Malaysia set to harness the power of AI with $1 billion park and scholarship programme

Malaysia amps up in the artificial intelligence race with Malaysia’s first AI park and scholarship programme that will drive technological development in the country. 

The park is expected to give a boost to Malaysia’s economy by supporting efforts to enable a commercial AI ecosystem and make advancements in AI research. The billion dollar development will look to grow local artificial intelligence talent by taking advantage of computer vision, speech recognition and natural language processing.

This news comes after a study by Microsoft and IDC Asia Pacific, which found that employee productivity is expected to improve by 60% in Malaysia with the help of AI. But despite these developments, we are forced to face the facts, how advanced is AI in Malaysia and what are the main challenges we currently face?

Malaysia’s response to the challenges of AI

The top three challenges faced by business leaders who are adopting AI include a lack of thought leadership and leadership commitment to invest in AI, a lack of skills, resources and continuous learning programmes as well as a lack of advanced analytics or adequate infrastructure and tools to develop actionable insights. 

To overcome these issues and encourage growth, Malaysia’s former Minister of Communications and Multimedia, Gobind Singh Deo, introduced the MYINDUSTRY AI Scholarship, an AI-focused Masters funded by the industry, universities, and Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC).

How has Malaysia used AI?

AI plays a significant role in data aggregation by understanding dark data, data retention and providing data integration for best analytics results. Machine learning, analytics, and AI can objectively identify data that is seldom or never used. This technology can then recommend disposal of the data. For instance, these processes can pick out pieces of data or records that haven’t been accessed for more than five years, indicating that the data could be obsolete. 

While these advancements don’t always have the same discernment abilities as humans, this technology can save an employee time hunting down potentially obsolete data because now all they need to do is to determine whether there is any reason to keep it. 

Recently, AI made a historic, yet controversial, appearance in Malaysia’s justice system to assist in crunching data and sentencing during two drug cases. Machine learning can make a very manual process more efficient by automatically developing “mappings” between data sources and the application’s data repository. This cuts down integration and aggregation times.

At the backbone of AI lies its critical infrastructure of Cloud and datacenters. The demand for computing power is ever-increasing since the rise of AI. This challenges the ability of existing infrastructure to cope with high density, which is why Malaysia has seen growth in this industry and is tapped as a key location for datacenters.

Consult industry leaders and expert speakers on how AI is the key for IR4.0 and harnessing the power of this revolutionary technology only at the Malaysia Cloud & Datacenter Convention 2020

Due to the current COVID-19 situation, W.Media will be postponing all its live events that were scheduled in the first half of the year into the later part of 2020. Stay connected with our series of webinars and online private executive briefings at https://w.media/webinar/ .

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Future of IT Infrastructure?

In our staff meetings, I have been talking about IT workplan, with focus on cloud and mobile technologies as the approach to acquiring new capabilities and enhancing user experience at speed. Examples that I always used are Ariba for Procurement, ServiceNow for Service Desk, Workday for HR, Office365 for Productivity & Collaboration. Each of these comes with a “mobile twin”, enabling convenience at our fingertips literally. And more will follow.

In one of such meetings, someone asked me in this cloud and mobile enabled world, what is the future of IT Infra. I gave a long answer to the short but deep and enlightening question.

User world is evolving

In many organisations, users are trained on new digital competencies such as Agile, Robotic Process Automation (RPA), and Data Visualisation. Agile changes software delivery from the traditional long-drawn waterfall methodology, to quick but small deliverables using weekly sprints and daily stand-ups, and heavy user involvement. As things speed up, Agile requires DevSecOps to reduce frictions and hand-offs. RPA enables the users to automate mundane and/or laborious tasks by themselves, reducing the demand for IT to “integrate” across systems or customise workflows. Data visualisation enables users to personalise their reporting needs, reducing the demand for IT to instrument reports for various individuals.

