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Over the past year, many organisations across the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region have been supercharging their digital transformation initiatives on the back of the pandemic, whether it is empowering citizen developers, adopting the internet of things (IoT) to improve hygiene, or leveraging smart glasses to troubleshoot machinery.
Many of the digitisation themes underpinning those initiatives are likely to remain in 2023 – with some nuances. For example, while the cloud-first mantra will continue to dominate the business technology landscape, executive conversations are likely to focus more on cloud cost management and cloud interoperability challenges.
In this round-up, we review some of the key IT trends that are likely to shape the industry across the region in 2023.
Robotics goes mainstream but security challenges remain
Robots have become a more common sight in APAC countries with tight labour markets and an ageing workforce. In 2023, 35% of enterprises in the region will integrate physical robotics with mainstream technology, according to Danny Mu, principal analyst at Forrester.
“Japan’s population is the oldest in the world; Singapore, South Korea and China are also facing dwindling populations,” said Mu. “Labour shortages are forcing organisations to pursue robot workers to maintain their resilience.
“Industries such as food and beverage, janitorial services, commercial and home delivery, healthcare and manufacturing will all benefit from autonomous mobile robots, collaborative robots, robot security guards, and drones for inspection.”
But cyber security threats could pose a risk to robotics programmes, which will increasingly rely on low-latency 5G connectivity to operate, likely through the cloud.
According to a report by the GSM Association, 5G connections in APAC are expected to reach 430 million in 2025, up from 200 million at the end of 2021. In Singapore, Singtel has reached 95% of 5G coverage nationwide, ahead of the regulatory target of 2025, with plans to expand standalone 5G coverage to its seaport by 2025.
Sean Duca, vice-president and regional chief security officer at Palo Alto Networks in Asia-Pacific and Japan, said accelerated 5G adoption in APAC will deepen vulnerabilities.
“While cloud provides greater agility, scalability and performance, it also exposes the 5G core to cloud security vulnerabilities,” he added. “Large-scale attacks could come from anywhere, even from within the operator’s network.”
Cloud-first strategy and FinOps takes centre stage
The pandemic has spurred greater cloud adoption across APAC and will drive organisations to fine-tune their cloud consumption strategy. For example, beyond core infrastructure services, firms will accelerate deployments of cloud-native applications.
Forrester’s Mu noted that in the new year, APAC firms will prioritise container-based, microservices-oriented architectures with distributed capabilities, which can benefit a range of technology domains, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), data management, IoT, 5G, edge computing and blockchain.
“While many users lean solely on cloud-native tooling for its cost-free access and light optimisation capabilities, they need to choose third-party cloud cost management and optimisation tools to face looming inflation and the threat of a recession,” Mu added.
API security threats to grow
The security of application programming interfaces (APIs) will come under the spotlight as API usage and traffic continue to accelerate. This is being driven by the trend towards cloud-native app development, as well as a concerted push by governments and industry for greater data-sharing and portability.
Tony Mascarenhas, area vice-president at Imperva in Australia and New Zealand, noted that cyber criminals will follow this trend and exploit more and more API vulnerabilities.
“In this classic tale of good and evil, development and security teams will need to join forces in the fight to secure their APIs,” he said. “The adventure will show them they are stronger together, embedding security into the agile development process, accelerating the ‘shift left’ movement.”
Non-technical employees will write code
For organisations that have embraced low-code/no-code development platforms, nurturing a pool of citizen developer talent not only helps to build digital skills, but also improves the alignment between business and IT.
Specifically in terms of AI deployments, no-code platforms that let non-technical employees train ML models will help organisations break through AI deployment roadblocks, according to Scott Hunter, vice-president of strategic engagements and transformation lead at UiPath Asia-Pacific and Japan.
“Bringing AI into production has been historically difficult for many organisations due to factors such as the scarcity of data scientists, slow model development and clunky deployment options,” said Hunter, adding that no-code ML platforms will free up data scientists’ time and let businesspeople apply their knowledge and expertise, resulting in faster development and better-performing models.
Hunter said many of these platforms can also integrate with automation platforms, so once models are developed, they can be brought quickly into automated workstreams. This lets AI flow through the enterprise to support better and faster decision-making.
According to UiPath, 44% of organisations in APAC already have non-IT domain employees involved in automating aspects of their work, while 39% plan to get their employees involved.
Cross-cloud data mobility becomes mainstream
A multicloud strategy helps to mitigate downtime risk and supplier lock-in while enabling organisations to leverage the strengths of different cloud suppliers, but for data managers, it can be expensive to move data between clouds, creating silos within an organisation. Also, without a unified view and control of the entire data estate, major security vulnerabilities can go unnoticed.
To keep pace with cloud offerings and achieve business goals, organisations in APAC will start leveraging AI and ML more next year to address the challenges of siloed workloads and enhance cloud interoperability through data portability, according to Andy Ng, vice-president and managing director for Asia South and Pacific region at Veritas Technologies.
“As organisations work to address interoperability challenges and gain more control in the cloud, cross-cloud data mobility will become more mainstream in 2023,” he said.
Higher demand for cyber insurance
Cyber security awareness has its benefits and drawbacks, one of which is higher premiums for cyber insurance. The global cyber security insurance market is projected to be worth $29.2bn by 2027, up from $11.9bn in 2022.
