Data Centre tech needs upgradation for effective 5G

Technological advancement in all aspects of humankind is taking place every day.

Fifth generation telecommunication networks or 5G, is the latest invention. Initially, the invention of the 2nd generation (2G) brought about the spread of mobile phones across the world at the beginning 20th century.

After a while, the 3rd generation (3G) came along and pushed the increase of mobile applications on the first smartphones, which were invented shortly after the 2nd generation network (2G).

To increase the smartphone’s efficiency already in the market, innovators and technologists around the world have yet to come up with another generation of the telecommunication network, the 4th generation (4G). 4G improved the smartphone application’s messaging speeds to curb some of the drawbacks of its predecessor, the 3G network technology.

The telecommunication network is now focusing on the 5G technology, which is meant to increase the speed and reduce latency and be able to connect as many devices as possible in the same central point such as data centres. (Reference: “THE IMPACT OF THE 5G REVOLUTION ON THE DATA CENTER | DATA4”, 2021).

Additionally, according to Next Generation Mobile Network Alliance, it will be possible for individuals to get access to information from available data centres faster than previous generations. For instance, 5G will increase the download speeds from anywhere globally to support up to 50MBPS, regardless of the kind of devices one is using.

Also, it will be possible to stream more than one 8K resolution quality video with high-end clarity without experiencing downtime like with the 4G technology. These fantastic capabilities of 5G are enhanced by the increased speeds and very low latency.

Businesses will be required to allow 5G technology to affect their operations to give room for human-machine dialogue and the implementation of Artificial Intelligence with the data centres and connected devices. Due to these improvements, data centres will get more strength, and their role with the world will spread from large cities to small cities (Young, 2021).

Upgrades, need of the hour

However, for the data centres to have the capacity to handle this kind of enormous amount of data, high speeds and low latency across all platforms, each technology piece requires to updated to accommodate 5G infrastructures and software. The current 4G telecommunication devices such as switches, routers and servers will require the appropriate upgrades to facilitate smooth transitions with the data centres.

The benefits to data centres are that new opportunities will emerge for the existing ones, which will be established to support the enormous volumes of data in demand. Therefore, public and private data centres will need to reconstruct the available structures to handle flexibility that is already incorporated in the 5th generation that was not part of the current 4G technology.

Better planning

The cost to meet such requirements will be high, requiring the data centres to budget more on the 5G technology (Young, 2021). Consecutively, since edge computing and 5G are less likely to work and co-exist together, they are a higher possibility that they will exploit each other functionality leading to the establishment of smaller data centres to handle a large volume of data that will need to be processed over small geographical areas.

There is no efficient way to process data at the edge computing technology; preferably, the traditional methods are used to process such data. To eliminate these old technologies, which cannot handle 5G technology, the service providers will be forced to incorporate edge computing nodes in their mesh and other network topologies to support the requirements ofthe 5G in their data centres.(Choudhary, 2019).

The benefits of doing this will be increase data flow into and out of data centres. Furthermore, data centres will also be required to embrace Radio Access Network (RAN) to open opportunities for virtualization of 4RAN networks. Such advancements will allow convergence of local data centres with data center spaces. Finally, data centres will need to enhance their data and information reliability and redundancy, which will be facilitated by edge computing and local data centres.

Since the volume of data will increase, the amount of storage in data centres will be required to be enlarged to handle all the information.(Choudhary, 2019)

For instance, most data centres will be forced to collaborate with other storage technology, including cloud computing for data storage spaces. As a result, data will be more available to users than with other generations of telecommunication technologies. It will be simple for the data centres to provide efficient and up to data from cloud storage. Furthermore, network slicing is another benefit Internet of Things (IoT) will gain from data centres as 5G will allow virtual networks to create and provide more flexible connectivity to meet customers with specific needs. However, this technology has a lot of uncertainty which data centres do not know about since only a few experiments have been done on this improvement.

 

References

Choudhary, B. (2019).What Will Be the Impact of 5G Technology on Data centres?. Colocation America. Retrieved 24 February 2021, from https://www.colocationamerica.com/blog/5g-data-center.

THE IMPACT OF THE 5G REVOLUTION ON THE DATA CENTER | DATA4. DATA4Smart Data centres at Scale. (2021). Retrieved 24 February 2021, from

https://www.data4group.com/en/market-trends/the-impact-of-the-5g-revolution-on-the-data-center/#:~:text=With%20greater%20speed%20and%20data,the%20way%20we%20learn%2C%20communicate.

Young, J. (2021).How 5G will affect the structure of data centres. Datacenterdynamics.com. Retrieved 24 February 2021, from https://www.datacenterdynamics.com/en/analysis/how-5g-will-affect-structure-data-centres/.

Business value a key factor for tech adoption: Lan Kwai Fong Group

Over the last three decades, Lan Kwai Fong Group has established itself as a household name in Asia.

With extensive brands, properties and investments, the group is highly regarded as the foremost entertainment, hospitality and lifestyle brand in the region. A market leader in a host of different fields as varied as F&B, retail, leisure and entertainment, the COVID-19 pandemic came as a jolt- especially considering the fact that the Group is in an industry which involves a human touch. At the same time, businesses have to evolve and accordingly Lan Kwai Fong Group embraced digitalisation.

Key learnings

So, what challenges did the Group face? Did it have to spend a lot in the digitalisation journey? How complex was the process?

Addressing 1,000 plus delegates at W.Media’s Digital Week Northeast Asia edition, Vincent Alliaga, Director of Technology, Lan Kwai Fong Group outlined that it embarked on its digital journey with caution and pragmatism.

“We took a pragmatic approach and the predominant focus was the business value that it (technology) brings,” said Alliaga. For starters, the Group decided that many expensive solutions have zero impact on the business. It is impossible to find a solution that works with everything. So, we looked at tech that can easlily connect to existing systems, stated Alliaga.

He gave the example of Lan Kwai Fong Group’s CRM system. “Some databases are old – like in the F&B industry. Others such as CRM in the property industry is fairly advanced. We look at solutions that work well with each other.”

Some of Lan Kwai Fong Group’s restaurant systems were not touched for the past decade, and these are working well with its newer systems. “Changes are good but changes fr the sake of doing it, is not advisable. At the end of the day, CTOs can think of the perfect system but it has to gel with the business requirements,” pointed out Alliaga.

 

 

Lan Kwai Fong Group also decided to transform some of its systems. As an example, in August last year, in the midst of pandemic, it moved to an e-commerce model, without making large investments. It was architected in such a way that the investments and return on investments were in tune with each other.

Also, Lan Kwai Fong Group’s property development business has different flavours across different geograpahies. Also, customer experience was a key focus area, considering that it is a services industry.

Alliaga explains. “In Hong Kong, property development is done in a traditional way. Last year we had to sell remotely to buyers in Hong Kong, China. We adopted Virtual Reality (VR) and virtual visits. We ensured that it is tied to a business value and not just doing VR for the sake of VR. I can say it has helped our sales people.”

Industries that have faced biggest challenges include hospitality and in these tough times changing the culture of a business set in its ways, is often a challenge. “It is hard to tell them that you need the screen to interface with the people but ultimately it is about understanding the customer better. In the property industry it is slightly better,” summed up Alliaga.

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How Bussr and Nekla partnership could be a gamechanger in Digital Payments

Singapore-based transport technology provider Bussr will offer its passengers a digital payment option through payment provider Nekla.

This partnership millions of underbanked users to pay for Bussr services easily. Nekla is founded by Silicon Valley and Wall Street pioneers.

Nekla is creating a global payment ecosystem which can be accessed by anyone with a $30 smartphone and data access. Download the app, deposit local currency to your account from a third-party financial service provider, or deposit cash in a retail store. You then have digital currency that can be used almost anywhere on earth.

Bussr was founded two years ago by entrepreneurs Hussein Abdelkarim and IM Shousha. The app is a platform that caters to all segments of South-East Asia’s US$30 billion mobility market including ride-sharing, public buses, private buses, scooter rentals, and car pooling.

This partnership will allow Bussr to rapidly expand the scope of their operations to the 5.7 billion people in emerging markets in Asia, Africa, and beyond. It’s numbers like that which make Bussr believe they will earn a large share of the global transit and ground passenger transportation market that is predicted to reach US$908.8 billion by 2027.

Bussr currently operates across more than 500 cities, with over 830 transport operators, 60-plus payment partners, and more than 100,000 retail stores. While Bussr has already seen more than 12 million passengers use their platform in less than two years, they believe it is Nekla’s digital-based payment platform that will lead to ubiquity on a global scale.

The under-banked conundrum

A challenge Bussr has been facing, which Nekla addresses, is meeting the demand from emerging markets, where 1.7 billion adults are still locked out of the conventional banking system, even though half a billion of that population have access to the internet. This means over a third of the planet’s adult population is unbanked.

Take the example of Vietnam. According to a study in 2018 by Euromonitor, World Bank and Bain and Temasek, 69 per cent of the Vietnamese adult population do not have a bank account, the highest rate in Southeast Asia. https://w.media/vietnams-underbanked-are-fintech-startups-ready-to-take-on-telco-giants/

For Bussr, this means millions of customers who want to use their platform, but have no reliable way of paying.

Nekla’s technology can certainly address the issues of providing service to the unbanked with access to money, all the while benefiting from its inherent strengths of trustworthiness and transparency. But what really captured Bussr’s attention was how Nekla could make digital payments beginner-friendly and accessible to millions of people, according to company executives.

Front-line financial technologies, despite the headlines, are far from reaching mass adoption worldwide. After all, most people don’t have time to study complex algorithms to make a simple payment.

Bridge between real world and digital finance

Nekla believes that they can bridge the divide between the real world and the digital finance space, and trigger a global, mass uptake of digital finance with a beginner-friendly, easy-to-use payment and lending platform. Bussr’s Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) technology serves both as a mobile app for private travelers and a full journey ticketing, payment, and fleet management solution for cities and enterprises.

Its AI platform continuously monitors millions of data points to help large-scale transport operations perform at optimal efficiency for both passengers and operators.

Bussr is backed by high-profile investors, such as Bridford Group, Peng Ong of Monk’s Hill, Le Mercier Group, Jack Selby of Thiel Capital, Altitude Partners, Angela Huang, Duncan Clark, Founder of China BDA, Alibaba early investor and author of the book ‘The House That Jack Ma Built, Andrew Huang of Fountainvest, and Alfa Intelligence Capital. There are also strategic angel investors from Facebook, PayPal, Lyft, Spotify, Zoom, Didi, and Impossible Foods. The Bussr app operates in 2,500 destinations in South-East Asia.

On its part Nekla’s management team has managed the world’s largest internet ventures, led major digital transformation projects for governments and global consulting firms like PwC and Deloitte, and guided industry leaders, acting as Microsoft’s Chief Architect and Google’s Enterprise Architect in billion-customer markets.

With this experience and knowledge behind it, and with the backing of such influential partners, Nekla believes it can make Digital Finance the new norm for mass-adopted payments and lending around the world.

How Walmart China has embarked on its Omni Channel digitalisation journey

Twenty five years after it entered the China market, Walmart China has embarked on its Omni-Channel customer digitalisation journey.

The retail giant has partnered with Nasdaq-listed Dada Group, China’s leading local on-demand delivery and retail platform which involves collaboration and a focus on omni-channel consumer digitalisation. The two of them have jointly launched the exclusive VIP program for customers of Walmart stores on JD Daojia (JDDJ), the on-demand retail platform of Dada Group.

In July 2019, Walmart China and Dada Group jointly launched the exclusive VIP service for customers of Walmart stores on JDDJ’s platform. As of September 2020, Walmart China made the VIP program available in over 400 stores across China. This is a pioneering effort for Walmart stores to promote its customer digitalization, and for JDDJ to improve targeted digital operations of users, company officials said.

Walmart China’s digital transformation

Customer digitalisation is a key part of Walmart China’s digital transformation strategy and Walmart China stores aim to provide diversified product offerings and superior shopping experiences for its tens of millions of digital customers, based on optimizing technology innovation and close collaborations with O2O platform. Meanwhile, as China’s largest local on-demand retail platform in the supermarket segment, JDDJ focuses on supporting retail partners in digital transformation, promoting digital innovation practices, and further strengthening empowering capabilities and its leading position.

“We hope to explore refined operation of hypermarket’s digital customers through close collaboration with JDDJ,” said Jingyang Xu, Chief Technology Officer of Walmart China. “It improves customer engagement and accumulates our digital assets. On the other hand, we could accurately identify high-value omni-channel customers and provide them with more considerate services, so that they can enjoy more convenient shopping experience at Walmart stores.”

“Leveraging cutting-edge proprietary technologies, Big Data and previous experience in user operations, Dada Group has collaborated with Walmart China to develop the refinement operation plan for Walmart stores’ VIP consumers on JDDJ and achieved the functional support including user portrait, hierarchical operations, targeted coverage, and VIP benefit operations,” said Huijian He, Vice President of Dada Group.

To celebrate 8.8 Omni-channel Shopping Festival in 2020, Walmart China launched the VIP Week Campaign on JDDJ’s platform. During the promotional week, the number of Walmart stores’ exclusive VIP customers soared to hundreds of thousands.

According to JDDJ’s data, the orders placed by Walmart stores’ VIP customers were 2.7 times of ordinary customers. As for expenditure growth rate during 8.8 shopping festival, Walmart stores’ VIP customers were 3 times than ordinary customers on JDDJ.

“It has proved that the value of VIP customer operation was recognised by valuable omni-channel customers, increasing overall sales to drive healthy growth,” added He.

“In terms of digital operations of omni-channel customers, Walmart China and JDDJ are at the forefront of the industry. The differentiated VIP program of Walmart stores contributes to identifying and managing high-value customers, and developing exclusive customer groups,” said Jianzhen Peng, Secretary General of China Chain Store & Franchise Association, China’s national representative for the retail and franchise industry.

Going forward, Walmart China and Dada Group will further develop omni-channel customers on JDDJ, expand the scale of VIP customers, and increase VIP benefits to provide better shopping experience.

Retail landscape

The Chinese retail sales market is highly competitive and diversified, with the 100 leading retail companies taking up a market share of relatively low 6.3 percent in 2019, according to Statista. With a sales volume of about 379 billion yuan in 2019, Suning Commerce Group ranked first among the leading retail chain operators in China, followed by Gome Electrical Appliances and Red Star Maccalline.

In terms of convenience store sector, Sinopec Group dominated the market as of 2019. Convenient stores are among the fastest growing retail channels for consumer goods, especially grocery shopping in China.

In 2019, the Chinese retail revenue amounted to around 13 trillion yuan while the contribution of merchandise trade to the country’s GDP was around 32 per cent. Slowing exports and an increase in volume of domestic markets indicate a strategy shift of the Chinese economy towards satisfying domestic demand.