In NTU, we too started on this user awareness journey. We have completed our second year of Technology and Adaptive Skills brown bags for our users. A glimpse of the topics and esteemed speakers for 2019:

So should IT evolve too

As users’ demand for IT shifts, so should our focus and competencies. One of such IT shifts is to go into driving automation. Google probably came up with this answer many years back, and they called it Site Reliability Engineering (SRE). Google in fact published a book by that very title, sharing how they did it and the thinking behind it. Google’s approach is to put developers into infrastructure roles. These developers, then wrote codes to solve all infrastructural tasks, be it load balancing, capacity planning, service monitoring and recovery, service provisioning, etc. Many of such codes were then contributed to the open source, giving birth to a significant portion of the ecosystem that we see today. Of course, Google’s approach is quite different, as they run at Google scale, whereas most enterprises run at a fraction of that scale. Thus, the pragmatic approach is for Infra to implement tools and products that enables automation across the same functions of load balancing, capacity planning, service monitoring and recovery, service provisioning, etc.

To enable such a shift, we have shifted budget from operations to transformations, minimising additional funding requirement. We have started some of the automation projects in our workplan, across all components of infrastructure. And we are starting to develop deeper engineering skillsets.

Partnership at maturity

As IT competency matures across both users and IT (Infra in this context), the other shift is to deepen partnership between the two. It is one thing to roll-out a platform such as Office365 and ServiceNow, it is another to drive meaningful use cases leveraging the power of such platforms. These platforms that we have implemented present many opportunities to enhance and enrich work processes as well as user experience.

Partnership has to be bi-directional. We need to develop in-depth understanding of the user domains and needs and create solutions that enhances those domains and user experience. In parallel, we are increasing the user engagements through roadshows to showcase use cases of the various products, eDM to highlight key features, knowledge articles for self-enablement, so that our users can co-imagine the future together. This is where Adaptive Skills come in handy, on storytelling, change management, communications.

Lifelong employment comes with lifelong learning. The journey will be a bountiful one.

Philippines Market Insights 2020

In the Philippines, the relationship between the Telco industry and Cloud Computing is symbiotic. The Cloud Computing, Cybersecurity, and Datacenter landscape is intensifying with new entrants keen to establish their foothold in the market. Market optimism is at an all-time high, a signal that the Cloud ecosystem is on the precipice of accelerated growth.

The rising middle-class coupled with a local internet population of close to 70 million users indicates lasting growth in the Cloud sector. Individuals in the Philippines spend an average of 10 hours online (Source: Hootsuite, and WeareSocial Digital 2019 report), topping the global average. The pivot towards high speed connectivity promises to maximize this usage gap. A mix of open-source IT design, and robust competition will rapidly address the discrepancy between usage and infrastructure.

The structural core of this explosive growth in Cloud Computing are the twin pillars of  Cybersecurity, and Business Continuity Plans. Latency and data breaches threaten to drown positive market sentiment. In recognition of Cloud’s  growing dominance, W.Media will be extending its Cloud and Datacenter Convention series to the Philippines.

Cloud and Datacenter Market: Key Drivers in the Philippines

Philippines’ economic growth rate of 6.8%, overtakes China’s growth rate of 6.7% as of 2019 (Source : Government of the Philippines). The 30th ASEAN Summit which was held in the Philippines further affirmed the country’s journey to be the next Asia’s new economic powerhouse.

The BPO Industry is seen as a multi billion-dollar industry and is expected to double by 2020. Countries like the United States, Australia and the UK are among the largest users of BPO. Leveraging on its close cultural affinity to the West, the Philippines is renowned for its strong BPO industry, and is oftenly revered as the Outsourcing Destination of the World. Strong growth of BPOs in the Philippines is expected to drive further demand in data storage and computing demands. 

Cloud Computing Services in the Philippines and Data Privacy have been a highly contested topic.  Section 4 of the Data Privacy Act (DPA) provides that the “Act applies to the processing of all types of personal information and to any natural and juridical person involved in personal information processing including those personal information controllers and processors who, although not found or established in the Philippines, use equipment that are located in the Philippines.” As an inference, there is a need for cloud service providers to localize their datacenters in the Philippines. 

Keep watch – W.Media will commence its 2020 survey for the Philippines market in Q3.

Visit the Philippines Cloud and Datacenter Convention here.

