Malaysia’s government aims to migrate 80% of public data into hybrid cloud systems by the end of 2022 and embrace a ‘cloud-first’ strategy. Local industry bodies such as the SME Association of Malaysia and the National Tech Association of Malaysia are calling for local players to stand out in the competition of building the infrastructure for hyperscale data centres.
In an interview session with Mr KC Phua, Technical Director, Data Management, Protection Solutions, Hitachi Vantara APAC, he talked about Malaysia’s effort to build hyperscale data centres and become more data-driven, as well as the challenges that come with it.
Mr Phua started off by explaining that data grows at a fast rate nowadays and traditional data centre infrastructures just can’t keep up and manage the amount of data generated. Hence the introduction of hyperscale data centres to cater for the huge amount of data and efficiently support robust, scalable applications and storage portfolios of services to businesses.
That’s where the major hyperscalers come into play to help build and manage these hyperscale data centres. It will be challenging for these initial players, but it’s the right approach from the country. Phua believes that the “big boys” are capable of supporting Malaysia’s digital approach, especially with the rollout of 5G, the implementation of IoT applications and the rise of cloud services in Malaysia.
“From a technology point of view, scalability is key – and that is the challenging part. As your infrastructure grows with many servers, a lot of ‘power’ is needed, especially the power cooling technology; otherwise, the servers will not work. However, this could lead to another issue: the more servers you have, the more storage is needed, leading the entire surface area of organisational data to be more exposed. So, a lot of effort must be put towards securing and protecting the large footprint of the data you have,” he explained.
Despite the challenges in adopting hyperscale data centre infrastructure, there are many advantages that come with it. “Pretty much, a lot of people would benefit from leveraging the hyperscale data infrastructure,” said Phua.
Specifically, he mentioned that the first people to gain from it are the local SMEs. He then shared that 90% of companies in Malaysia are fronted by SMEs, and they will benefit from it due to the economy of scale of the hyperscale data centres, which translates to a more attractive cost of delivery for them.
The traditionally big technology consumers like banks and governments will also get equal benefits. They have the resources but they can’t forever build their own data centre. There is always a limit at some point where they face a barrier and cost could be the factor. Therefore, Phua said this is where they would have to turn to those hyperscale data centre providers and create a hybrid environment that utilises and augments their existing operations as well.
Accelerating the Adoption of Infrastructure Modernisation
But what drives the acceleration of infrastructure modernisation?
According to Phua, the sad truth is that the current pandemic that we are facing now drives a lot of digitalisation worldwide, pushing many organisations to accelerate the adoption of data infrastructures and modernise existing infrastructures in order to support all kinds of digital activities.
He added that the pandemic is also one of the key drivers in accelerating the rollout of 5G in Malaysia by the end of the year. Once 5G is established, IoT or sensor technology-based applications will then start to come about. With that, this will naturally demand newer and better data infrastructure.
Assuming that is the case, according to Phua, software-defined data centres might be the next step towards enabling infrastructure modernisation. Looking at the traditional definition of software-defined data centres in the past, people generally refer to three primary components: compute, storage and networking resources.
“The concept is rather simple. If you look at it, it is about aggregating and pulling all the resources that you have and then virtualising them. It’s like having a pool of five cars and yet being able to service 100 people. It’s back to how you [implement] software-defined, how you service the 100 people, how you queue up, how you define priority and how you define the different needs of the 100 people with just five cars,” said Phua as he explained what data centres typically do by using software-defined services for those three components. However, this also means that by not limiting themselves to just those three components, they can enable the type of efficiency that was not possible in the “traditional way”.
In other words, the whole concept of software-defined should be based on where all infrastructure elements – including the three components – are virtualised and delivered as a service. If you have the ability to control something that is hardware-based using software, that is actually software-defined. As an example, he said if you can control and automate the power generators in the hyperscale data centre using software, then you are effectively software-defining how you assign the power to the servers.
Infrastructure modernisation paves the way for businesses to become more data-driven. Nevertheless, this is not an easy journey. Phua shared three factors that could potentially encourage people to become data-driven. The first is making data accessible and available, which will encourage many to use the data. The second is making data more user-friendly, in a sense that customers can understand. The third is sharing and promoting data, ensuring that they are secured and protected.
“So, to be data-driven leaders, we have to provide the infrastructure that is robust and reliable to make data accessible, available and user-friendly. This, in a way, is how Hitachi operates – building infrastructure to make them more data-driven,” explained Phua.
In addition, he also highlighted how it is important for CXOs themselves to understand what benefits they stand to gain from being data-driven. In Hitachi’s point of view, being data-driven means winning more customers, retaining more customers and more profitable gain.