As rural and urban households have witnessed a steady growth of disposable incomes, the spending power of the Chinese population has also increased dramatically and the Chinese market has matured into one of the largest and still growing consumer markets worldwide. Foreign and domestic retailers both vie strongly for the attention of the Chinese consumer.

Retail sales of consumer goods in China grew by more than eight percent annually in the past five years. Though in-store retail still held the largest market share among all retail channels, coronavirus outbreak has boosted online retail in China.

Around 23 per cent of the retail sales of fast moving consumer goods in the country were attributed to the online shopping segment as of 2020, noted Statista.

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Tencent Cloud launches first Internet Data Centre in Indonesia

Tencent Cloud, the cloud business of Tencent, has launched its first Internet Data Centre (IDC) in Indonesia.

With this launch, the Chinese tech giant has further emphasised its commitment to addressing the ever-growing business needs in Indonesia and Asia. Tencent Cloud is Tencent’s cloud services brand, providing industry-leading cloud products and services to organizations and enterprises across the world. With this addition, Tencent Cloud has extended its growing infrastructure network spanning 27 regions and 61 availability zones, the company said.

Located in the CBD of Jakarta, Tencent Cloud’s latest IDC is now in full operation, completing the backbone access and networking of all major Indonesian and global internet services providers, and combining Tencent Cloud’s own high-quality border gateway protocol to cover the entire country. The launch of the IDC in Indonesia enables Tencent Cloud to be closer to its customers and users, reducing access delays to data and applications and helping businesses and organizations in the country accelerate their digital transformation.

It also helps customers meet regulatory and compliance requirements, providing more disaster recovery options in the whole APAC region.

Poshu Yeung, Senior Vice President, Tencent Cloud International, said, “With a population of 270 million, Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world and the largest economy in Southeast Asia. Given that its population structure is younger, it has a huge internet demographic dividend and its mobile internet market is quickly developing. We are excited to launch our first Tencent Cloud IDC in Indonesia, aiming to help fully reach the peak of the country’s promising cloud computing potential. We are also proud of how the new IDC epitomizes our commitment to addressing current and future business needs in Indonesia and Asia, while strengthening our global network which now connects 27 regions and 61 availability zones.”

Read: Indonesia requests non-bank financial institutions to place data centres inside country

Indonesia is one of the fastest growing public cloud markets in Asia Pacific with a CAGR of 25 per cent. It is expected to increase its market size to US$0.8 billion by 2023 and the new IDC is rightly positioned to fulfil the growing need for cloud services in Indonesia and in the region.

These developments come in the backdrop of Tencent reporting strong 2020 annual results. Revenue from cloud computing and other business services showed a similar 29 per cent year-on-year increase to $5.9 billion (38.5 billion Yuan) thanks to Tencent’s penetration into the industrial internet with its flagship Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) products and upgraded cloud infrastructure.

The establishment of the new IDC in Indonesia will support the growing needs of a wide range of industries, from financial services, internet and e-commerce to entertainment, gaming and education. Some of its clients incude digital banks such as Bank Neo Commerce (BNC). BNC, one of the progressive digital banks in Indonesia, has a core system with a fully operational Tencent Distributed Database (TDSQL), the first time for Tencent Cloud to have brought TDSQL overseas, boosting Indonesia’s internet architecture for its financial services industry.

Tjandra Gunawan, President Director of BNC, said, “The launch of the new Tencent Cloud IDC in Indonesia is a much-welcomed boost in the already fully operational TDSQL in BNC’s core system, which continues to enhance our business through financial technology. Through this collaboration with Tencent Cloud, BNC emphasizes its commitment to provide the best technology product services as we understand that data security and privacy are very crucial in the digital technology industry.”

Another company using Tencent cloud is JOOX, Asia’s most dedicated music and entertainment streaming platform.

JOOX was supported by Tencent Cloud on a range of entertainment offerings, including music streaming and karaoke singing with its massive processing capability for lyrics and audio timeline smart matching, as well as concert livestreaming and video on demand. In particular, Tencent Cloud supported the live broadcasting of many global music events on JOOX, including the annual Mnet Asian Music Awards (MAMA), which benefited from Tencent Cloud’s advanced and reliable technology, such as its low latency, real-time translation and high scalability.

Peter May, Head of JOOX Indonesia, said, “Through the launch of Tencent Cloud’s first IDC in Indonesia, JOOX looks forward to bringing more and enhanced entertainment experiencess to music fans in the country. We are glad to have the support of Tencent Cloud through its reliable and high-performances services to make sure that Indonesian music lovers can enjoy songs and music programs online in the safety of their homes.”

Another entertainment platform in Asia WeTV, has leveraged Tencent Cloud in Indonesia. Lesley Simpson, Country Manager, WeTV Indonesia, said, “WeTV’s commitment to consistently bring only the best to fans of Asian entertainment makes us inseparable from the support provided by Tencent Cloud. We are excited to reap the benefits of the new IDC in Indonesia, which will further enhance and improve the already reliable and high-quality service of Tencent Cloud, allowing us to create an even more unrivalled viewing experience for our users.”

Similarly, Aestron, offers an enterprise platform as a service for real-time communication (RTC) solutions, has formed a strategic collaboration with Tencent Cloud leveraging Aestron’s global market layout and Tencent Cloud’s capabilities and ecological advantages. Utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) technology, Aestron’s platform infrastructure helps companies reach more than 400 million monthly active users in more than 150 countries.

Aestron powers some of the world’s most popular live-streaming, short-form video, and instant messaging apps. Tencent Cloud will join hands with Aestron, to launch new audio and video solutions, and provide quality services for the global market including Indonesia. In March, Tencent announced its first entry into the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) market with the construction of a data centre in Bahrain.

The company’s cloud computing arm, Tencent Cloud, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB) to build an internet data center and a public cloud infrastructure in the region.

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Hydrogen emerging as a clean energy alternative to power DCs

As the drive towards sustainability is moving at a break neck speed, corporations on their part are making an effort to build “green” at the centre of everything. Most of the new data centre build outs are happening with renewable energy at the centre of powering its gargantuan needs. Take the case of Singapore. The country’s data centre industry accounted for 7 per cent of the countries total electricity consumption in 2012. This ratio is expected to reach 12 per cent by 2030 due to rapid growth in DC business.

Enter the Hydrogen!

Hydrogen is beginning to emerge as an important part of the clean energy mix needed to ensure a sustainable future. It can also help improve air quality and strengthen energy security. Falling costs for hydrogen produced with renewable energy, combined with the urgency of cutting greenhouse-gas emissions, has given clean hydrogen unprecedented political and business momentum, according to a report by International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

In February this year, Atos and HDF Energy announced their plan to develop a complete end-to-end long-term solution to supply data centres with green hydrogen generated by renewable energy. The new solution by Atos and HDF will be the first available on the market for data centres with heavy power consuming workloads, company officials said. HDF Energy is an Independent Power Producer (IPP) focussing on utility-scale clean power generation.

“We are constantly seeking to develop solutions to leverage our own sustainable journey towards decarbonization and to support our clients in theirs. In this perspective, the solution to be developed by Atos and HDF will be the first solution available on the market that will enable a full production datacenter with very demanding workloads to be operated using green hydrogen. This meets the expectations not only of operators, but also of the market and public authorities.” says Arnaud Bertrand, SVP, Head of Strategy and Innovation for Big Data & Security at Atos.

“We are very excited to develop the first-of-its-kind green datacenter with Atos. HDF is a pioneer in hydrogen-energy and it is very important for us to demonstrate that our Hydrogen-to-Power solutions are suitable for customers with a strategic need for a reliable electricity supply. This further development into the digital industry, where energy consumption is increasing every day, opens up a considerable worldwide market for us. The HDF-Atos partnership offers the first unique and sustainable infrastructure for this huge market.” stated Damien Havard, CEO at HDF.

Atos will provide a complete end-to-end green data center solution by designing and providing the hardware, software and integration services that make it possible to exploit the electricity produced by green hydrogen so that it can be used in data centres. This includes using the most advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies to optimise energy consumption.

HDF Energy will supply a power plant, which will provide predictable and firm electricity thanks to its high-powered fuel cells. These cells will be powered by green hydrogen derived from photovoltaic or wind farms.

According to US Dept of Energy, a data centre consumes 100-200 times power when compared to an office building. “Energy alone cosumes 50 per cent of a data centre’s operating costs,” according to Professor Wen Yonggang from NTU College of Engineering. Prof Wen’s latest work on DCWiz for Data Centre Digital Transformation has researched on green data centre, including data centre cooling systems, power systems and the world’s first tropical air free-cooled data centre testbed.

Where hydrogen helps

The current policy debate suggests that now is the time to scale up technologies and to bring down costs to allow hydrogen to become widely used. Hydrogen can help tackle various critical energy challenges.

It offers ways to decarbonise a range of sectors – including intensive and long-haul transport, chemicals, and iron and steel – where it is proving difficult to meaningfully reduce emissions. Additionally, it increases flexibility in power systems. Hydrogen is versatile in terms of supply and use.

Also, it is a free energy carrier that can be produced by many energy sources. Hydrogen can enable renewables to provide an even greater contribution. It has the potential to help with variable output from renewables, such as solar photovoltaics (PV).

Hydrogen is one of the options for storing energy from renewables and looks poised to become a lowest-cost option for storing large quantities of electricity over days, weeks or even months. Hydrogen and hydrogen-based fuels can transport energy from renewable sources over long distances.

Transition challenges galore

Even as the case for Hydrogen is attractive, concerns remain. From designing hardware to usage of software (that consumes optimum electricity), everything needs to be looked into minutely.

“In order to develop a green data center, there are many challenges to tackle. You need to reduce the energy consumption of the data center, and to make the consumed energy greener,” says François Trahay – Associate Professor in the Computer Science Department at the Institut Polytechnique de Paris.

At the hardware level, the servers need to consume as little energy as possible while providing enough computing power to process an increasing amount of data. This means that processor manufacturers constantly improve their hardware design so that billions of transistors only consume a few Watts while being able to process billions of instructions per second.

“At a data centre scale, the cooling of servers and the air flow within the server room is optimised in order to cool tens of thousands of servers with as little energy as possible. The heat produced by servers can be collected and reused to heat buildings,” points out Trahay.

At the software level, finding new algorithms that process data efficiently is key to reducing the energy consumption of servers. The other main challenge is to exploit computing resources efficiently by improving the operating systems or by grouping applications on a few servers so that idle servers can be switched off.

“In addition to the reduction of energy consumption, a green data centre also needs to consume energy that does not generate greenhouse gases,” opines Trahay. For instance, data centers in Iceland can be powered by geothermal or hydroelectric power.

Another possibility is to use wind or solar energy. But such fluctuating resources require to be able to adapt the energy consumption of the data centre, or to store the energy so that it can be used later.

Reality check

Development of blue hydrogen as a transition solution also faces challenges in terms of production upscaling and supply logistics. Development and deployment of CCUS has lagged compared to the objectives set in the last decade. Additional costs pose a challenge, as well as the economies of scale that favour large projects. Public acceptance can be an issue as well. Synergies may exist between green and blue hydrogen deployment, for example economies of scale in hydrogen use or hydrogen logistics.

Also, a hydrogen-based energy transition will not happen overnight. Hydrogen will likely trail other strategies such as electrification of end-use sectors and its use will target specific applications.

The need for a dedicated new supply infrastructure may limit hydrogen use to certain countries that decide to follow this strategy. Therefore, hydrogen efforts should not be considered a panacea.

Instead, hydrogen represents a complementary solution that is especially relevant for countries with ambitious climate objectives. Per unit of energy, hydrogen supply costs are 1.5 to 5 times those of natural gas, according to industry watchers.

Low-cost and highly efficient hydrogen applications warrant such a price difference. Also, decarbonisation of a significant share of global emissions will require clean hydrogen or hydrogen-derived fuels.

Currently, significant energy losses occur in hydrogen production, transport and conversion. Reducing these losses is critical for the reduction of the hydrogen supply cost.

Dedicated hydrogen pipelines have been in operation for decades. Transport of hydrogen via existing and refurbished gas pipelines is being explored. This may reduce new infrastructure investment needs and help to accelerate a transition, according to the IRENA report.

However, equipment standards need to be adjusted, which may take time. Whether the way ahead involves radical natural gas replacement or gradually changing mixtures of natural gas and hydrogen mixtures is still unclear, observes IRENA.

While international hydrogen commodity shipping is being developed, another opportunity that deserves more attention is trade of energy-intensive commodities produced with hydrogen. Ammonia production, iron and steel making, and liquids for aviation, marine bunkers or feedstock for synthetic organic materials production (so-called electrofuels or e-fuels that are part of a power-to-X strategy) seem to be prime markets.

However, cost and efficiency barriers need to be overcome. This may offer an opportunity to accelerate global renewables deployment with economic benefits.

How energy-intensive areas such as data centres use this will be interesting to look at, going forward.

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Are Bank Boardrooms in need of more Air Jordans instead of Pinstripes?

The world’s largest banks continue to lack technology expertise and digital approaches, even as adoption has increased.

According to a new report from Accenture, based on an analysis of the professional backgrounds of nearly 2,000 directors of more than 100 of the world’s largest banks by assets, found that while banks are ramping up their technology investments to keep pace with changing consumer demands ― such as the growing need for digital interaction and remote working as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Boards of these banks lack the technology expertise to minimise the risks and maximise the benefits of their technology investments.

Rapid tech adoption

“Much of the disruption brought about by the pandemic has led to a rapid shift within banking to more digital touchpoints, requiring speedy technology investments,” said Mauro Macchi, who leads Accenture Strategy & Consulting in Europe. “Banks that are accelerating their cloud adoption to better manage change would benefit from a board with technology experience that can help ensure that technology investments are compatible across various business units.”

The report does not give particular pain points but has chosen to generalise a bank’s approach towards tech adoption. This gives rise to the debate again on whether banks need to leverage tech or become technology companies themselves. One cannot expect the latter as they are not in the business of tech.

According to the report, Accenture recommends that 25 per cent of banks’ Board should have technology experience. While the world’s largest banks have made progress on adding technology experience in the boardroom ― which Accenture defines as executives holding or having held senior technology positions at a company or senior responsibilities at a technology firm ― that progress has been slow.

For instance, only 10 per cent of all board directors, as well as 10 per cent of the CEOs on the boards, evaluated for the report have professional technology experience, up just 4 and 6 percentage points, respectively, from five years ago.

In addition, the number of banks whose board has at least one member with professional technology experience has increased only 10 percentage points in the past five years, from 57- 67 per cecnt ― meaning that one-third of banks still have no board members with professional technology experience.

Tech’s tango with Banker’s trust

So, does this mean that ‘technology experienced’ professionals can better navigate any disruptions around the corner? The answer is nuanced. “Banks are traditionally regulated and resistant to change. Parachuting a few tech-savvy Board members can add some acumen,” says Nitin Kumar, Executive Chaiman at Ligl and author of a new of the book CEO 3.io -Driving Exponential Change.

