Cloud adoption is just the beginning of the transformation journey in Asia Pacific. Post-pandemic imperatives post both challenges and opportunities.

As Asia Pacific transitions towards a post-pandemic world, moving to the cloud has largely been perceived as an enabler of recovery, with cloud spending already up by 38% in the region in 2020

While cloud investments will continue to be a priority for organizations looking for increased scalability, business continuity and cost efficiency, navigating the shifting complexities of today’s IT, emerging technologies and hybrid work landscape can be challenging even with the cloud enabled. 

DigiconAsia checks with Sunil Golani, Cloud Business Leader, Asia Pacific, Tech Data on the trends, developments, challenges of cloud adoption in Asia Pacific:

What are some cloud trends and opportunities you’ve observed in the Asia Pacific region?

Sunil: One of the key trends that we are seeing in the region is the rapid adoption of cloud. While the cloud computing industry in general has been growing over the past decade, in 2020, regional and worldwide demand reached a whole new level with businesses needing to rapidly migrate their workforces into a fully remote working model to contend with the pandemic.

Cloud has now emerged as a core foundation among APAC organizations as they look to regain growth in 2021, and the accelerated demand has led to an expected market size of US$48.4 billion in public cloud services this year, as reported by IDC.

The acceleration of cloud services adoption during the pandemic isn’t a temporary trend. Moving forward, we will inevitably see more organizations adopting a cloud-first approach especially as they look to reinvent themselves and thrive in today’s business environments that face constant uncertainty.

The shift to cloud is not just about cloud. As organizations pursue new IT architectures and operation models, they are in many ways creating a foundation for new opportunities in digital business including next-generation IT solutions.

Cloud technology can enable organizations to move much more quickly with scale and elasticity, enabling systems to grow with changing business demands while at the same time providing on-demand availability. Such operational benefits are key enablers for innovation, and hence organizations that recognize the long-term benefits of investing in the cloud, are in far better positions to be early adopters of disruptive technologies that will come in the future.

How are organizations in the region leveraging the cloud in the past one year?

Sunil: 2020 was a pivotal year for the cloud as it played a key role in facilitating remote work solutions, allowing organizations to incorporate cloud technologies to their existing organizational processes.

In the past year, many organizations leveraged the cloud to facilitate collaboration and communication both internally and externally. This can be seen with the rapid adoption of remote collaboration and communication tools across various organizations, ranging from messaging to voice and video calling apps. 

Beyond that, most organizations have also moved the majority of business processes such as customer relationship management, enterprise resource planning and document management to the cloud. The move allows organizations to not only ensure that the most critical resources are always available but can also be accessed securely and conveniently by its employees.

One of the other benefits offered by leveraging cloud is the ability to use big data analytics to process vast quantities of data. Organizations that understand this benefit are now using cloud computing to analyze its data for patterns and insights, make predictions, improve forecasting, and determine other business decisions.

While the above are just some of the ways in which organizations are leveraging the cloud, one key takeaway that we can highlight is even during the ongoing pandemic, the cloud has helped organizations to continue its business and remain operational. In today’s world, organizations need to build a strong long-term strategy to fully reap the benefits of the cloud.

What are the key challenges and pain points they face, and what are some potential solutions you could suggest for them?

Sunil: The most pressing challenge faced when organizations look to shift to the cloud will be ensuring data security. The rise in the complexity of cyber-attacks, such as ransomware and phishing, to denial-of-service attacks, can lead to devastating, costly results that ultimately can degrade a business’ reputation. This critical consideration has led to cloud service providers investing heavily in security over the last decade, with the spending on security hardware, services and software in APAC expected to reach US$23.1 billion in 2021.

However, security is never 100% foolproof and vulnerabilities can be exposed when businesses are in the midst of dealing with the rapid change to remote work environments. Traditional on-premise security approaches became replaced by cloud-based cybersecurity solutions overnight, as the approach was needed to scale adequately with the shift in working preferences and large-scale virtual collaboration. As APAC organizations further navigate and expand on remote work models, enabling secure migration onto the cloud will be key.

Migration from on-premise environments to cloud platforms is generally time-consuming and requires significant budgets. This coupled with another commonly cited pain point, is the increased cloud management and challenges associated to cost containment. While moving to cloud has provided many operational efficiencies it has also in some cases proven to be costly. Cloud wastage has often led to businesses slowing down cloud adoption. This is mainly due to immature skillsets and inefficient management of cloud infrastructure.

Potential solution to these pain points mentioned would be the deployment of right amount of cloud skillsets and capabilities that simplify and speed up the move to cloud. These skillsets not only include the knowledge but must also be supported with a full suite of tools, resources and even the consultative expertise to simplify the secure delivery of cloud-based solutions for both service providers and the end-customers across the regional cloud ecosystem.

Is security still a very key area of concern among organizations? What needs to be in place to ensure that we adapt securely to the new cloud reality?

Sunil: The growth of cloud adoption in APAC will naturally be tied to the trends and developments in cloud security. Thankfully, given the advancements in security technology, migrating onto and operating in the cloud offers more robust security protocols compared to on-premise models, especially for organizations without the resources for in-house security capabilities. However, as previously mentioned, data security will never be completely fool proof, and all it takes is just one cyber-attack that slips through the network defenses to cause major damage. Hence security definitely will continue to be a key concern for APAC organizations.

A recommended approach to empowering a more cyber resilient and secure business is to ensure there is sufficient expertise to cope with an increasingly hostile online environment, especially for organizations that lack the talent and are looking at leaner approaches to reinforce security. On-demand programs that provide businesses with access to consultative security experts to discuss cyber security strategy development, training, and enablement, can be an important consideration when aiming to shore up enterprise security with less manpower.

Organizations can also consider cloud-based security platforms that offer a best-of-breed approach, allowing for a customization and management of a host of security products within a single panel. Such an approach can potentially decrease the overheads and complexities needed to integrate new security technologies, while providing a wider breadth of consistent coverage across the evolving cyber threat landscape.

Moving forward, how could organizations in the region better reap the benefits of the cloud?

Sunil: Besides the uncertainties brought about by the ongoing pandemic and the rapid shift towards hybrid work models, there also exist several more factors as to why it is important for APAC organizations to prioritize a shift to the cloud in the current climate.

Ultimately, the key factor is in business transformation that cloud computing is much more flexible and scalable compared to on-premise models and is far easier to scale and adapt to seismic shifts through the wider economy. With cloud, businesses can reap the benefit of making cashflow easier as they no longer have to outlay large capital for IT software or hardware purchases upfront, instead they can pay as they go.

Moving forward, APAC organizations must look ahead, plan early on and understand how migrating to the cloud can help in empowering cost efficiencies and reduce manpower and overheads. The flexibility of cloud computing and the benefits that come with the shift to cloud are proven to be enormous in terms of enabling employees to work anywhere, at an environment of their choosing, with just a laptop and an online connection.

With hybrid working looking to stay in APAC for the long term, shifting onto the cloud will allow organizations to not just scale the business flexibly, but also benefit from the boosts in employee productivity, and on the cost savings of physical rentals. Cloud computing is the competitive edge every business needs today.