Singapore Market Insights 2020

The rise of Singapore in the Cloud Computing, and Datacenter sphere is remarkable, and startlingly impressive for a nation with limited land. Its position as a mature datacenter hub both lends it, industry regard as well as, motivates its regional counterparts to emerge as market contenders. To that end, Indonesia, and Malaysia have emerged as the most likely Cloud Computing and Datacenter competitors. Having led the industry in  APAC and the wider global region for over a decade, the market is pivoting towards greater efficiency, and sustainability. Its reliable power grid, coupled with skilled personnel have proved to be overwhelmingly attractive against space scarcity concerns.. As new entrants establish their presence in Singapore, they have innovated to adapt to the unique features of the market landscape.

The tight regulations in Singapore was fueled in part by the inherent design inefficiencies. The legal restrictions have resulted in a massive leap in sustainable design among key industry figures. Working in tandem with the magnified focus on Datacenters and efficiency, the central government’s dedication to Cloud Computing is unparalleled. The Services 4.0 plan detailed in IMDA’s digital services report 2018 (Infocomm Media Development Authority’s  Services and Digital Economy (SDE) Technology Roadmap 2018) is in full effect. With the nation’s characteristic flair for infrastructure roll-outs, Cloud Native Architecture remains the focal point of IMDA’s digital roadmap. The Financial Services Industry(FSI), Ecommerce, and Government’s technology stack are the key drivers of Cloud in the nation. The scalability benefits alone have proved enormously attractive and pushed these sectors into adopting Cloud service delivery models.

Cybersecurity sits at the very heart of a well-designed Cloud Architecture, user confidence in the infrastructure remains crucial to the continued adoption. 

Managed Services, Migrations and Expansions listed as key projects

W.Media’s 2019 survey received responses from 1200+ IT professionals in Singapore. As an overview, the key projects that respondents are intending to undertake include Managed Services (23%), Datacenter Migration and Expansion (40%), Private Cloud Deployment (11%) and Migration to Public or Hybrid cloud (11%), with most of them indicating to commence multiple projects at the same time. Challenges listed include Budgeting and unexpected cost (35%), Migration risks and integration issues (20%), Rightsizing/Projecting IT requirements (18%), Service Excellence of providers (14%) and IT Team’s familiarity with new deployment (10%). 

Keep watch – W.Media will commence its 2020 survey for the Singapore market in Q3.

Visit the Singpaore Cloud and Datacenter Convention here.

Thailand Market Insights 2020

According to a study by Frost & Sullivan, global traffic between data centers will grow by 28% annually between 2018 and 2021, a higher growth rate than the traffic between data centers and the users, which is projected at 24%. This trend has been driven by CDNs and the need to disseminate large volumes of static content closer to the user, such as images and video. The ASEAN data center market is set to grow at a CAGR of 16.1% over the next 5 years. Emerging markets, Indonesia and Thailand, are expected to be key growth engines in ASEAN. 

This resonates with Thailand’s push for Industry 4.0 across multiple industries including manufacturing, logistics, tourism and more. The route to digital transformation by corporations in Thailand aims to cope with changing customer behavior and intense competition from global players. To support digitization, corporations will need to focus on building a strong and agile IT infrastructure, leading to the need for cutting edge strategy and technologies in cloud, data centers, and connectivity.

Just few months back, W.Media held its inaugural Cloud and Datacenter Convention in Thailand which brought together over 700 senior IT professionals. Industry experts highlighted Thailand as a strong contender to be the ICT hub for Indochina – find out more in the post event coverage via this link. 

Managed Services, Migrations and Expansions listed as key projects

W.Media’s 2019 survey received responses from 700+ IT professionals in Thailand. As an overview, the key projects that respondents are intending to undertake include Managed Services (23%), Datacenter Migration and Expansion (29%), Private Cloud Deployment (11%) and Migration to Public or Hybrid cloud (11%), with most of them indicating to commence multiple projects at the same time. Challenges listed include Budgeting and unexpected cost (34%), Migration risks and integration issues (25%), Rightsizing/Projecting IT requirements (16%), Service Excellence of providers (15%) and IT Team’s familiarity with new deployment (8%). 

Keep watch – W.Media will commence its 2020 survey for the Thailand market in Q4.

Visit the Thailand Cloud and Datacenter Convention here.