However, Kumar added that they need to ensure that disruptive and new technology is used to develop new markets or new value propositions and not make the old operations, products and services better.

The report, on a positive note, while only 19 per cent of the directors with technology experience five years ago were women, that figure is currently 33 per cent.

From a geographic perspective, the report found that the boards of banks in the UK, Finland, Ireland and the US have higher percentages of directors with professional technology experience than those in other countries, with sizeable increases compared with the 2015 findings.

However, the percentage of banks’ Board of Directors with technology experience is still very low in Brazil, China, Russia and various countries across Europe, including Austria and Italy.

“While it’s not practical for banks to make a rash number of tech-savvy board appointments to fill the gap in technology credentials, they should consider technology expertise as a factor for new appointments, alongside their other evaluation criteria,” Macchi said.

There are also other, more immediate ways to increase technology expertise among board members — for example, coach members on the latest developments on key technologies such as cloud, artificial intelligence and IoT to better understand how the combination of technology and human ingenuity unlocks value.

Boards can also tap into the expertise of third-party suppliers and make time to specifically discuss the technology strategy during board meetings to get the most out of their investments, adds Macchi.

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Tech investments into UAE expected to go up after Abraham Accords

The normalisation of business ties between UAE and Israel following the Abraham Accords, is starting to see a rush in technology investments.

In October 2020, Israel reached a bilateral agreement with UAE to provide incentives and protection to investors dealing with each country. Called the Abraham Accords Peace Agreement, it has opened up billions of dollars in trade and investment opportunities.

As a part of the deal, investors would be protected from arbitrary changes in regulation and political situations and will be able to transfer funds out of the country, thereby putting investors’ minds at ease.

Business uptick

Following the signing of the Abraham Accords, business has picked up steam. UAE has said that it will launch a $10 billion fund to invest in strategic sectors in Israel. This includes energy, manufacturing, water, space, healthcare and agri-tech, according to reports.

Recently, Waterfall Security Solutions, one of the leaders in OT cybersecurity, have announced their expansion into the UAE.

The Israeli cybersecurity company has opened an office in Abu-Dhabi. The normalisation of ties between Israel and the UAE, as well as several other countries in the Gulf, has generated strong interest in the region for Waterfall’s suite of unidirectional OT security products, as well as for partnerships and joint ventures with Waterfall Security.

Waterfall Security Solutions provides the strongest practical protection for industrial control system and Operational Technology networks and systems, and already protects many critical infrastructure sites in the region and throughout the world.

Waterfall counts customers in national infrastructures, power plants, nuclear plants, off-shore and on-shore oil and gas facilities, manufacturing plants, power, gas and water utilities’ companies as its clients. It has deployments throughout North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

“Waterfall sees the Emirates as both an important market and as a gateway to the region, and we are moving quickly to provide direct support in the UAE,” said Lior Frenkel, CEO and Co-Founder of Waterfall Security. “We also recognise the importance of local support and existing customer, government and other relationships, and we are actively engaging with partners to complement our efforts in the new office.”

Waterfall’s Abu-Dhabi office is part of the company’s continued rapid expansion, despite the global pandemic and economic downturn. With the new office, Waterfall will initiate sales and marketing activities and provide solutions architecture and technical support to partners and end users.

“More investments involving technology will flow between these countries post COVID-19. Countries are interested in cybersecurity, healthcare, agri-tech and other technology from Israel,” said an analyst from a multinational research firm.

Similar to this development, the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) Registration Authority (RA), and the Registrar of Companies in the Israeli Corporations Authority, have entered into a Statement of Co-operation (SoC) to facilitate more business.

Dhaher bin Dhaher Al Mheiri, CEO of the ADGM Registration Authority, said: “In light of the UAE’s momentous signing of the Abraham Accords, we at ADGM are pleased to partner with the Registrar of Companies in the Israeli Corporations Authority to facilitate and realise the benefits arising from the increase of joint relations these two jurisdictions. We are confident that this agreement will result in fruitful outcomes for entities residing in both the UAE and Israel, serving as a gateway to valuable expansion and investment opportunities across both thriving business hubs and the wider region.

According to Dubai Customs statistics, the emirate’s trade with Israel in the five months (Sep 2020 -Jan 2021) reached a value of Dh1 billion and a volume of 6.217k tonnes. Of this, imports were valued at Dh325 million (718 tonnes), exports at Dh607million (5.4k tonnes), and transit trade at Dh98.7million (52.4 tonnes). The mutual trade expected to grow to Dh15 billion in the next few years.

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Vietnam’s underbanked: Are fintech startups ready to take on telco giants?

As the mobile money pilot project takes into effect this March, Vietnamese fintech startups, including over 30 e-wallet providers, will face fresh competition from national telecommunications companies.

At the beginning of March, Vietnam’s Prime Minister has approved the “Mobile Money” pilot project, allowing telecommunications businesses to implement mobile money services in the next two years. The pilot project is expected to strengthen the exponential growth of Vietnam’s financial services, promoting financial inclusion and signalling an initial success of a cashless society in Vietnam.

In a talk with a local newspaper, Trung Thanh Vu, manager of Military Commercial Joint Stock Bank, a partner with Viettel Pay to provide mobile money service in the country, said that this method will be an “extended arm” of the banking industry as it could cover the underbanked market in rural areas.

As recorded in 2018 by Euromonitor, World Bank and Bain and Temasek, 69 per cent of Vietnamese adults do not have bank accounts, the highest rate in Southeast Asia.

Though the number dropped drastically to only 37 per cent as of the end of 2019, according to the State Bank of Vietnam, experts said that the banking industry meet difficulties in serving the remaining potential customers as most of them reside in rural and remote areas, which favour transaction in cash and beyond the reach of financial services.

Meanwhile, by the end of October 2018, Vietnam had 130 million mobile subscribers, 1.3 times higher than its population. Around half of them use 3G and 4G, and 43.7 million, or 45 per cent of the population, using smartphones, as per a report from the country’s Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC). In other words, Vietnam is among the top nations achieving this extensive coverage of mobile telecommunication and mobile money can be the missing piece of the complete picture.

Without linkage to a bank account, a person employing a mobile money service can still make transactions via mobile phone. The involvement of this method can help remove the current incumbent that others have not resolved entirely for the unbanked users, such as paying for small-value goods and services.

From a global perspective, in 2019, more than one billion people have registered mobile money accounts, accounting for one-seventh of the world’s population, according to the Global System for Mobile Communications Association. The total amount of spending via this method is approximately $2 billion daily and has witnessed a 20 per cent growth rate annually.

Imminent competition between fintech startups and telco giants

Vietnamese economist Hieu Tri Nguyen said that mobile money and e-wallet would be each other’s archrivals, BNews reported.

The late birth of mobile money also poses a certain barrier to its future development. People are getting used to other payment intermediaries, such as credit cards, e-wallets, or QR Code by VNPAY.

Before mobile money, payment via mobile phone channels (including mobile banking, e-wallets) has already increased by 125% compared to the same period in 2019, according to the statistics of the Payment and Settlement Department of the State Bank of Vietnam.

In a broader outlook, mobile money will join a crowded market with a marked number of fintech startups in Vietnam, which saw a considerable growth of more than 179 per cent between 2017 and 2020, according to a report by Fintech News Singapore. Payment remains the biggest segment, accounting for 31 per cent of all Vietnamese fintech startups as of October 2020. The country is also home to 39 licensed non-bank payment services providers, with MoMo, Payoo, Moca, ZaloPay and ViettelPay being the five biggest e-wallets.

Challenges in the horizon

But the looming challenges to those startups are not lying on the “mobile money” itself, but the telco giants that embark on this business with their huge customer base and long-built ecosystems.

Earlier last year, three telecommunications giants in Vietnam – Viettel, MobiFone and VNPT, which are serving nearly 96 per cent of Vietnamese mobile subscribers – registered to add payment intermediary to their business lines, paving the way for penetrating the mobile money market.

Kien Trung Pham, CEO of Digital Viettel, a Viettel subsidiary, told ICT Vietnam that the company can immediately provide mobile money services for its 60 million mobile subscribers, leveraging the payment method through its 2,600 stores, malls, post offices, 270,000 points of sale and more than 30,000 employees providing service support for customers nationwide.

VNPT also shared its plan to integrate mobile money payment method into its existing ecosystem, ranging from healthcare, education to television and mobile. Around 100,000 VNPT’s points of sale are ready to provide the new service. What’s more, as VNPT has been assigned to implement the national public service portal since 2020, the company possesses a huge advantage to roll out this type of cashless payment method for public services.

MobiFone representatives once said that they are aware of the fierce competition with other financial intermediaries such as e-wallet providers. Still, they are confident with their reputation within Vietnam, primarily through their countrywide mobile telecommunications network coverage.

Potential collaborations to better serve underbanked people

Some experts said that the direct competition between those telco giants and other payment intermediaries (like e-wallet) might not happen, as mobile money has a slightly different market.

Mobile money will tap into only the “niche” market, which resides mainly in rural areas and prefer a better way to make small purchases. To be more specific, mobile money only allows a maximum transaction limit of VND10 million per month (about $432) for each register, according to the regulation. This is much lower than the current ceiling of VND100 million (about $4,320) per month for each e-wallet account.

In terms of other traditional money transfer operators, they can also work with mobile money providers to offer cross services. In Africa and other developing countries, Western Union has joined forces with Safaricom M-PESA in Kenya and PayMaya in the Philippines to provide cash transfer services through mobile. Bangladesh-based bKash mobile money is also collaborating with Mastercard to deliver remittance services.

Many startups also look at the entry of telecommunications behemoths as an opportunity rather than a challenge.

Gimo, which has just received an undisclosed amount of seed funding from local investors, is a fintech startup employing Earned Wage Access (EWA) platform to address the financial needs of underbanked workers, who are also the target customers of telco giants’ mobile money services.

“We see them as potential partners,” said Quan Nguyen, co-founder and CEO of Gimo, told W.Media. “This is where we could work together to create value for our joint customer base.”

Nguyen highlighted the possible partnerships with telco companies to enable users to route their advance payment to a registered mobile number, supplementing their current option of a dedicated bank account.

“It’s a great opportunity to enhance our user experience and scale our user base,” he stressed.

Experience in other parts of Asia are mixed. In the Middle East, and parts of Southeast Asia, telcos call the shots. In India, fintechs are in the forefront. Ultimately, Vietnamese customers will decide what is beneficial for them.

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China’s “Two Sessions” impact on the Data Centre industry

Thousands of China’s political, business, and social elite converged in Beijing in March for the country’s most important political event, known as the “two sessions”. The annual gatherings of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and the National People’s Congress (NPC) serve as a weather vane of China’s politics, revealing the central government’s priorities and plans for the coming year. Especially, this year-2021, it marks the start of the next five-year plan (China’s 14th Five-Year Plan, 2021-2025) and marks the Communist Party’s centenary year.

Many firsts

China has for the first time unveiled an ambitious roadmap for its plans to transform into a world-leading power by 2035, which rest on technological innovation and scientific research. With further strengthening the national strategic scientific and technological strength, data centers as the infrastructure are the foundation to empower the development.

Although the Chinese government has decided to ease restrictions on foreign investments, telecommunication sector for information security purposes remain largely off-limits to foreign investment, e. g. telecom operators must be majority-owned by Chinese firms.

Cybersecurity laws require operators of telecommunication infrastructure to store collected domestic key data and personal information in China. Foreign telecommunication business must therefore store data generated by China-based internet services in China. Regulators have also limited foreign investment in value-added telecommunication services.

On Oct. 21, 2020, China published a draft of the Personal Information Protection Law (Draft). Once formally promulgated, the Personal Information Protection Law, along with the Cybersecurity Law and the Data Security Law, will be the three fundamental data protection laws in China. Though no information has been provided as to a timeline for a revised or final version of the Draft, companies doing business in China are suggested to make necessary preparations wherever possible, considering the PIPL’s potentially wide-ranging impact.

Reforms, Reforms and more Reforms

“To build a new development pattern, we must build a high-level socialist market economy system, implement a high-level opening up, and promote mutual promotion of reform and opening up” is included in one of the eight key tasks in 2021. Under the framework for the overall strategy, China has announced a further opening up of its manufacturing and financial services sectors to foreign investment with the removal of seven items from its so-called “negative list” as part of an annual review.

On June 23, 2020, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and the Ministry of Commerce (MOF) jointly issued two “negative lists”, both of which took effect on July 23, 2020. These two negative lists enumerate the industries where foreign investment will either be prohibited or restricted. This is a timely follow-up of the promise made in the 2020 Two Sessions about further relaxing market access for foreign investment.

Now, the “negative list” runs to just 33 items – down from 40 – and is even shorter in China’s designated free-trade zones.

On January 29, 2021, the Shanghai and Shenzhen Stock Exchanges stated that in order to improve the supporting rule system for infrastructure public offering REITs and ensure the orderly development of the pilot work, in accordance with the overall work deployment of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, the Shanghai and Shenzhen Stock Exchanges have formulated and issued three major business rules.

These three major business rules are the “Publicly Offered Infrastructure Securities Investment Funds (REITs) Business Measures, Publicly Offered Infrastructure Securities Investment Funds (REITs) Rules Application Guidelines No. 1-Audit Concerns and Public Offering of Infrastructure Securities Investment Funds (REITs) Rules Application Guidelines No. 2-Offering Business. All these will be implemented on trial basis.

The official release of these three rules signifies that the Shanghai and Shenzhen Stock Exchange has made phased progress in promoting the pilot work of infrastructure public offering REITs.

The chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, Yi Huiman, mentioned the core task of “increasing the proportion of direct financing.” Infrastructure REITs are one of the direct financing tools. Shenzhen Stock Exchange currently reserves nearly 40 projects in the fields including data centers and industrial parks logistics.

Aiming to finance China’s next phase of development through digital infrastructures, including 5G, data centers, logistics centers for E-commerce, and cross-border digital trade warehouses, etc., Infrastructure REITs is regarded as an important initiative to boom digital economy. China needs innovative and structured financial instruments to share market-based risks and returns between the public and private investors.

Contrary to the Western REITs experience, China’s main goal is to support China’s digital infrastructure building. The plan specifically excluded residential and commercial real estate properties from the REITs, meaning China’s REITs are not designed to finance real estate developments and properties.

Lesson for Big Tech?

China’s antitrust enforcement remained robust in 2020 and is expected to and reach the peak in 2021. The State Administration for Market Regulation (“SAMR”) issued a flurry of new guidelines in the antitrust space that provide more guidance on its enforcement priorities and its interpretation of the law.

This could be a pivotal year.

On February 7, 2021, SAMR issued Anti-Monopoly Guidelines for the Platform Economy Sector (“Platform Guidelines”), which follows a string of actions taken by the Chinese government to regulate the internet platform sector, tightening existing restrictions faced by the country’s tech giants. Most notably, the suspension of the initial public offering by Ant Group.