Jon France, chief information security officer at the International Information System Security Certification Consortium (ISC)², said that in APAC, the demand for cyber security insurance is set to grow, given the increase in fines due to non-compliance and regulatory developments. This is largely because of heightened awareness of the financial and reputational risks of cyber incidents such as ransomware attacks, data breaches and vulnerability exploitation.
At the same time, underwriters are also making requirements for obtaining cyber insurance much stricter, requiring things like two-factor authentication and adoption of specific technologies such as endpoint detection and response (EDR). “Increasing cyber insurance premiums and stricter requirements to obtain insurance will be interesting hurdles to watch in 2023,” said France.
France also expects the rise of supply chain attacks to prompt companies to require their suppliers to have some form of cyber insurance.“With geopolitical issues spilling out across borders, coupled with the cyber threats companies are constantly facing, firms are going to prioritise protecting their most critical assets, including their reputation,” he said.
Datacentres in Australia to face increasing regulation
Mounting pressures to meet consumer demand for energy and water are forcing governments at all levels to take a harder look at datacentres and their outsized consumption of those resources.
Datacentres are estimated to be responsible for up to 3% of global electricity consumption today and are projected to touch 4% by 2030. The average hyperscale facility consumes 20-50MW a year – theoretically enough electricity to power up to 37,000 homes. Vertiv’s experts expect this to prompt increasing governmental scrutiny in 2023.
That is happening in some places already. Dublin, Ireland and Singapore have taken steps to control datacentre energy use, and massive datacentre water consumption – especially in areas prone to drought – is likely to trigger similar scrutiny.
According to the US Department of Energy, the water usage effectiveness (WUE) of an average datacentre using evaporative cooling systems is 1.8 litres per kWh. That type of datacentre can consume three to five million gallons of water a day – similar to the capacity used by a city of 30,000-50,000 people.
The industry will continue to take steps to self-monitor and moderate – including an increasing preference for environmentally friendly thermal designs – but 2023 will see increases in regulatory oversight.
“Organisations across Australia have spent the last few years focusing on how to effectively consume data to fuel innovation, growth and expansion,” said Robert Linsdell, managing director of Australia and New Zealand at Vertiv.
“But the thirst for increased data continues to escalate energy use, so while policy-makers drive progress in Australia’s climate response, we expect to see them seriously consider the regulation that exists in the underlying, energy-intensive infrastructure powering our expanding digital economy. The tech industry will need to respond with solutions to meet these challenges.”
IT will expand hiring criteria in Australia
Finding and retaining high-calibre IT talent has been a critical challenge for Australia this past year. According to the National Skills Commission, nearly one-third of the most in-demand occupations are in the ICT sector.
Bede Hackney, regional vice-president at Databricks in Australia and New Zealand, said this challenge is only going to continue if Australia is to meet the goal set by the Australian government and the Tech Council of Australia of 1.2 million tech jobs by 2030.
With the expected softening of Australia’s IT market as companies look to grow more prudently next year, companies will need to look at hiring differently, said Hackney.
“We’ll see companies hire more employees early in their careers and also look to expand things like internships and year-end programmes to support that,” he said. “New graduates are also increasingly wanting to work with modern, open-source technology stacks to develop skills they can take with them throughout their careers.
“At the same time, organisations will continue to look for talent across geographies and from less traditional technology backgrounds. As a result, we’ll see companies invest in robust training and development programmes to better train employees who may not have the deepest technical expertise but can work across a diverse range of roles.”
Uptick in PaaS adoption
Lionel Legros, vice-president and general manager of OVHcloud in APAC, said the adoption of platform-as-a-service (PaaS) will be on the uptick in 2023 as the race to capture customers intensifies on the digital front.
“Investments in big data, IoT applications and other emerging technologies are only set to grow from here on, and PaaS will be the gateway for businesses to access advanced technologies in the cloud without paying the cost for the necessary infrastructure,” he said.
The proof is already in the numbers: reports have placed PaaS on the path for exponential growth, with more than 30% year-on-year growth. With steeper competition, said Legros, PaaS will be the tool that enables businesses, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises that are still recovering from the pandemic, to shift gear towards innovation.
Pre-empting quantum’s security impact
Quantum computing is still some time away from broad adoption, but technology experts are already warning about its impact on cyber security.
Sanjay Rohatgi, senior vice-president and general manager at NetApp Asia-Pacific and Japan, said the industry is already exploring how quantum hybrid computing – the use of quantum and classical computers to solve problems – can help to protect sensitive data more effectively and drive the development of new encryption protocols and algorithms.
“It is encouraging to see such forward-thinking, and stakeholders exploring a cloud-based approach to solve security issues that once seemed unsolvable,” he said.
However, the same technology can also be used to break encryption algorithms, which means that companies will need to think about data protection more than ever.
“Bad actors are increasingly sophisticated, and companies need to be equally sophisticated when it comes to their security measures,” said Rohatgi. “Companies must be forward-thinking about how and where they manage their data, security, and their hybrid, multicloud infrastructures.”
Read more about IT in APAC
- Vietnam’s Vingroup is planning to migrate its SAP systems in its on-premise datacentres to Google Cloud to boost its production capabilities and improve product and service quality.
- Bosch India is leveraging advanced analytics and artificial intelligence to detect manufacturing defects and plans to tap quantum computing for material simulation.
- Singapore’s OCBC Bank is using the OpenShift container platform to modernise its applications, reduce its reliance on proprietary software and deliver new business capabilities.
- Optus sets aside A$140m as an exceptional expense for a customer remediation programme following a massive data breach that affected 10 million customers.