Malaysia Market Insights 2020

Malaysia’s Cloud and Datacenter landscape is primed to leap into the next phase of Cloud Computing. The rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI), coupled with its potential to revolutionize every step of the industrial, manufacturing and service delivery process, is driving this evolution. Even though AI is on the horizon with its presence working as a signal of the future dominance of Industry 4.0, uncertainties still exist. The question still lingers: Is Malaysia’s infrastructure ready?

The scalability opportunities from AI and the supporting Cloud infrastructure have inspired cloud migration. However, the mechanics of going from an on-prem to a cloud-based architecture requires a strategic plan of attack. Managed service providers are crucial to assist in what initially seems like an insurmountable task. Legacy datacenters are also reviewing their facilities to keep pace with Digital Transformation. This ecosystem of new entrants and established players are set to be in the forefront of a revolutionary industrial shift.

This new field of play comes with its own set of challenges, chiefly in securing consumer and industry confidence. The dual issues of Cybersecurity and Disaster Recovery are essential as latency is the overriding factor in sinking optimism around AI and subsequently, Industry 4.0. Cybersecurity has also been in scrutiny given the recent high profile attacks on major Malaysian organizations.

Astounding results deduced from Malaysia Cloud & Datacenter Convention 

From its pre-registration survey, out of the 800+ IT professionals in Malaysia who responded, majority were from the Financial Services industry (19.1%). Other industries include Telecommunications (17.6%), Cloud Service Providers (14.1%) and Government Agencies (10.2%). As an overview, the key projects that respondents are intending to undertake over the next 12 months include implementing Cybersecurity (27%), Datacenter Migration and Expansion (25%), Private Cloud Deployment (25%) and Migration to Public or Hybrid cloud (25%), with most of them indicating to commence multiple projects at the same time.

According to Malaysia’s mainstream news, The Star, many Malaysian companies reported a downtime of more than 24 hours due to cybersecurity breaches in 2019. It is reported that 26% of companies in Malaysia said that the most severe cybersecurity breaches in the last year has had a financial impact of more than US$1mil (RM4.11mil). As such, the MYCDC’s pre-registration survey results aligned with the news report, where many IT professionals recognise the need to address Cybersecurity in order to operate their business efficiently in the long term.

Experts will highlight best practices on Cybersecurity and Business Continuity Management 

 Apart from addressing the key concerns and challenges centred around Cybersecurity, IT and business leaders can look forward to understanding what makes the best Business Continuity Management plan – Hint: It is never just about having a plan.

 Due to unexpected crisis such as recent events like the US-China trade war and the Coronavirus, there were major disruptions in the global supply chain, and the importance of Business Continuity Management has never been more  emphasised. Business Continuity Management will be highlighted in MYCDC where we share how to better position your company in light of the recent crisis. How can technology play a part in the decision making process? How important is digitisation in the role of Business Continuity? Are you readily equipped to tackle crisis efficiently when it arises?

Keep watch – W.Media will commence its 2020 survey for the Malaysia market in Q3.

Visit the Malaysia Cloud and datacenter here.

Indonesia Market Insights 2020

Indonesia’s position as the largest economy in Southeast Asia has fueled its rise in the Cloud Computing, and Datacenter industry. Coupled with relatively low startup and operational costs, the country is rivaling traditional Cloud Computing, Cybersecurity, and Datacenter hubs.  Datacenters in Jakarta alone are set to witness a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21.8% in the years 2019-2024 , the highest for any city in Southeast Asia (Cushman & Wakefield Datacenter Report 2019). 

The central government’s decision to enact and relax Data Sovereignty Laws, has served as a framework for the industry at large. Strict data localization laws, once created a regulatory structure that drove demand. However, the subsequent move to ease legal restrictions, and the continued robust demand, has reassured the major players in the industry. Fears of a market crash were quickly allayed. This flexibility and willingness to evolve makes Indonesia distinct from many of its closest competitors.  International heavyweights in public cloud such as Alibaba Cloud, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and Google Cloud have recognized this tremendous growth potential of the country and seized the chance to open datacenter operations within the country. 