Recognizing that there are difficulties and enormous discrepancy in applying traditional antitrust enforcement approaches to the platform economy sector, the Platform Guidelines come into being. It is worth mentioning that, the Platform Guidelines acknowledge the complexity of the platform economy and that a market would not necessarily be defined by reference to an undertaking’s basic services. As a result, if the platform is a distinct market or one that involves multiple related markets are took into consideration.

The state supports the innovation and development of platform enterprises, enhances international competitiveness, and supports the common development of public and non-public economies. At the same time, it is necessary to regulate development in accordance with the law and improve digital rules, and prevent the disorderly expansion of capital.

Conclusion

Every year, China’s most notable tech industry leaders are invited to the “two sessions” to help formulate a national vision for the country’s technological development. This year, new proposals from the heads of China’s biggest tech companies, including Tencent, Xiaomi, Baidu and Lenovo Group, seek to address issues such as upgrading digital infrastructure.

China has been ramping up efforts to build out and improve what it calls “new infrastructure”. The broad term applies to a variety of technologies and related areas, including 5G networks, artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing, the Internet of Things (IoT), high-speed rail and research institutions.

The strategy outlines how China intends to become a leading global innovation engine, catch up to the average income level of developed countries, and display world class strengths in economy, global governance and soft power, as well as green development.

To achieve its goals, China will recalibrate its reform strategy, putting greater emphasis on the quality, rather than quantity, of future growth, with technology innovation and scientific research as key.

How India is using tech to monitor Covid-19 vaccine distribution

A former Indian Prime Minister had an interesting take on social welfare schemes.

For every dollar spent on welfare schemes, only 15 cents reach the beneficiary. So, when COVID-19 vaccination rollouts were announced, many people in the county had similar doubts.

Would there be cases of vacciantion for some and not for others?

As COVID-19 cases surge in India, technology is being used to monitor effective vaccine delivery in India. The second largest country, with 1.3 billion people, India over the past 3 months have vaccinated around 35 million people.

India’s vaccination drive has so far been done in two phases. In Phase I, healthcare and other essential workers were administered the vaacine. In Phase II- people aged 60 and above, as well as those who are above 45 (with co-morbidities) are undergoing vaccination.

India has a federal structure of governance, similar to the UK and US. It is here that Central and State governments have to work in conjunction with each other, to ensure that the vaccination drive is efficient.

Distribution efficiencies

Take the case of Bengaluru-based Intugine Technologies. The startup has partnered with the Government of Andra Pradesh to ensure safe and efficient distribution of Covid-19 vaccine across the state.

Intugine is a logistics technology company and provides real time tracking and supply chain optimization solutions to the likes of Walmart-owned Flipkart, Philips, Mahindra Logistics and Arvind Fashion.

Government’s jab with tech

The Government of Andhra Pradesh has taken a proactive step towards minimising transit times through real-time visibility and exception response. Intugine will use portable GPS devices to facilitate real time tracking of vaccines in transit.

Intugine’s CEO Harshit Shrivastava pointed out that vaccine distribution is a temperature critical process and therefore transit times have to be controlled.

Vaccine supply chain, across the globe, is expected to face theft and counterfeiting risks. The Government of Andhra Pradesh aims to build protective safeguards against such risks.

Mission Director, NHM, Government of Andhra Pradesh, Bhaskar Katamneni, IAS said: “We wanted to establish control over long distance movement of vaccines from the state storage centre to different district storage centers. We wanted to monitor this movement in real time and ensure a timely response in case of any unforeseen exceptions.”

Intugine’s end to end visibility platform facilitates route planning & vehicle allocation, digital indenting, in-warehouse tracking, in-transit tracking, digital invoicing and data driven planning.

The company is in talks with several other Indian states to implement a similar real time visibility solution for vaccine distribution.

Intugine Technologies had previously played an important role in containing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. In April 2020, Intugine had repurposed their real time visibility solution to help the Indian states of Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Nagaland, Goa, Meghalaya and Madhya Pradesh among other states are using this to monitor home quarantined individuals and ensure social distancing.

“Last year we facilitated the monitoring of over 600,000 home quarantined individuals without flouting any privacy considerations. This year we aim to facilitate efficient distribution of vaccines across the country.” said Ayush Agrawal, Cofounder, Intugine Technologies.

Blockchain connect

Similar to Intiguine, is Pluss Advanced Technologies, a Tata Capital-backed energy storage company has developed a Phase Change Materials (PCMs) solution, called Celsure. PCM technology has the ability to absorb, store and release large amounts of latent heat over a defined temperature range and can act as a thermal barrier which keeps the vaccine stable. “PCMs are ideal for thermal energy storage as they are highly cost effective, stable, environment friendly and maintain desired temperature without the need for external source of energy,” said Vineet Chadha, Partner, Tata Capital Innovations Fund, which is a part of Tata Capital. Tata Capital is a part of the the $100 billion Tata Group.

Typically, vaccines are stored in low temperature freezers and doses are better planned in cases such as polio. In the case of Covid-19, the numbers are daunting. According to WHO estimates, more than 50 per cent of vaccines may be wasted globally every year because of temperature control, logistics and shipment-related issues.

StaTwig, a Hyderabad-based company has come up with a COVID-19 vaccine distribution platform through blockchain. In the case of pharma companies, there is visibility in extended supply chain, the location, distribution of products and how long they stay in the warehouses. This information is useful to generate actionable insights, to ensure quality and safety and helps in building a blockchain solution.

More enhancements needed

So far, the Indian government has done a commendable job, by not allowing black marketers from taking over vaccine distribution.

However, industry watchers feel, more can be done, especially in wider monitoring and a co-ordinated response to the COVID-19 pandemic. “The government can use this opportunity to pilot new technologies at scale and open up vaccine distribution to other stakeholders,” said Ankit Jhanwar, Vice President- Strategy, Pluss Advanced Technologies. Having said that, it is a commendable job by the government, which has to oversee a country with a billion people, added Jhanwar.

Well begun is half done. As cases of COVID-19 has risen in the past two weeks, governments across the Asian continent which represents almost of the earth’s population, must be hoping that the same technology, which has been labelled as ‘evil’, can also do some ‘good’.

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Data centre infra providers take the SPAC route to raise capital

On March 8 this year, Kevin Timmons, CEO of InterPrivate IV InfraTech Partners Inc looked at his phone and thought about what he said at the company’s NASDAQ listing.

“The InfraTech fund intends to change the world by turbocharging the growth of critical technology through a business combination in the ever-expanding digital infrastructure space,” he had said. Timmons’ intention is backed by the IPO which managed to raise $250 million, which will be operated as a special purpose acquisition corporation (SPAC).

The trend of companies taking the SPAC route to raise capital in the post-COVID era is gathering steam. InterPrivate is an active player in the use of SPACs, investment vehicles that raise capital from investors for the purpose of acquiring a private company. InterPrivate IV InfraTech Partners Inc. is one of four SPACs sponsored by InterPrivate to capitalize on investment trends.

A SPAC is essentially a company set up with the sole purpose of raising money through an IPO, to eventually acquire another company. Referred to as “blank-check companies, as the people buying into the IPO do not know what the eventual acquisition target company will be.

Similar to InterPrivate, colocation player Cyxtera Technologies will be listed on NASDAQ exchange via a $3.4 billion merger deal with Starboard Value Acquisition Corp (SVAC), a SPAC. Once complete, the combined entity will be the third-largest publicly held global retail colocation provider.

Cyxtera has gained a reputation worldwide since being formed in 2017. Its footprint spans across 29 markets with 61 data centres, serving more than 2,300 leading enterprises, service providers, and government agencies.

Experts see the deal as the first major acquisition in 2021 amidst mounting investment interest in the digital infrastructure sector. Since last year, the shift to data economy has accelerated the trend with hyperscale computing gaining traction via the entries of credible giant corporations.

The acquisition of Vertiv by GS Acquisition Holdings, a SPAC created by Goldman Sachs and veteran executive David Cote, sparked the early enthusiasm in 2020. In February 2021, Bloomberg also reported at least three SPACs welcoming data centre veterans to join their board or announcing their digital infrastructure investment strategy.

Nelson Fonseca, the CEO of Cyxtera Technologies, told DCF that Cyxtera is well-positioned to be a consolidator in the global data centre industry, pointing to the sector as “fragmented and ripe for further consolidation”.

After the Starboard Value-backed SPAC totally acquires Cyxtera in mid-2021, the combined company, operated as Cyxtera Technologies, will go public on NASDAQ under the ticker symbol CYXT. The company expects to receive about $654 million in proceeds. Its existing owners, including private-equity firms BC Partners and Medina Capital, will retain 58 per cent ownership and roll 100 per cent of their current equity stakes into the company.

Even high-profile CEOs like Richard Branson and fellow billionaire Tilman Fertitta have jumped on the trend and formed their own SPACs. With the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies have postponed their IPOs and by taking the SPAC route they can raise capital faster than a conventional IPOs, experts said.

“Starboard’s deep expertise across corporate governance, operational excellence, and capital allocation will immediately benefit us as a public company, as we drive long-term value creation,” said Manuel D. Medina, Executive Chair of Cyxtera and Founder and Managing Partner of Medina Capital.

During the 18 years of experience in the technology sector, Starboard has successfully boosted performances of more than 30 public portfolio companies with its broad networks and relationships in the industry.

Last year, Cyxtera also enjoyed its first full year of stable operations, generating estimated revenues of $690 million and Adjusted EBITDA of $213 million, though being downgraded in the credit rating of Moody’s in 2019 due to weak revenue growth.

“Cyxtera is at an exciting inflexion point, poised for significantly improved growth and profitability in an industry with powerful secular tailwinds,” said Jeff Smith, Chair of SVAC and CEO of Starboard.

In the conference call, Smith emphasized that Cyxtera is an ideal merger deal as Starboard has been seeking “deeply undervalued companies” with impressive management teams to strengthen their investing list.

Globally, around 200 SPACs went public in 2020, raising about $64 billion in total funding, nearly as much as all of last year’s IPOs combined, according to Renaissance Capital.

AI can help in fraud detection and prevention in the world of Finance

In the post-COVID era, financial institutions across the world are figuring out ways in which they can leverage Artificial Intelligence. The sector has been fortunate thanks to the regulatory onslaught post the 2008 economic crisis, as a result of which banks are well equipped to weather the COVID-19 storm as well as aid economic recovery. Care Ratings is one of the leading credit rating agencies in India.

In a conversation with W.Media, A Shiju Rawther, Chief Information Officer, Care Ratings outlined his views on usage of AI in the BFSI sector.

Shiju has had a steady career growth in reputed organization like IIFL Finance Limited and others. Shiju has been recognized as one of the Most Innovative CIO’s in India.

How is Artificial Intelligence being used in the BFSI sector ?

The BFSI industry has always seemed to be one of the most developed and willing to invest in new technologies. It’s no wonder that AI has quickly become one of the technical pillars on which the entire modern financial market is built.

Not everyone is aware that AI is not only leading analytical solution, but also a way to change the way customers interact with services provided by the financial industry. Let’s take a closer look at this extraordinary relationship, its impact on the way we use banks, and on issues such as fraud detection and compliance regulations.

Artificial Intelligence is used in many Fintech solutions. It’s a cure for the daily challenges faced by many businesses like customer experience personalization and loyalty building, to strictly technical financial features such as anomaly detection or fraud prevention.

AI has been talked about for some time now. Will there be more meaningful adoption now?

The beginnings of AI in the industry, however, were not so simple. The first attempts to improve the operation of banks using computers were made in the 1950s. The story started with the simplest and most obvious solutions: accountants wanted to use computers to make calculations much faster and more accurately than real people could.

However, it turned out that their use might not be so easy since the machines themselves were not as powerful as they are now. Despite this fact, Bayesian statistics, which is used in machine learning even today, was implemented to expand algorithms enabling processing actions such as stock market predictions, loan repayments or calculation of probabilities regarding auditing.

In the early 90s, AI and machine learning appeared on Wall Street along with the first hedge funds – but there was still no significant breakthrough. It appeared only with the increased availability of data, generally with the spread of the internet. Since then, there has been an extremely rapid evolution of operating systems, taking advantage of the increasing capabilities of machines.

Nowadays AI basically affects every area of a bank’s or financial services institution operations as well as the work of departments that we often forget about in the context of using technology in the financial sector, such as corporate core aspects, including even human resource team work.

What kind of work is going on in the same?

With plenty of post-recession anti-banking sentiment still lingering, it’s common to see fintech and traditional banks framed in oppositional terms. There’s some truth to that, especially with disruption-minded digital-only banks, but technological innovations have transformed banking of all stripes — and nowhere is that clearer than with AI.

AI has impacted every process of banking — front, middle and back. That means even if you know nothing about the way your financial institution uses, say, complex machine learning to fend off money launderers or sift through mountains of data for fraud-related anomalies, you’ve probably at least interacted with its customer service chatbot, which runs on AI.

 Within AI, are there any particular areas of focus?

My sense is that innovation towards customer experience will be one of the key areas. Customers increasingly expect tailored products and services delivered to them in real time, in tune with their moods and behaviors. To do this, banks will need to fuse artificial intelligence (AI) and human judgement to turn the troves of customer data they possess into actionable insights that help customers improve their financial well-being.

As we enter a new decade, the banking sector faces a pivotal moment, with digitisation transforming business models and processes in new and greater ways. In coming days, BFSI segments must innovate and invest in advanced technologies to remain in the market. It is no longer a question of achieving a competitive advantage. Its table stakes.

In the future, the banks that survive and thrive will use these advanced technologies to make the transition from delivering financial services to enabling financial betterment. To this end, we see several priority areas on which banks should focus their efforts, to succeed in the next decade.

Banks will need to become more like partners to their clients, using AI and analytics to make helpful nudges and interventions to encourage healthy spending habits and make recommendations on how to reach life goals sooner. Adopting this approach will require banks to restructure services and products around the short and long-term impact of financial decisions, helping customers to make more purposeful investments and purchases.

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With a fresh round of funding, fintech startup Rewire eyes partnerships

Armed with a fresh round of funding, fintech startup Rewire is planning to enhance its product portfolio, services and strategic partnerships.

Rewire develops cross-border online banking services tailored for the needs of expatriate workers worldwide, for themselves and their families.

In March, the fintech venture announced a Series B funding round of $20 million and a significant line of credit from a leading bank. The round, led by OurCrowd, included new key investors Renegade Partners, Glilot Capital Partners (through its early growth fund Glilot+) and Jerry Yang, former Yahoo CEO and director at Alibaba, through AME Cloud Ventures.

They were joined by current investors including Viola Fintech, BNP Paribas through their venture capital fund Opera Tech Ventures, Moneta Capital, and private angel investors. Rewire was founded by entrepreneurs Guy Kashtan (CEO), Adi Ben Dayan (VP R&D), Saar Yahalom (CTO) and Or Benoz.

