when more industries – from financial services and healthcare to logistics and manufacturing – increasingly rely on real-time data. The more digital and data-driven we become, the more it makes sense that something as “techie”-sounding as hybrid cloud becomes the focal point of today’s businesses and the digital economy.
Michael Alp, Vice President, Asia Pacific and Japan, Pure Storage