Though  Cloud Computing expansion remains on an upward trajectory, power infrastructure is still an issue throughout the country. Latency arises as a major stumbling block to the massive Cloud Computing growth lying within reach. Additionally, Indonesia’s decision to shift its capital  opens the field up to a vast number of new entrants. The plan to move the administrative heart of the country to Borneo, presents an opportunity for businesses to work together with governmental organizations, and embark on Digital Transformation and Cloud Migration strategies. The degree of changes in Indonesia necessitates an in-depth analysis of the different strategic directions available for companies in the market. 

Keep watch – W.Media will commence its 2020 survey for the Indonesia market in Q3.

Visit the Indonesia Cloud and Datacenter Convention here.

Vietnam Market Insights 2020

Among ASEAN countries, Vietnam has increasingly proven itself to have one of the largest room for cloud adoption with the country’s rapid growth in Cloud expenditure. In 2018, Vietnam’s Cloud service market was valued at USD$165 million and it is projected to reach $291 million by 2024, exhibiting a double digit CAGR of 10% between 2019 and 2024.

According to APAC SMB Digital Maturity Index released in April 2019, 18% of Small and Medium-sized Businesses (SMBs) in Vietnam kickstarted their digital transformation journey through investing in Cloud Computing. Venturing into Cloud Computing enabled these companies to build large-scaled computing power, as well as to minimise technical requirements and physical storage. In addition, Cloud adoption has also equipped these SMBs with the appropriate technology to expand their IT infrastructure, which would have otherwise required a significant upfront capital investment. 

Following through a conversation with Mr Luong Huu Tuan, Co-founder of Vietnam Open Infrastructure Community, he highlighted that Vietnam’s Cloud market in in 2020 would be extremely exciting, with many interesting changes in the market to anticipate and new challenges to be tackled. For instance, the young talents in Vietnam’s IT industry are currently implementing a smart cloud platform for the digital transformation process in the country. With this move, we can expect Vietnam’s Cloud market to advance even further in the near future.

While local SMBs are moving towards cloud adoption and digital transformation, these are not without challenges. Based on APAC SMB Digital Maturity Index, local respondents indicated these areas that they lack of which deters them from cloud adoption: Digital Skills and Talent (17%), Insights into Operational and Customer Data (17%), Robust IT platform (9%). However, the Vietnamese government has stepped up and is taking measures to tackle these challenges that the locals face, which has greatly aided the decision of SMBs to adopt digitalization. For example, most of the respondents are aware of the government’s initiatives to support SMBs in digitalization and at least 64% had benefitted from them.

 Moving forward with the navigation and growth of Vietnam’s digital businesses, W.Media will be bringing back the largest Vietnam Cloud & Datacenter Convention to Ho Chi Minh on 27th August 2020. It is the one and only inclusive event where end-users, operators, system integrators, consultants & engineers are able to meet and connect. Our conference agenda would help to tap on key progresses, best practices, concerns and the future of cloud and data centre innovations. 

Keep watch – W.Media will commence its 2020 survey for the Vietnam market in Q3.

Visit the Vietnam Cloud and Datacenter Convention.

Pushing the edge of sustainability in the data centre with natural gas and lithium-ion UPS

For more than 10 years, Power Partners has delivered a variety of power protection solutions for mission-critical applications, including the burgeoning data centre industry in Singapore. Despite the relatively staid nature of electrical engineering, however, Paul Randall, the technical director of Power Partners feels there is ample room for improvement in terms of enhancing reliability, going green, and reducing costs.

Doing power well

While it is tempting to mistake Power Partners as an equipment vendor, Randall was quick to point out that Power Partner can integrate a full range of equipment into a cohesive solution based on the specific needs of a customer. One aspect that sets Power Partners apart from the “big equipment makers” is how Power Partners is well-versed in integration, he says.

“We integrate the equipment into the building, which might include the fabrication of an appropriate enclosure, the actual installation, and hoisting the hardware into place. We do have our own range of products, but we also collaborate with the industry to address specific requirements.”

One example of this integration ability would be supercapacitor/lithium-ion static uninterruptible power supply (UPS). Randall says the UPS that Power Partners offers can integrate with the ATS and genset, thus ensuring the load is always protected.