The neobank recently secured its EU Electronic Money Institution license (EMI), granted by the Dutch Central Bank, which allows the fintech startup to issue electronic money, provide payment services, and provide money remittance services. Rewire was also granted an expanded Israeli Financial Asset Service Provider. Acquiring these licenses is another major step for the fintech startup in its mission to provide secure and accessible financial services for migrant workers worldwide.

Adding more services

To boost its cross-border solution, Rewire plans to enrich its platform with new value-added services such as bill payments and insurance, in addition to credit and loan services, investments, and savings. Adding these to its existing remittance services, payment account, and debit card, Rewire is able to make its first-rate financial services more accessible to migrants and, thus, include them in the financial systems.

“I was most impressed with Rewire’s understanding of its customers and the unique pain points of migrants around the world. As an investor, it’s crucial to know that alongside a solid business plan there’s a wider view of social impact. Rewire proves to have both. I look forward to seeing Rewire’s meaningful impact in shaping the future of cross-border banking as this young startup takes on the noble cause of financial inclusion,” Jerry Yang said.

Rewire CEO, Guy Kashtan said: “At our core, we aim to create financial inclusion. Everything that we do at Rewire is aimed to help migrants to build a more financially secure future for themselves and their families. To do so, we aim to provide services that go beyond traditional banking services such as insurance payments in the migrant’s home country and savings accounts. This investment and licenses are major steps towards fulfilling our company’s vision and will be used for additional expansion of geographies and products.”

OurCrowd CEO, Jon Medved said: “We have been strong supporters of Rewire since inception, investing in the seed round and leading this current round. It is a real pleasure to be proven right about our initial investment thesis, especially when this company is not only producing great results and growing at a very rapid rate, but also helping so many people achieve financial inclusion and get absolutely necessary banking services from a great platform like Rewire.”

With this new round of investment, managed internally by Alex Bakir (GM Europe) and Nir Mlynarsky (CFO), Rewire is now able to develop further and march towards fulfilling its vision.

Rewire saw success in 2020 despite the COVID-19 pandemic. With $500 million processed through its systems, the company has tripled its customer base in 2020 and will soon reach 0.5 million registered users, with 40 per cent attributed to organic growth. Rewire has penetrated new markets in Europe and the UK and introduced new cross-border bill payments.

Global presence

Rewire established partnerships with prominent financial institutions in multiple countries such as UkrSibbank in Ukraine and mobile wallet enablers in Nigeria and the Philippines. Other partners of note across Asia include the likes of Philippine headquartered Metrobank and Indian private sector bank Yes Bank.

Serving dozens of nationalities, Rewire offers its cross-border solution in 8 different languages and a localized app. In June 2020, Rewire gained global recognition as a fintech leader at the Samsung powered Extreme Tech Challenge (XTC) 2020 competition.

Glilot Managing Partner, Lior Litwak said: “Israel continues to grow companies out to change the world and Rewire is undoubtedly one of them. We are excited and proud to join Rewire’s journey to fulfill their social and business vision, which seeks to create equal financial opportunities for expats around the world.”

Neobanks are turning out to be hot buys for conventional banks, which are struggling to replicate the digital services offered by their new competitors. In December, National Australia Bank (NAB) bought out Australian neobank 86 400 for $151.4 million, according to ZDNet.

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How DCs should plan in a pandemic

With the Covid-19 pandemic, disaster preparedness has become the ‘New Normal’.

Lockdown efforts, which have been seen as essential in many countries, to safeguard citizen’s lives, seems to be the way forward. In line with this, the first and an essential step for management in a data centre, is to develop a specific pandemic preparedness and response plan.

“Share the pandemic plan with all employees, stakeholders, vendors, suppliers and key customers. Establish a system whereby elements of the plan are tested, updated and changes disseminated on a regular basis,” pointed out Hideaki Fujimaki, CEO, Spiralgroup.biz Ltd.

Efforts need to be ongoing

The pandemic has also forced organisations to address gaps in the preparedness and recovery plan on an ongoing basis, rather than a one-time effort. “The pandemic plan should incorporate a tiered response, clearly identifying the actions to be taken at each level and the circumstances that would trigger implementation of the next level,” stated Fujimaki.

Most organizations have a three to five-level contingency plan, ranging from pre-pandemic) operations, to taking reasonable precautions, through lights-out operation and, in worst cases, a complete site shutdown with transfer of critical applications and operations to backup sites.

“The plan should be practised or role-played if possible. At every level, the plan should clearly identify the trigger(s) to implement that level, the decision-makers authorized to direct escalation to that level and the appropriate actions for operations,” said Fujimaki.

This should include policies for facility access, on-site activities, staffing and sanitization.

Also, in such a scenario, with IT assets being critical, maximum acceptable downtime, reduction in redundancy and/or recovery time for all equipment, disruption or failure response procedures, minimum acceptable staffing levels, should be factored in. Additionally, staff protection by using temperature checks, contact tracing, reporting of symptoms, site access, minimum acceptable levels of critical on-site activities, such as equipment maintenance have to be in place, noted Fujimaki.

A tiered-response plan should include plans to meet the challenges of operating with reduced staff, including situations in which staff may be unable to access the site or may need to leave the site on short notice. It should include a staffing threat matrix for various scenarios of employee absenteeism, according to Fujimaki.

There is also a need to look at potential alternatives. Where practical, organisations should include provisions for the use of third-party staff, as a contingency measure.

“Recognise that any change from normal processes can increase the risk of human error or extend response times in case of emergency,” said Fujimaki. The plan should make provisions for a multi-peak/wave pandemic, taking into account a second wave, possibly only weeks after the first and possibly worse, when supplies and finances are depleted, staff is fatigued, and maintenance has been deferred. “Multiple waves/seasonal re-occurrences may also be likely. Long-term contingencies, which could include vaccine unavailability, critical supplier going out of business, should be considered and planned for as well.

Protecting the Business

Management should confer with insurance companies and legal advisors on relevant items, such as cleaning requirements, service level agreements (SLAs), notifications, etc. For data centers in areas where there is no clear regulatory mandate, management should decide — in consultation with insurance companies, legal advisors, Human Resources (HR) departments and other business unit(s) — at which response level to institute certain response measures, noted Fujimaki.

Some data centres are officially considered to be part of the critical national infrastructure. While this may confer some advantages, such as priority access to fuel, it may also mean that plans need to be shared with and agreed to by overseeing authorities. As part of the strategic plan development, clarify the status of key data center workers (whether they are classed as essential workers) and of the data center (whether it is deemed part of the nation’s critical infrastructure). Determine precisely what these terms means, as it could differ in every country and what documentation is needed for situations involving staff travel, shortage of fuel, amongst others, said Fujimaki.

Even with the best planning and communication, a pandemic is likely to have an impact on a data centre’s operations’ budget. The Executive management will need to assess the situation and prepare accordingly.

Government support is available in many countries. Beyond that, as with the case with other abnormal events (e.g., equipment failure or severe weather event), management typically takes the reasonable approach of instructing operations team to spend what is necessary to protect staff and the data center infrastructure, keeping track of the costs. Justifications of expenditures should be examined as a part of an ongoing review process, points out Fujimaki.

Construction impact

A pandemic presents challenges for data center construction, major upgrades or extensions of capacity. Construction speed has a big impact on cost and delays in one area is bound to impact other areas and a range of suppliers. The impact of all potential disruptions, from the availability of staff to a shortage of construction material, must be assessed and weighed.

Managing supply chains

Confer with suppliers to understand the risks — current and potential — for disruptions, including possible long-term disruptions, beginning with critical spares and consumables. Understand the geographic regions where key components are sourced or manufactured, and what the available alternatives are if supply chains are disrupted, opined Fujimaki.

Also, one of the key factors which nobody is paying attention to has to do with regard to certain countries with aging population. In some geographies means that despite best efforts, the data centre industry may be more vulnerable than other industries to a pandemic. “This presents a challenge, given the existing and well-documented staffing shortages the industry faces. A more age-diverse workforce may prove more resilient,” stated Fujimaki.

What the pandemic has taught organisations is that disaster preparedness should be no longer thought of as a contingency plan but a proactive one.

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Equinix and partners drive $3 billion in DC projects globally

Nasdaq-listed Equinix today provided detailed roadmap of its $3 billion xScale data centre programme, including projects currently under development in Brazil, France, Japan and other markets.

This planned global expansion, financed with the support of joint venture partners, will serve the growing demands of hyperscale companies that are deploying infrastructure at Equinix, while providing Equinix’s ecosystem of 10,000 customers with access to these strategic providers, the company said.

Equinix xScale data centers serve the unique core workload deployment needs of a targeted group of hyperscale companies, including the world’s largest cloud service providers. With xScale data centers, hyperscale companies can add core deployments to their existing access point footprints at Equinix.

This can enable their growth on a single platform which can immediately span 63 global metros and offer direct interconnection—within a vibrant set of ecosystems—to their customers and strategic business partners, the company said.

Rapid growth of the digital economy has driven increasing demand for global connectivity and hybrid multicloud solutions. For years, the world’s largest cloud service providers, including Alibaba Cloud, Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, IBM Cloud, Microsoft Azure and Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, have partnered with Equinix to leverage its global platform of more than 220 data centers to directly connect to their strategic business partners and customers.

As these companies continue to expand, they require capacity at scale to match their internal compute, storage and edge cache requirements.

“Equinix xScale facilities offer hyperscale companies the unique value of Platform Equinix, including access to business ecosystems, interconnection services and local market knowledge around the world,” said Krupal Raval, Managing Director, xScale, Equinix.

“Our xScale data centers are engineered to meet the technical, operational, and pricing requirements of hyperscale companies that require large amounts of space and power to support massive scaling across thousands of servers for cloud, big data analytics or storage tasks, with 10, 20, or even 50 megawatts of power, all while meeting Equinix’s sustainability commitments.”

The Asia-Pacific push

On March 1, last year, Equinix opened its first xScale data center in Tokyo, TY12x. Equinix has had early success with TY12x, securing an anchor tenant committed to the full phase one capacity and a significant portion of phase two capacity.

The TY12x is Equinix’s first xScale data center in Asia. It will provide more than 186,000 square feet (about 17,300 square meters) of colocation space and will support 54 megawatts of power to hyperscale customers all phases are complete.

Further, the TY12x operates in close proximity to 11 International Business Exchange IBX data centres in Tokyo.

The Tokyo metro is a strategic hub for financial services companies, internet providers, and cloud, content and mobility service providers. Equinix data centers server as strategic network hubs in Tokyo, where international and major local carriers meet.

In addition, Equinix in Tokyo provides proximity to leading regional internet exchanges including access to JPIX, JPNAP and BBIX.

In addition to TY12x, the OS2x xScale data center in Osaka is currently under development and is expected to open in Q4 2021. Equinix also anticipates developing one additional xScale data center in Japan in the future. The three xScale data centers in Japan are expected to collectively deliver approximately 138 megawatts of power to hyperscale customers in Japan. Last month Equnix appointed Guy Danskine, a nine-year veteran of the company, to the position of managing director for Australian operations.

A JV with GIC in Asia-Pacific and Europe

In Q4 2020, Equinix completed the formation of the greater than $1 billion initial joint venture in the form of a limited liability partnership with GIC, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, to develop and operate xScale data centers in Japan as well as Europe.

TY12x, OS2x and a planned future xScale data center in Japan are included in this initial joint venture.

Aiming at EMEA

In February 2021, Equinix opened its second xScale data center in Paris named PA9x, which is currently fully leased by a single hyperscale tenant.

PA9x is Equinix’s second xScale data center in Paris and will provide more than 29,600 square feet (about 2,750 square meters) of colocation space and support 10 megawatts of power to hyperscale customers when complete.

PA9x operates as part of a campus with PA2 and PA3 in Saint-Denis, France.

This metropolitan area is a strategic hub for the exchange of traffic between the U.S. and Europe, and a termination point for many submarine cable systems in the Mediterranean, bringing suppliers from Africa, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific to Europe.

The strategic location of Equinix’s facilities in Paris provides a high level of carrier connectivity, making them ideal locations to procure bandwidth and optimize network performance.

Additional xScale DCs in Europe

Six xScale facilities are currently operating or are under development in Europe. Collectively, these sites will have the capacity to deliver approximately 106 megawatts of power to hyperscale customers in Europe once all are operational. These sites include:

Paris: PA8x which opened in Q1 2019 and PA9x which opened in February 2021

London: LD11x which opened in February 2021, and LD13x which opened in Q4 2019

Frankfurt: FR9x which is expected to open in Q4 2021, and FR11x which is expected to open in Q2 2022

 

Growth in Latin America

In the third quarter of 2021, Equinix plans to open its first xScale data center in Latin America. SP5x is located in São Paulo, Brazil, and is in close proximity to the Equinix SP4 IBX data center. It will be connected by optical fiber to the existing four Equinix São Paulo IBX data centers and will support five megawatts of power to hyperscale customers in its first phase.

According to Jabez Tan, Head of Research, Structure Research, the adoption of hybrid and multicloud architectures is only picking up steam and hyperscalers are looking for digital infrastructure partners that not only provide large amounts of space and power in strategic locations, but also a platform that enables them to interconnect with partners and customers.

“With the continued innovation around Platform Equinix and investments in purpose-built sites in Europe, Asia-Pacific and now Latin America as well, Equinix is well-positioned to meet hyperscalers’ needs for operational reliability, global reach, and interconnectivity to rich ecosystems that are critical to serving their customers worldwide,” said Tan.

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US & Europe still preferred DC locations: Arcadis Study

Since the onset of COVID-19 pandemic, consumption of technology has gone deeper, amongst all walks of life.

This increased consumption has had a cascading effect on the back-end technology infrastructure. Data centres, which were lifeless big shiny buildings are suddenly swimming in a data deluge.

Companies, on their part, are increasing their data centre hosting capacity as consumption goes through the roof. According to research by Arcadis, which has come up with a Data Centre Location Index for 2021, only 3 Asian countries figure in the top 10 data centre locations- Singapore, Japan and UAE.

Arcadis has examined 50 national markets across eight supply and demand-side factors that will influence a company’s ability to set up a new facility.

There is a need to consider two significant variables: the existing infrastructure and regulatory regime, as well as current and future demand for data. With a few exceptions that can be found at the top of this year’s ranking, markets often excel at one or the other,” the report stated.

While many wealthy nations showcase well-developed energy infrastructure and favourable policies, they generally do not represent the highest growth markets of the future, but often offer access to large markets such as the European Union.

Certain developing markets show improvement potential in the ease of obtaining permits, energy security and their approach to cybersecurity. When deciding where to place a new data centre, companies need to balance location-specific strengths with a market’s future potential, the report pointed out. Singapore ahead

Singapore ahead

After the US, Singapore is rated as the best location to set up a data centre. A major financial center and one of the largest shipping ports in the world, it ranks sixth in GDP per capita, has a well-educated workforce and stable government and is a natural co-location hub for serving markets across Southeast Asia and India.

