In the past 18 months, the pandemic has transformed awareness of all things digital among executives and workers across all sectors, as recently confirmed by a McKinsey briefing note. COVID-19 has accelerated a number of trends with cloud technologies held as a primary engine to drive recovery and growth.
“Over the past 18 months, Malaysians have had to adapt to dynamic changes to work and life due to the pandemic. One thing that has become more apparent during these tough times is that technology is a positive force for innovation and change,” noted senior Amazon Web Services (AWS) executives Paul Chen, head of Solutions Architecture, ASEAN, AWS and Gabe Hollombe, head of Developer Relations, Asia Pacific Japan and China, when speaking recently with Disruptive.Asia and other media.
Recent industry conversations in Malaysia are tinged with increasing emphasis on sustainability, generating resilience, and empowering innovation in post-pandemic recovery plans.
To speak to the qualities of resilience, sustainability and accessibility, Chen briefly outlined the AWS story. From 1994 when Jeff Bezos started Amazon to sell books, the number of products increased over time; then in 2004, employees within the company suggested steadily ramping up its internal cloud capabilities into cloud services, such as S3. AWS cloud and content delivery services now serve 25 geographical regions currently, 81 availability zones, and has more than 230 POPS [points of presence], Announcements of new availability zones are expected by the end of this year.”
“As long as you have internet connection, you can choose which location/cluster you can choose to use your cloud,” he added.
“In terms of resilience, we have the notion that everything can fail – so we always build up additional layers, and backup operations to ensure that we deliver reliability. We have passed on much of the efficiencies from economies of scale to our customers: there have been 109 price reductions since 2006.”
Rise in innovation
Chen noted that the ease and accessibility of the cloud has been encouraging many entrepreneurs, and businesses of all sizes, to take to the path of experimentation with “many customers taking the opportunity to quickly spin up a few of those experiments. In addition, guidance and support for partners is available from the AWS professional services team.”
“There is a noticeable trend when it comes to customers who prefer to build their own apps. Many startup customers are cloud natives and prefer to institutionalise their own application development,” he said, in a later comment to Disruptive.Asia.
With the high mobile penetration in Malaysia, rated by Statista at 87.61% in 2020, prioritising productivity over simple consumption is the cornerstone of driving digital economy growth.
“Malaysian startups, such as retail management platform provider, Storehub, and stock photography portal, 123RF.com, are two customers who have gone through application modernisation on the cloud to deliver their services.”
To help small F&B operators survive the pandemic crisis, StoreHub began developing its Beep Delivery mobile app, a POS-integrated food delivery feature, for F&B businesses to enable users to order food online. App development was completed in just 48 hours after the first MCO [movement control order, Malaysia’s term for the Covid-19 lockdowns] was announced.
The company’s Beep Delivery app utilises Amazon Elasticsearch Service to help users locate items for purchase from store menus, with Amazon CloudFront as a content delivery network service, which sends menu images to customers. Amazon Simple Notification Service (Amazon SNS) is used as the messaging service for delivery orders.
More than 200,000 orders were placed via Beep Delivery while the MCO was in place, buoyed by using AWS infrastructure to manage upscaling.
Chen explained that: “Enterprises tend to take on application modernisation in two phases. First, they migrate their existing applications to the cloud, before they start building their own applications in the second phase.”
“Malaysian organisations Astro and Axiata are examples of AWS customers that are strong in software development. Boost, Axiata’s e-wallet and one of Malaysia’s largest payment platforms built its growing customer database on AWS,” he added.
With the help of AWS Partner Network (APN) Partner, Aspire Nxt, Boost addressed its challenges by implementing several AWS solutions to tap the hidden potential of its unstructured data in order to personalise campaigns for better customer experience.
A spectrum of possibilities
In addition to economic gains, cloud technologies can play a role in aiding communities badly affected by the pandemic, both executives noted.
In his presentation, Gabe highlighted that: “Our job is to go out and inform and excite builders about the spectrum of possibilities with AWS.”
He demonstrated some live use cases – such as a day in the life of a Malaysian polytechnic student. In this scenario, using AWS services to quickly build an app for booking vaccination slots.
Other use cases include Selangor’s smart state aspirations. Dr Fahmi Ngah, managing director of Smart Selangor Delivery Unit, said that being on the cloud was crucial to ensure that services are available, reliable and scalable at the same time.
One instance is its CEPat (citizen e-payment) system, which serves as a single mobile-accessible online platform to enable all local authorities in Selangor to access common services to citizens. Built on Amazon Elastic Compute, CEPat had seen 200,000 uses as of March 2021, providing access to eight government services.
Driving recovery in 2022
Moving ahead, Chen said, “AWS spends a lot of time listening to customers – and 90% of innovation is a result from acting on customer feedback. With 14 years experience of helping customers, we have deep learning high on the agenda with 81% of all deep learning running on AWS.”
“A lot of heavy lifting can be handled by AWS so that you can focus in-house on business strategies,” he said. “With cloud services on tap, and available literally in minutes, many different layers are usable by two man operations to elastically scale to large scale enterprises, depending on your consumer levels.”
The region is moving in a cloud-first direction. For instance, when discussing top ICT predictions for 2022 and beyond during the recent unveiling of IDC FutureScape: Navigating the Crosswinds in a Digital-First World, Sandra Ng, group vice president for ICT Practice, IDC Asia/Pacific, said: “As of July 2021, we have 28% of organisations in Asia/Pacific already in the most progressive stages of digital transformation maturity, up from 18% pre-COVID in 2019.”
“The world is now firmly anchored in a digital-first economy. However, economic and business outlook for the next three years remains highly fluid because of a growing range of global challenges including the pandemic.”
In synch with this, Chen and Hollombe concluded: “As the Malaysian government continues implementing national recovery plans (NRPs) into the coming year, AWS aims to play its part and help local businesses and government agencies better understand how cloud computing can help them save costs, be more agile and innovate faster.”