Being a traditional dynamic rotary UPS provider in Singapore, Power Partners has recently ventured into supercapacitor technology and gas generator to meet customers’ demands.

That’s not all, however. The use of supercapacitors and the tight integration with the genset provides a buffer to ensure that consecutive power outages and the associated voltage dip (coup de fouet effect) experienced by traditional batteries don’t bring the lithium-ion cells below the UPS low level DC. Which would be disastrous and can culminate due to multiple outages with a short autonomy UPS.

“We provide a whole power train from the grid to the racks. Though we are an equipment vendor, we have the capability to integrate lots of equipment as part of a solution to supply power to the data hall downstream. This is important with owner-furnished equipment on the upward trend. As such, we don’t see ourselves as a contractor, but as an equipment specialist,” said Randall.

An eye on green

Aside from reliability, going green is another topic that weighs heavily on Randall, who believes that a switch to natural gas in the data centre can alleviate pollution. The rationale is simple: Why settle for diesel backup generators when a natural gas power plant offers a significantly lower greenhouse gas emission that is at least 30 percent lower? 1

“The cost of operating a natural gas generator is similar to that of a diesel generator. However, natural gas is the perfect fuel for regional Southeast Asia countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, which has an abundance of this resource,” said Randall.

It is hence no accident that Power Partners offers the entire ecosystem to support a natural gas power plant, from the natural gas gensets themselves to the requisite equipment to handle and store natural gas. He said: “We can compress and liquefy natural gas for easier handling. We can store the fuel in a liquified natural gas (LNG) storage tank.”

> Keppel Data Centres enters into partnerships to explore sustainable Floating Data Centre Park and LNG solutions in Singapore

Innovating with power

Randall sees the opportunity to both enhance reliability and reduce cost through the use of new technologies and innovative designs. His organisation’s integration of its lithium-ion UPS and genset is one such example of the former, though Randall also suggests alternate methods of deployments that turns convention on its head.

Pointing out that the gensets of a data centre are left “doing nothing” outside of a power outage, Randall posited using them as the primary power source in parallel with the power grid. This reduces energy cost with no impact on reliability, and excess capacity can also be sold back to the grid to further reduce the running cost.

Of course, this can only be effective with natural gas. But because the gas generators that Power Partners sell are combined heat and power (CHP) power plants, exhaust/engine heat from the generator is automatically put into a heat exchanger and absorption chiller to generate chilled water. This can be piped back into the data centre for cooling, lowering power consumption at no extra cost.

For this to work, the design must be sound, says Randall. “Your design has to be resilient. You must consider all different scenarios, from short circuits, leaking pipes to unstable utility power.” He acknowledged that there are mental barriers to be overcome, too: “Like it or not, it is a very human trait that everyone is waiting for one of their peers to be the ‘first one’.”

With the expertise from parent company Air Water Inc, a traditional industrial gas manufacturer since 1929, both Air Water Inc and Power Partners can provide a full suite of turnkey solutions for gas, water, and power to mission critical facilities.

Opportunities ahead

Though Power Partners has long focused its attention on the Singapore market, it is now setting its eyes on a larger stage after its acquisition by Air Water Inc, Japan. With a vision for growth in the region, Power Partners is currently in the process of establishing offices in Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines.

“We see that many data centre operators are investing in other parts of Southeast Asia, especially in Indonesia and Thailand. Vietnam is worth paying attention to, too, given its large and youthful population,” said Randall. “With the trade war between the U.S. and China, we are seeing companies divert their factories over to Vietnam. We all know that when manufacturing is established somewhere, information technology – and new data centres – will inevitably follow.”

Elsewhere, the growing trend towards data locality is doubtlessly another factor that will drive the construction of new data centres in the region. Moreover, the region is also rapidly modernising, and both governments and commercial organisations are deploying a wide array of smart equipment. And as organisations turn to artificial intelligence (AI) and edge computing to power these systems, the demand for data centres can only increase.

“You need data centres that are local to support applications such as AI and IoT. Data centres are here to stay. The only question is the scale of each facility: Will it be big or small? The digital economy is here to stay, and data centres are a vital component of this new economy.”