Additionally, Singapore leads in internet connectivity and low energy prices.

However, it scores relatively low on energy security and domestic market size, making it heavily reliant on good relations with its neighbors, according to Arcadis. Also, availability of renewable energy sources is a problem the country needs to address.

Due to its small size, land availability remains a key concern for investors. Interestingly, the government has mapped out space beneath the city as it wants to move urban infrastructure like data centers, bus depots, and sewage systems underground, which are positives according to Arcadis.

Japan’s DC Karaoke

Following Singapore, Japan ranks third in the Data Centre Location Index. It has a high rate of data consumption, complete mobile broadband penetration, significant internal market size and by early and large-scale adoption of digital technologies by global and local enterprises.

These features create a landscape in which many of the major hosting and cloud providers are present alongside large-scale domestic suppliers. Nevertheless, an aging population, corresponding lack of available labour and high energy prices are driving up operating costs.

There are concerns about the availability of sufficient power in the future. In addition, many data center providers are including secondary locations, outside of Japan, into their business continuity plans due to the country’s relatively high risk of natural disasters, the report noted.

UAE’s DC storm

The country has well-established fiber broadband network, top mobile broadband penetration, while the ease of obtaining construction permits and a plethora of new smart city initiatives make it an emerging location for data centre investment.

UAE is centrally located in the Middle East, ensuring good proximity to submarine cables connecting it to the rest of the world, Arcadis said. However, the energy and carbon costs to cool servers in such a hot climate needs to be considered.

The UAE is also working to address energy security and cybersecurity. In response, the government is looking to introduce a new data protection law to support its national cybersecurity strategy, which are positive steps going forward.

Chinese DC Wall

Needless to say, China’s population and economic growth over the last decades make it the world’s largest internal market for data technology and services. It is in the midst of a digital transformation on a massive scale.

China is a pioneer in the adoption of smart city initiatives, which has increased use of cloud-based services in the country. More than 70 per cent of the population is using e-commerce for commercial and non-commercial activities. All of this is driving high demand for data centres.

However, China is a bit of an enigma. It remains a challenging market, especially for foreign investors, due to the difficulties in obtaining construction permits and the country’s relatively low score on energy security, noted Arcadis.

Indian DC spice

A strong government in the centre, well-educated population of over 1.3 billion and being the IT processing hub of the world have earned India a 44th place in the Index.

Despite poor scores across mobile broadband penetration, energy security, its approach to cybersecurity and the price of electricity, the country will continue to rise in importance in the global economy, pointed out Arcadis.

Further growth in India’s IT infrastructure and an increase in new internet companies will drive demand for new data centres. According to reports, there are 155 co-location data centres in India.

Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korea and Malaysia are ranled 11th, 12th, 16th and 22nd in the Arcadis Data Centre Location Index.

What you need to know about Green DCs

Nanyang Technological University is one of the top universities in Singapore offering education in engineering, business, science, humanities, arts, social sciences, education and medicine.

Befitting its reputation and status as one of the premier organisations in the region, NTU Professor Wen along with his team have come out with the latest technology primer on “Green Data Centre”.

The primer presents Professor Wen’s latest work on DCWiz for Data Centre Digital Transformation. It also presents the college’s other related research on green data centre, including data centre cooling systems, power systems and the world’s first tropical air free-cooled data centre testbed.

The topic could not be more timely, as all over the world, tech adoption has gone up eponentially and with it power consumption too. With climate change as a real change, businesses across the globe are trying to find the right mix between sustainability as business needs. Below is the link to Professor Wen’s work on Green Data Centres

https://ebook.ntu.edu.sg/green-data-centre.html

Why Philippines may not yet be a target for hyperscalers

With enterprises embarking on a rapid digital transformation journey, cloud spending in the Philippines is expected to grow from $1.8 billion to $2.6 billion by 2024, according to UK data and analytics firm GlobalData.

In its latest report titled ‘Philippines on the Cusp of Cloud Revolution’, the company revealed that widespread consumer usage of services such as mobile streaming and social media networking are fuelling the demand for cloud-based technology.

Users for mobile streaming are poised to grow from 53 million in 2020 to 80 million in 2024, whereas users for mobile social media are expected to also increase from 75 million to 80 million.

Malcolm Rogers, Senior Analyst of Technology at GlobalData, points out that based on figures, the country may prove to be a valuable cloud region in the near future.

The Philippines is one of the fastest IT business process outsourcing (IT-BPO) markets in the region with BPO companies using cloud-based services to support their operations.

“Even though none of the major cloud providers have announced plans to build out public cloud regions within the Philippines, the market has plenty of activity in the hyperscale space and as technologies like 5G edge computing evolve and mature there is plenty of opportunity for telecoms and data center players to grow partnerships with the leading hyperscalers,” he explained.

As such, we expect the leading hyperscale providers like Azure, AWS, and GCP as well as leading webscale companies and OTT providers like Facebook, Google, and Netflix to view the Philippines as an important market, said Rogers.

However none have announced any major plans to develop in-country cloud regions/zones. Outside of a few instances, when the large hyperscale and webscale companies look to expand their data center presence to new regions, they don’t typically build their own facilities.

They lease from high-quality DCs (e.g., those operated by ePLDT, Globe, or NTT). The Philippines may not yet be a target for hyperscalers due to a few factors:

  • Proximity to Other Regions: The big three cloud providers all have cloud regions in Singapore and Hong Kong, while AWS and Google are also building out regions in Jakarta. Using direct connect into these platforms, latency between a data center in Manila connecting to an Azure Zone in Singapore or Hong Kong is manageable for most applications, said GlobalData.
  • New Cloud Options: Furthermore, the hyperscalers are developing new solutions for deploying cloud services closer to customers. As more and more companies undergo digital transformation, new requirements are emerging related to privacy, latency, security, etc. Cloud providers now offer options for services to be hosted in private facilities (e.g., AWS Outposts, Google Anthos, Azure Stack), addressing these concerns by deploying hyperscale-style environments on enterprise or local third-party data centres.
  • Power Efficiency: When considering a large hyperscale facility build, often the most critical factor is the cost and efficiency of power usage. Hyperscale data centers draw huge resources from the power grid to run compute resources as well as cooling systems. While the Philippines has a similar climate compared to regional neighbors (i.e., similar cooling requirements), according to a 2019 study by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), the Philippines has the highest cost of electricity in all of ASEAN due to reliance on imports of coal and diesel.

Despite some roadblocks to attracting hyperscale data center clients into the Philippines, there is still plenty of opportunity for the country to grow business from the largest webscale players. Each of the hyperscalers is trying to grow adoption of their services within the market through local partners.

Each company is building partner ecosystems within the Philippines and targeting specific verticals such as technology, telecoms, and financial services for their IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS services. Hyperscalers are also expanding their partners to include colocation providers to push their edge services (e.g., AWS Outposts, Azure Edge Zones), noted GlobalData.

 

Decarbonising DCs in SEA calls for a different approach

With the COVID-19 pandemic exploding the demand for digital services, it is also fuelling the need for increased data centre capacity all over the world.

According to the U.S.-based consulting firm Frost & Sullivan, the global data centre market’s investment is worth more than $200 billion and growing approximately 10 per cent per year. South East Asia is witnessed as one of the fastest-growing markets for data centres, accounting for an estimated 13 per cent of the region’s total market size in value.

Even as this is music to the industry’s ears, for the environment this tune could be jarring. The call on the decarbonisation of data centres is becoming the main focus – from Board rooms to coffee shops where the discussion is centred around sustainability.

Is Renewable energy a start?

The International Energy Agency reports that data centre is accounting for 200 TWh per year in terms of energy consumption, which is about 1 per cent of the total electricity demand worldwide.

Talking about the three steps to sustainability, Ian Bitterlin, Consulting Engineer and formerly Visiting Professor at University of Leeds, stated that the industry is addressing the problem in a reverse manner when trying to push data centres to apply renewable energy rather than address the other two concerns, namely consumption reduction and process improvement.

“We’re pretending to ourselves that just having a renewable energy powered data centre is sustainable,” Bitterlin said. “It’s legal, it seems to be acceptable but it’s kind of unethical in what we are doing to the environment.”

So, what is the solution? “The first thing you should do is to increase the utilisation of data centres,” he said.

Holistic approach needed

Addressing this challenge at W.Media’s Digital Week in South East Asia 2021, PS Lee, Deputy Executive Director at Energy Studies Institute, explored three key factors affecting the efficiency and carbon footprint of data centres, namely location, IT load, and energy efficiency.

A geographical location that experiences extreme temperatures will consume more energy as the data centre physical infrastructure system has to work harder to maintain consistent moderate temperature and humidity levels. The local source of power generation also has a major impact on the data centre’s carbon footprint.

Regarding IT load, market watchers believe that it is the total power that all IT equipment in a data centre consumes, ranging from servers, routers, computer storage and networking, as well as the security system fire and monitoring system that protects them.

“The higher the IT load, the more power will be actually required to keep it up and to run in a higher carbon footprint,” he explained. “If you can start with operating the IT infrastructure more efficiently, then that would improve the overall energy consumption or reduce the carbon footprint.”

The traditional practices in data centres, which involves oversized physical infrastructure to support the IT load, has a negative impact on the overall data centre efficiency. Lee underlined that it results in under-utilisation of equipment, such as servers plugged in 24 hours a day without fully utilised.

“It should be more of a holistic solution mix,” said PS Lee, Deputy Executive Director at Energy Studies Institute.

A local zoom-in and a broader outlook

“Local context is extremely important,” added Lee. He gave an example of the limited landmass in Singapore. While maintaining its larger share and status as the key data centre hub in the ASEAN region, Singapore cannot deploy solar in the country.

“But that doesn’t mean we have to stop looking into this possibility,” he added.

To further the discussion on solutions, he suggested several other technology options in Singapore to decarbonise data centres, including chiller-less high-efficiency liquid cooling system by NUS and Coolest DC, liquid immersion cooling system by Nanyang Technological University (NTU), and chip integrated liquid cooling solution for data centres by Institute of Microelectronics (IME).

From a broader perspective, Valerie Choy, Regional Sales Manager at Schneider Electric Energy & Sustainability Services, stressed the importance of the data centre industry to address sustainability issues by affecting policy changes.

She observed that in the U.S. and Europe, renewable energy buying has gone far beyond data centre customers. However, in emerging markets, there is still a collective force that could drive policy changes and then benefit the wider industry players.

“It shouldn’t be just data centre,” said Choy. “Every industry needs to decarbonise.”

How SMEs can use Cloud to globalise biz

A year on, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect economies all around the world, forcing enterprises to turn towards technology to stay afloat or continue to maintain leadership in their business.

 

The Philippines is no exception. As an emerging market in Southeast Asia, cloud computing is helping small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to set in motion a radical digital transformation journey because many now realise that cloud is the key to diversifying and globalising their corporate footprint for greater returns.

 

Although there are many cloud native startups in the Philippines, there are still many SMEs who feel anxious about migrating to the cloud. Even as this is the case, Rhea Siangko, Cybersecurity, Risk Management and Compliance Manager at logistics firm GEODIS is of the view that it is less about whether enterprises are ready but more about whether they are obliged to given the current socioeconomic circumstances.

She was addressing delegates at W.Media’s Digital Week South East Asia 2021 virtual event.

Siangko cited legislation in the Philippines as an example. “The Philippines’ 2012 Data Privacy Act that requires SMEs to comply with data protection laws could push SMEs to digitalise,” Siangko explains.

 

Moving to the cloud saves money, time and effort

 

One strong selling point that cloud vendors make to hesitant SMEs is that cloud solutions save costs. How so? Henry Nguyen, Senior Manager of Information Security at Fullerton Health, explains.

 

He says that as cloud-based applications have a fast turnaround time, companies do not need to spend money on purchasing and maintaining in-house infrastructure. Next, many cloud services provide on-demand or as-a-Service (aaS) services, meaning that companies can place a ‘one-off order’ for any cloud service depending on the size of their project, and it will be completed as is.

 

Therefore, both these cloud features help save large amounts of money. “What we see is a shift from a capital expenditure model to an operating expenditure model,” Nguyen points out.

 

So which industries stand to benefit most from hopping on to the cloud? Any business where their core business is not in IT but rely heavily on data and analytics, says Siangko.

 

In this context, “startup enterprises in, for example, digital banking, are really slated to be successful when it comes to adopting cloud technologies compared to large corporations, because migration takes time,” adds Leonard Ong, Region Information Security Officer for APAC at GE Healthcare.

 

Infrastructure challenges still lay ahead

 

However, as much as transitioning to the cloud shows itself to be the best digitalisation plan, there are obstacles that need to be addressed.

 

Johnny Sy, Technology Adviser for the Philippine Rotary Magazine, reveals that the biggest cloud challenge that the Philippines faces right now is the country’s telecommunications infrastructure.

 

Compared to its Southeast Asian neighbours, network connectivity in the Philippines still trails behind. As such, e-commerce that is already booming in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia still has much room for penetration in the Philippines.

 

Cloud is about achieving more with less. SMEs should view their journey to the cloud not as a burdensome infrastructure change, but an exciting business opportunity that benefits both the company and its customers.

With high flexibility, smooth deployability, and cost-efficiency, it is a matter of time that SMEs will eventually embrace this next-generation technology and transition to the cloud. The key is to start small and start early, seeemd to be the consensus amongst the panelists.

Despite boom, Data Centre industry faces talent shortages in SEA

Data centre is a fast-growing industry with state-of-the-art technology applications, especially after the data challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The internet-related service usage during the lockdown has made it possible for the rising demand of data centres worldwide. According to a recent report from ResearchandMarkets.com, since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, data centre has become a booming market across the globe with an expected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of over 2 per cent during the period 2019-2025.

In another report, South East Asia is witnessing an even more promising outlook with an estimated CAGR of over 6 per cent during the same period.

However, one of the after effects of this boom is a shortage of talent for operating data centres with essentially high-tech skill sets.

“Data centre industry is very exciting with a lot of new technologies, but it’s also quite a heavy industry,” said Edward van Leent, Chairman and CEO of UK-based energy consultancy EPI Group, at W.Media’s Digital Week in South East Asia 2021. “Because there’s a lot of turnovers, I think some of the shortage is created in the industry.”

Leent added that the jobs in data centers cause staff a lot of stresses with complaints about errors every day or even during the holiday. People tend to leave jobs after a few years and move into other industries.

“But what I get from practice is that you can get people, but to get the right skill sets, it becomes a problem,” he said. In developing countries, the lack of high-quality experts on data centres is a looming challenge.

For example, Vietnam, placed 15th in Asia in terms of digital quality of life as per a global report in 2020. It is now home to about 27 cloud computing data centres, invested in by 11 domestic firms with more than 270,000 servers.

Though the number is expected to increase by more than 60 per cent in the next three years, the staffing of highly skilled engineers who are able to operate those centres at an international standard is still under question.

“All over Vietnam, only three people have the CDCE (Certified Data Center Expert) certificates,” stated Binh Vu, general secretary and CEO of Vietnam Internet Association.

The choice of bringing overseas experts to consult local operations is critical, but as the pandemic is still threatening, in-person collaborations are impossible in every part of the world. Remote monitoring and remote management, therefore, become more prominent in the data centre industry.

“I think there’s a big shift in the whole market, where remote working becomes more acceptable,” said Leent. “The need for many of the people on-site moves towards a different balance that we have now.”

Employing people from overseas will come in hand with legal issues, for example, tax regulations. Still, he believed that the industry would be less dependent on local factors for the coming period.

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DCs turn to innovative cooling tech

As Data Centre adoption explodes in the Asia Pacific region, newer forms of cooling are emerging in the horizon, adoption of which is key to drive the sustainability agenda.

One of the key things to consider with Data Centre infrastructure is cooling. Addressing the W.Media’s Digital Week keynote, esteemed US Data Centre veteran Dale Sartor from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory spoke in detail on the new developments in Warm Water Cooling, which he believes can transform energy efficiency in Data Centres.

“There are many benefits. Using Warm Water Cooling can improve energy efficiencies, lowers Total Cost of Ownersip (TCO), improves reliability of systems, lowers operating costs and reduces capital costs,” he said.

Generally speaking, liquid cooling in Data Centres can be implemented with a broad range of technologies. These technologies range from transferring heat to a liquid which is far from the source. For example, Computer Room Air Handlers (CRAHs)) to immersion cooling where the heat transfer takes place on the surface of the hot electronic components, said Sartor.

In general, when the heat is transferred close to the source the cooling liquid supply can be warmer and still provide the needed cooling. The increased efficiency is driven by improved chiller performance and greatly improved opportunity for free cooling.

This assumes significance as many giants in the technology world such as Google and Microsoft, it is a ‘strategic asset’. Sartor also pointed out that this technology was there in the 50s at the beginning of Data Centre adoption but faded out. “People did not want water/liquid in their Data Centres,” he explained.

Most liquid-cooled solutions are hybrid technologies where only a part of the heat load is removed by the liquid. The remaining load is removed by traditional air cooling.

Thus, liquid cooling solutions that transfer heat near the source generally incur additional cost compared to air-cooled IT equipment in a standard rack. Also, these additional costs may substantially offset by the improved energy efficiency and potential capital savings of a final solution that includes liquid cooling near the heat source, pointed out Sartor.

Another logic in favour of Warm Water Cooling has to do with the fact that a chiller won’t be needed or in some cases can be significantly reduced. Also, lesser number of conversions with regard to AC/DC also helps. “As density of servers have increased this cooling technology will come in handy,” opined Sartor.

Like CRAH, InRow technology, which is a Schneider Electric (APC) trade mark is also finding takers. In this, hot air is pulled from the hot equipment aisle, cooled (chilled water), and returned into the cold equipment aisle. Another manufacturer provides an in-row type of unit that uses pumped refrigerant.

Either hot aisle or cold aisle containment will work with this technology. These in-row units are often controlled with variable speed fans and integrated controls.

Sartor also touched upon immersion cooling, in which the electronics are submerged in a non-conducting fluid. This technology can efficiently cool high-density electronics in Data Centres without the need for compressor-based cooling.

Since this system operates well using high temperature coolant, dry coolers can be used for heat rejection to the atmosphere, thereby eliminating evaporative water use almost anywhere in the world. “Liquid immersion cooling, especially with phase change ‘two-phase immersion cooling’, is a paradigm shift in the way electronics are cooled,” he said.

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How edge computing will exponentially grow the China market

Over the past decades, there have been paradigm shifts from centralised to decentralised IT environments: from mainframe server to on-premise server and from mobile to cloud environments. In many ways, it seems like an electronic dance music loop.

Nowadays, the industry is continuing to see growth of Cloud computing, which experts believe will continue to lead the ICT infrastructure market. In that space, Edge Computing will become an exponentially growing market in itself, with the increasing penetration of network-related technologies and initiatives, such as 5G and IoT.

According to Reply’s new research ‘From Cloud to Edge’, edge computing will be an exponentially growing market in all “Europe-5” (Italy, Germany, France, Netherlands, Belgium), and “Big-5” (USA, United Kingdom, Brazil, China, India) clusters’ countries due to the growing usage of 5G and IoT solutions. It is expected that Edge computing marketing would reach a value of $8294.5 million by 2025, according to Reportlinker.com.

All the industries that require the computing tasks as close to where data is originated as possible will benefit from Edge Computing. It’s time for global enterprises to design and implement architectures that leverage the best of Edge and Cloud Computing, “while ensuring privacy and cybersecurity” commented Filippo Rizzante, CTO reply.

China: 100+ Edge Projects Deployed in China Leveraging 5G and IoT Infrastructure

According to a new GSMA intelligence report ‘Edge Computing in the 5G Era: Technology and Market Developments in China’, noted that China’s leadership in edge computing is being driven by government support for new technologies and operator investments in new 5G and IoT networks. According to the ECC, there are currently more than 100 edge computing projects up and running in 40 cities in China across various sectors.

However, even as “China’s 5G numbers might look overwhelming, the quantity is well ahead of the quality.” Explained Robert Clark, a news analyst. “The real challenge in China will be in the industrial Internet.”

Though it’s still early, as networks become virtual or software-based, 5G will be the impulse for the next wave of multibillion-dollar infrastructure spending to spur innovation across many industries along with edge computing.

Take Chinese Grids’ Transformation as an example, China’s State Grid Corp (SGCC), government-backed biggest electricity distributor, has adopted a new focus for its smart grid development to build an electricity network plus IoT (E-IoT, essentially, is to deploy blockchain, AI, cloud computing, 5G, edge computing, and other digital/tech solutions upon the physical grid operation) by 2026.

Start from 2019, SGCC has already took steps to run its digital transformation. In 2020, Kou Wei, the current chairman of SGCC set off a landmark “white paper” for the e-IoT development, which set a grand vision to “establish an initial construction of the E-IoT network by 2021 and complete the E-IoT network development by 2026.” At the same year, working with Huawei and China Telecom, a largest-scale 5G-based smart power grid project in Qingdao of Shandong province was completed. Innovations in 5G telecommunication technology applications are applied e.g. DP facility suitable for 5G distribution power lines is equipped which can automatically eliminate faults of the lines within dozens of milliseconds (the one-way latency of the DP device is lowered to 8 milliseconds and the protection can last for 50 milliseconds).

SGCC has already taken further initiatives to build edge infrastructure nationwide in the next few years to advance its E-IoT network, a source who did not wish to be named told W.media.

“Creating a favourable ecosystem environment that supports technology developments and fosters innovation will ultimately determine the pace and magnitude of edge deployments in China and beyond.” explained Sihan Bo Chen, Head of Greater China, GSMA.

In the next few years, we will see more breakthroughs brought about by edge computing in BFSI, medicine, transport, industry, agriculture and the home. Edge computing gains an ‘edge’ in performance with data processing in an intelligent way as near as possible to its source that will bring practical benefits to help with the digitization of various industries.

The year of the Ox has dawned in China, named after a zodiac animal noted for its slow-but-steady approach. The description of China’s emerging 5G private network market could not be more accurate.

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Tech Leadership: A key agenda for CIOs

With digital transformation being accepted as the ‘new normal’, leadership has taken over as one of the top priorities for CIOs.

Digital transformation as a business ideology and overall enterprise imperative, in the COVID-19 era – looks to be a big winner. Business leaders across the world have accepted that their customers, market requirements and working relationships have gone digital. Industries are waking up to the fact that being digitally savvy is crucial to performing well in their role. Effective digital transformation delivers agility, adaptability, and customer-centricity.

“This being the new motto, requires the CIO to provide guidance, innovation and inspiration – overall leadership to ensure a healthy bottomline and topline growth,” according to Khushru M. Mistry, Chief Information Officer & Senior Vice President, Information Technology of Eureka Forbes, which is into water purification, vacuum cleaning, air purification and home security solutions and is a part of Shapoorji Pallonji Group.

The leadership issue also needs to be seen through a new lens. The usual emphasis on greater efficiency/productivity has got a backlash from a digitally savvy workforce. “Digital talent now expects more from leadership than greater flexibility, better compensation, and/or productivity-supporting work environments. The expectation is to provide better reflection and respect for their concerns and values, not just ensure superior business capabilities and opportunities,” stated Mistry.

Others seem to share a similar point of view. “IT heads need to provide the direction for an organisation at this critical juncture,” said Chirag Boonlia, Chief Technology Officer, Information Technology, Embassy Property Developments Private Limited

The new normal for a successful digital transformation requires that leaders measurably transform themselves.

 

Leadership in what?

This is the topmost question in a CIO’s playlist. Considering Work From Anywhere becoming mainstream, the first song on the charts is how to manage a hybrid workforce, which at the same time has sufficient safeguards.

With the onset of COVID-19, CIOs had to jump on their bikes and set up systems that enabled remote working. N Ganapathy Subramanian, Chief Operating Officer of Asia’s largest IT company, TCS got almost 90 per cent of their 450,000 workforce to be up and running remotely. A vast majority of companies representing India’s $191 billion IT sector took similar initiatives in supporting their workforce and keep the business running for major Fortune clients.

“The remote work concept is expected to continue even after the pandemic. It is, therefore, essential to right-size the IT support for these home-workers and as part of the hybrid workforce models,” said Mistry.

Viral Bhavsar who is group CTO from Immacule Biosciences is of the view that a balance between in-house operations and remote access of IT Infrastructure securely needs to be thought through carefully.

Besides, cybersecurity needs to be prioritised to ensure that the remote devices are secured and do not become the inflection point of entry for cyber threat vectors, added Bhavsar.

Cyberattacks in the form of Deepfake technology, which poses business integrity risks, are on the rise and organisations are facing the brunt. “With remote working and its dependence on video conferencing, this issue becomes a priority for CIOs. Malicious cyber threat vectors use highly sophisticated ‘Deepfakes’ to weaponise video images to exploit employees and can manipulate public brand perception and impact stock prices for financial gain,” opines Mistry.

There are no easy mechanisms to alleviate this problem and CIOs need to work with the Government to bring in suitable legislation to protect the company and the customers. Updated cybersecurity measures with advanced detection algorithms will be par for the course, going forward.

 

Capitalising on AI

Technology heads across organisations are also looking to unlock value out of AI. The pandemic has changed the business landscape and customer nuances, and CIOs who can tap on the potential of AI – to enhance customer experience, accelerate innovation and empower employees – will be able to develop a competitive advantage for their business, stated Mistry.

Agreed Bhavsar. “Post COVID-19, the need for contact free experience has come into all business. This can be achieved with help of AI, automation and digital all should go hand-in-hand.”

So, have CIO priorities changed, due to the pandemic? To some extent, it seems so. Considering sectors such as consumer durables, face-to-face discussions and demos have changed to virtual so that a contactless environment can be maintained. The in-shop retail experience has illustrated the need to visually look at products but with a “no-touch” environment – inducing technologies like QR code scanning to see the demo of the product. Servicing of products at customer’s home relies on the authenticated health of the service agent – giving rise to technology enablement of performing daily health check of our service agents.

Every aspect of these changes relies on newer technology adoption whilst ensuring that the customer experience in provided with empathy. This is the fundamental shift, pointed out Mistry.

These shifts herald a new beginning for many companies as well as technologists.

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Vietnam Electricity to get clean energy from Sunseap

As the global effort to decarbonise intensifies, countries and corporates across the Asia Pacific region are heeding the call and setting increasingly ambitious renewable energy targets.

To achieve this objective, Singapore-based solar energy solutions provider Sunseap Group has signed 20-year power purchase agreements with state-owned utility Vietnam Electricity to supply clean energy to the country’s national grid.

 

The firm will generate the solar energy from seven newly commissioned solar plants in Vietnam. With a total capacity of 23.2MWp, these plants were installed within three months despite movement restrictions amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the company said in a statement.

 

Sunseap Group is the leading solar energy system developer, owner and operator in Singapore, with almost 300 Mega Watt-peak (MWp) of solar energy projects contracted, of which 168 MWp have been completed on more than 1,500 buildings in Singapore. This includes public housing estates, as well as commercial and industrial buildings. Sunseap operates through five key units: Sunseap Leasing, Sunseap International, Sunseap Energy, Sunseap Engineering and Sunseap Solutions.

The plants will come equipped with 60,000 photo-voltaic (PV) panels and 370 DC/AC inverters, and are expected to yield around 40,424,479 kilowatt-hours of clean energy per year, which is equivalent of delivering clean energy to 13,000 households and reducing carbon dioxide by more than 20,500 tons annually.

 

These PV systems were built atop factory and warehouse buildings across Southern Vietnam in various provinces including Ba Ria Vung Tau, Dong Nai, Binh Phoc and Binh Duong. The PPAs were signed under Vietnam Electricity’s Feed-In-Tariff 2 programme to promote investments in renewable energy sources by guaranteeing producers an above-market rate for selling into the grid.

 

Frank Phuan, co-founder and CEO of Sunseap Group, said: “It was no mean feat installing and commissioning seven solar plants (in Vietnam) within three months and in the face of the pandemic. We hope this demonstrates to our partners and potential partners Sunseap’s strong end-to-end project development and management competencies and our ability to complete a project within a tight deadline. The Vietnamese government has been incredibly supportive of clean energy and we look forward to more opportunities to power the country’s economic growth in a sustainable manner.”

 

Jeff Lim, Vice-President of Business Development and International activities at Sunseap Group, added: “We are pleased that the team’s strong work ethics, competence and adaptability have enabled us to install the solar plants expeditiously despite the Covid-19 restrictions. We are grateful that the tremendous support of the Vietnamese government has also contributed to the smooth and successful execution of the project. In the coming year we look forward to forging closer relationships with our local partners to expand our portfolio of projects in Vietnam.”

Vietnam’s adoption of renewable energy is drawing global investors’ attention. Private equity giants such as Macquarie have committed to the region. In key markets around the world Macquarie’s Green Investment Group (GIG) is building renewable energy development pipelines by acquiring and investing in development companies, forming joint ventures or developing projects directly.

This latest project adds to the 168MWp solar farm Sunseap has developed in Ninh Thuan province in 2019. Phuan added that Vietnam has become an attractive market in the region due to favourable climate conditions for harnessing solar energy, stable and supportive government policies for solar implementation and a strong network of well-established developers, off-takers, contractors and financiers.

Sunseap is one of the largest players in the solar energy industry in the region, with a pipeline of projects in Singapore, Australia, China, Taiwan and Cambodia.

 

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Indian SaaS cos seeing increase in PE/VC investments

In a pandemic-hit year, Indian Software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies are seeing a growth in investments, as companies increasingly embrace digital.

According to a report by global consultancy firm Bain and Company, despite the onset of Covid-19 pandemic, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) area has drawn 20 per cent of investments in the first half of 2020. In comparison, in H1 of 2019, SaaS companies attracted 15 per cent of investments.

Arpan Sheth, partner and leader of Bain & Company’s Asia-Pacific Technology, Vector and Advanced Analytics practices, said: “India now has a thriving ecosystem of enablers which consist of both domestic and global SaaS investors, over a hundred SaaS angels with four or more investments, incubators and accelerators and SaaS development initiatives by communities such as SaaSBOOMi.”

Bhoomi means ‘land’ in Hindi.

In effect, the impact of these enablers were some of the key ingredients in SaaS ventures’ faster growth trajectory in recent years, with over 50 companies having breached the $10 million Annual Recurring Revenue milestone. Additionally, in the last five years, the number of funded SaaS companies has doubled while companies drawing Series C or later stage capital have quadrupled.

Extrapolating this growth, Bain estimates that Indian SaaS firms may clock $20 billion by 2022. While Bain had said in a survey last year that SaaS emerged as the top priority technology sub-sector of focus in an investor survey, this time around Covid-19 has given that extra impetus.

“SaaS companies are transitioning into remote selling, finalising large deals digitally, and are revving up their sales engines as companies globally rewire their business strategy around technology,” said Prabhav Kashyap, Associate Partner, Bain & Company. Voxta, an AI-based voice bot startup has bagged a contract from several state governments.

“Our voicebots on call centers or mobile apps, can capture data like age, area from those who cannot type. These voice bots can be configured in 9 Indian languages, covering 90 per cent of the country,” said Kavita Reddi, co-founder, Voxta.

The SaaS solution market which was worth $407 million in 2016 has grown more than three-fold and is now in excess of $1 billion in 2020, according to indiustry body NASSCOM. Vistaar, a Bengaluru based non-deposit-taking-NBFC focussed on lending to small businesses has raised close to Rs 550 crore this year.

Indian homegrown SaaS companies such as Zoho and Freshworks are testimony to this growth, when much of the attention was focussed on consumer-tech and e-commerce focussed startups in the country. Further, first-gen founders, such as Sridhar Vembu of Zoho and Girish Mathrubootham of Freshworks, have played a pivotal role in India’s SaaS journey by building a community of entrepreneurs, which led to the development of many new ventures and job creation.

For example, Freshworks created an entrepreneurship cascade of more than 25 companies, including Voonik, Revv and SurveySparrow, which in turn have already created 500 to 1,000 jobs.Another reason for the growth in B2B startups could be attributed to stronger business models and significantly less cash burn when compared to B2C startups. “Entrepreneurs have a different mindset and having worked in the enterprise tech segment, they are better able to address pain points that an organisation faces in its journey to digitise its business processes,” said Kashyap.

The increased push for digitalisation is seeing a growth in investments in Indian SaaS companies.

Lalit Reddy, partner and leader in Bain India’s Private Equity and Digital Delivery practices said:SaaS in India has recently witnessed significant funding traction, surpassing $1.3 billion of annual investment in 2019. Horizontal business software was the largest sub-segment, accounting for two-thirds of all SaaS investment and vertical-specific SaaS grew the fastest, albeit on a small base. Even amidst Covid-19, SaaS has been a prominent investment theme with a growing share of venture capital (VC) and growth.

VistaarFinance, Bengaluru based non-deposit-taking-NBFC focussed on lending to small businesses recently raised $30 million through External Commercial Borrowing (ECB) from FMO, the Dutch entrepreneurial development bank, making this amongst the larger such transactions in the MSME segment last year. Vistaar has now raised over Rs. 550 crore of debt financing and these funds will be deployed to lend to small businesses across the country, especially in this time of need.

This fundraising is a strong endorsement of Vistaar’s sustainable business model, risk management capabilities even during a pandemic, its ability to grow in the current challenging and critical times, said Brahmanand Hegde, Executive Vice Chairman,  VistaarFinance.

This is the second line of funding from FMO to Vistaar. Similarly, MagentaBI, the Ahmedabad based SaaS platform, has raised close to $80,000 in seed funding from several investors including Santhosh G,a prolific Angel Investor, Manoj Agrawal (CFO, HN Safal Group) and Sachin Chaturvedi (Promoter, Prarambh Group).

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Indian CIOs shift gears amidst pandemic: Prioritise investments in cyber sec, data

IT decision makers from leading Indian companies have zeroed in on cyber security and data-backed decision making, as their key priority areas in 2021.

Coming in the backdrop of a pandemic situation, businesses the world over have had to take a fresh look at the way they do business. With social distancing norms, remote working, frequent lockdowns and restrictions on travel, behaviour patterns of end-consumers are undergoing a change of sorts.

Digital transactions are the new normal. CIOs and IT decision makers that W.Media spoke to have outlined certain key areas and cyber security seems to be the most important one.

“In 2021, we can expect cybercriminals to define their attack strategies focusing on the “work-from-home economy”. Less secured home machines will become very easy targets, and, in turn, these easily compromised machines will become the pivot point to allowing advanced persistent attacks,” opined Bharat Panchal, Chief Risk Officer for India, Middle East and Africa for FIS.

Also, post COVID-19, as the cyberspace real estate increased in size, opportunity for fraudsters to play has gone up simultaneously. In effect, this makes it very difficult to deal with new cybersecurity threats.

Chirag Boonlia, Chief Technology Officer, Information Technology, Embassy Property Developments Private Limited is of the view that Cybersecurity has got a significant focus on account of Covid. “Customer Experience now also includes Contactless Experiences,” he said.

To put it in context, during the pandemic, number of targeted ransomware attacks has at least doubled worldwide and India is one of the most targeted countries in terms of a ransomware attack, stated Panchal.

With businesses shutting down and the social upheaval caused as a result of this, law enforcement agencies across the world are staring at increasing instances of frauds. A quick look at recent instances of cyber breaches amongst government agencies as well as private institutions substantiates this viewpoint.

“These complex attacks would be the main threat to critical infrastructure, supply chain, financial institutions, and the pharma industry. While lockdowns have created more vulnerabilities, criminals are more organized, equipped, creative, capable, and opportunistic. So, they will carry on expanding their attack strategy of ransomware techniques,” said Panchal.

Ransomware attacks will include not just a demand for organizations to pay a ransom but threats of data being exfiltrated and leaked. These double-threat attacks will reduce the effectiveness of disaster recovery and business continuity for protection against ransomware.

 

Data Ahoy!

 

At the same time, data-driven decision making, using AI, Machine Learning will be the way forward, even as raging debates over the ethics and efficacy of technologies are doing the rounds globally. Sayed Peerzade, Group CIO, Reliance Entertainment is a firm believer in data.

“Data driven decision making will be our top priority. We are collecting 65 million events per day as a data from various stages and progress from our products like OTT and gaming. However, more emphasis in now on using that data to build more of automation of products by using the technologies like of AI & ML,” he says.

 

Where is the budget, honey!

 

This raises the most important question- where is the money for tech going to come from, considering businesses globally are under so much stress and in certain sectors such as a hospitality, aviation have taken a severe beating. Cybersecurity has to be an additional budget. Digital Transformation with contactless experience too should be from additional budget and rest as a part of the roadmap,” avers Boonlia.

Peerzade of Reliance Entertainment opines that budgets will have to be created through a combination of cost takeouts and fresh ones. “Its balanced approach for us. We constantly monitor and tweak transformation projects for cost savings. At the same time we are investing money in automating projects,” he says.

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Half of APAC companies experienced increased IT downtime during COVID-19: LogicMonitor

Almost half of the enterprises in the Asia Pacific region have experienced an increase in IT downtime during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As businesses- small and large around the world continue on the rapid pace of digital transformation, forced by the ongoing pandemic, organisations face business continuity risks. This seems to be the gist of a new global research report, titled “The Race to IT Observability” by LogicMonitor, which a cloud-based IT infrastructure monitoring and observability platform.

In the survey it has delved into ways in which the pandemic impacted traditional CIO, IT operations and developer roles within organizations while also shifting executive priorities towards cloud migration, remote workforce enablement and unified observability.

Around 74 per cent of APAC CIOs and CTOs feel that their input and importance within the boardroom has increased in the last year. The vast majority of APAC enterprises (96 per cent) have seen some level of convergence between traditional IT operations and administration teams and development teams in the last 12 months. About 97 per cent of the respondents credit the COVID-19 pandemic with accelerating this convergence.

The study of 600 global IT leaders – 200 of which were in APAC – revealed that previously siloed IT teams and technologies are converging as enterprises accelerate their modernisation efforts in reaction to COVID-19. The responsibilities of CIOs are expanding and the roles of traditional IT operations and administration teams (ITOps) are moving closer and closer to those of agile application developers and quality and security engineers (DevOps) as business priorities shift to align with the customer and their digital experience, it said.

Around 19 per cent of APAC IT leaders believe that better cross-org collaboration or alignment will be the top benefit resulting from convergence between ITOps and DevOps, followed by greater ability to scale (16 per cent) and improved security (16 per cent).

“Asia Pacific is home to some of the world’s fastest growing economies, and the region is also leading the world in digital innovation and transformation. It is crucial for Asia-based organizations to optimize their IT and future-proof their operations to remain competitive. This study has shown that IT leaders here understand the benefits and significance of true unified visibility into the entire ecosystem of their digital assets, especially as they continue on their digital transformation journeys and navigate an increasingly digitalized business landscape,” said Richard Gerdis, Vice President for Asia Pacific at LogicMonitor.

Further, enterprises are prioritizing data security, cloud and IT automation in today’s era of remote work, the study said. Many IT leaders are changing the way they invest in various IT initiatives as digital transformation accelerates due to COVID-19 and the rise of remote work.

In 2020, 71 per cent of APAC IT leaders substantially increased their investments in data security, 70 per cent substantially increased their investments in IT automation, and 69 per cent substantially increased their investments in cloud technologies and services.

Around 11 per cent of APAC enterprises say that expanding use of the cloud and increasing automation are their top priorities in 2021, followed by investing in AI and ML (9 per cent). This reflects the fact that enterprises are still not convinced with the results produced by AI and ML.

Around 76 per cent of APAC IT leaders plan to increase investment in data security in the next 12-24 months, followed by agile development (72 per cent), cloud technologies/services (71 per cent) and IT automation (71 per cent).

while the study has not highlighted the financial impact of this downtime, past research pegs this number to be approximately $700 billion in a year.

IT outages and brownouts remain widespread

One negative IT trend that businesses continue to experience at alarming rates – despite the severe negative business impact – is IT downtime, which includes both brownouts and outages. APAC IT leaders identify the increase in remote work, digital transformation and edge computing as the top trends contributing to widespread downtime.

In the past three years, 98 per cent of APAC IT leaders said their organization had experienced an IT brownout; 93 per cent said their organization had experienced an outage. Around 48 per cent of APAC IT leaders said they had seen an increase in IT downtime as a result of the pandemic since March 2020. Interestingly, in comprison, respondents about 57 per cent in North America and 50 per cent of respondents in EMEA, evinced similar concerns.

Further, around 8 per cent of APAC IT leaders admit to experiencing 50 or more brownouts and outages in the last three years. Globally, enterprises experience an average of 15 IT outages every 3 years and 19 brownouts.

Lost productivity tops the list as the most negative impact APAC IT leaders have experienced as a result of IT brownouts (63 per cent) and outages (59 per cent), followed by lost revenue (45 per cent for brownouts and 41 per cent for outages). Third on the list of most negative impacts for brownouts was lowered stock price at 37 per cent. Third on the list of the most negative impacts of outages was damage to brand/reputation at 34 per cent.

Around 17 per cent of APAC IT leaders say their organization was shut down permanently as a result of IT outages during the past three years.

 

 

 

Data breaches continue to rise in Oz

Data-related breaches are on the rise in the Australian continent.

According to data from the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC), which periodically publishes statistical information about notifications received under the Notifiable Data Breaches (NDB) scheme, there was a 5 per cent increase in breaches. The findings were for the July to December 2020 reporting period, which saw 539 breaches, compared to 512 in the perdiod January-June. Malicious or criminal attacks (including cyber incidents) remain the leading source of data breaches, accounting for 58 per cent of the notifications.

Data breaches resulting from human error accounted for 38 per cent of notifications, up 18 per cent from 173 notifications to 204. interestingly, during the pandemic, the health sector had reported almost a quarter (23 per cent) of all breaches, followed by finance, which notified 15 per cent of all breaches.

Also, the Australian Government entered the top 5 industry sectors to notify data breaches for the first time, notifying 6 per cent of all breaches and 78 per cent of entities notified the OAIC within 30 days of becoming aware of an incident that was subsequently assessed to be an eligible data breach.

Spate of incidents

 

Recently, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) reported a cyber security breach related to its use of a file sharing software.

The Australian regulator in a notification said: “This incident is related to Accellion software used by ASIC to transfer files and attachments. It involved unauthorised access to a server which contained documents associated with recent Australian credit licence applications.” Interestingly the Accellion file sharing software was recently at the centre of a similar incident at the Reserve Bank of New Zealand.

Also, there was significant variation in the number of notifications received each month of the reporting period. The OAIC received 62 notifications in November – the second lowest monthly total since the NDB scheme commenced in February 2018 – but more than 100 notifications in July, August and September.

This reporting period saw continuation of the trend towards a greater proportion of data breaches attributed to human error. Data breaches resulting from human error accounted for 38 per cent of all notifications, compared to 34 per cent the previous 6 months and 32 per cent in the same period in 2019.

Kinds of personal information involved in breaches

 

Most data breaches (91 per cent) notified under the NDB scheme from July to December 2020 involved ‘contact information’, such as an individual’s home address, phone number or email address. This is distinct from ‘identity information’, which refers to information that is used to confirm an individual’s identity, such as a passport number or driver’s licence number. Identity information was exposed in 45 per cent of data breaches notified during the period, OAIC report said.

Data breaches notified in the period also involved financial details, such as bank account or credit card numbers (40 per cent), health information (26 per cent) and tax file numbers (18 per cent). ‘Other sensitive information’ (9 per cent) refers to categories of sensitive information as set out in section 6 of the Privacy Act, other than health information as defined in section 6FA.

Recently, the SUNBURST malware attacks against SolarWinds have heightened companies’ concerns about the risk to their digital environments. Malware installed during software updates in March 2020 had allowed advanced attackers to gain unauthorized access to files that may include customer data and intellectual property.

Matt Gyde, President and CEO, Security Division at NTT Limited had recently said that threat actors have exploited disruption during the COVID-19 crisis to launch an accelerated wave of cyberattacks around the world. The SolarWinds incidents were orchestrated by sophisticated operators and exploit the broad distribution of commonly-used software packages, he said.

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