In which our man in Bangkok catches up with Oracle Thailand country manager Natasak Rodjanapiches after six years, and discovers how little has changed
Where other companies procrastinate and wait for regulation to fall into place, it is heartening to see at least one Silicon Valley giant actually roll out a blockchain project or two here in the Land of Smiles.
Oracle had an 2017 Outlook Day with journalists this week, going over its latest technologies where, after careful questioning, the country manager confirmed that Oracle is delivering its enterprise blockchain solution to two of its clients in Thailand – one an FSI, the other a non-FSI, with more of its clients now being selected for work on further blockchain projects.
Oracle Thailand Country Manager Natasak Rodjanapiches said that the issue with private blockchain was twofold: scalability and security. Oracle is promoting both open-source (open blockchain) solutions and the private blockchain consortia.
But away from this one bright spot, the state of the industry at the enterprise level is most depressing.
A day earlier, Microsoft, Accenture and the Stock Exchange of Thailand had written off blockchain as a non-event in Thailand in 2017 due to lack of regulatory clarity and the potential to break foreign exchange laws if a token is exchanged for foreign currency, despite all the hype globally.
Today only 5-8% of enterprise workloads are in the cloud depending on the analyst quoting the figures. Let that sink in for a minute. A decade of extolling the virtue of cloud flexibility, elasticity and general all-round goodness has fallen on deaf ears and nearly all corporates still use physical servers in their data center for their core functions.
I last interviewed Oracle in 2010 before embarking on six years of telecoms reporting. Six years and one month later, very little has changed. My last two articles in November and December 2010 were about virtualization and wealth-management CRM SaaS. In 2017, the official message still focused on Oracle’s virtualization solutions (for migration) and enterprise SaaS offerings.
It is as if the last six years did not happen. But that could be said of many things in Thailand.
Whither the cloud?
So why, after so many years has enterprise adoption of the cloud failed to materialize?
Oracle’s Natasak explained that for most of the last decade, the financial services sector simply could not use cloud services due to data sovereignty or data residency regulations. Only recently has the Bank of Thailand and securities regulator opened up and now understand the technology ,and that it is about verifiable security rather than where the servers are located.
While Microsoft partnered with AIS to place an edge node for its Azure cloud in Thailand to reduce latency and drastically reduce costs for companies who have had to take out leased lines, Oracle is promoting its Oracle Cloud Machine. Essentially an Oracle managed edge node that can be placed within the client’s firewall or in a client’s data center of choice, the Cloud machine is still managed by Oracle and has a similar pay-as-you-go model as Oracle’s regular cloud services. Unlike Redmond’s solution it also solves any remaining data residency issues. Natasak noted that it could be rolled out with a telco partner (similar to the Microsoft-AIS deal) though that has not happened yet. The cloud machine only became available in ASEAN near the end of 2015, and the first installation in Thailand is due soon.
There were laughs when I asked an Australian Oracle executive (who I shall not embarrass by naming) about the integration of BEA Weblogic, which was acquired by Oracle in 2008.
“Yes, we have platform as a service,” began a long answer.
“No,” I said, “I meant to ask about the integration and the fruits of the BEA acquisition.”
“Yes, we have Java as a cloud service,” came the answer again.
After he signed off from the teleconference I whispered to Natasak that his Australian colleague was probably too young to remember that acquisition, and we both burst out in laughter. He reminded me that we have now known each other for 14 years.
On the other big acquisition that decade – that of Sun Microsystems – Natasak dismissed rumors that Sparc and Solaris were abandonware. A new Sparc M7 CPU was launched in 2015 with on-silicon cryptography and SQL functions, and the potential for more software features to be baked onto silicon in the future. This is the future of the Sparc/Solaris stack which, for the OS, will be supported at least until 2031. The Unbreakable Linux stack for X86 platforms is of course also available.
I wanted to ask him about the Java API lawsuit, but thought better of it, purely to be civil. Perhaps next time.
crazy passionate after all these years
Over lunch we reminisced over much of what has happened in the last 14 years since Thailand’s ICT Ministry was established. He reminisced about the One Laptop Per Child and the ICT Budget Computer projects and how they would have greatly helped upskill the ICT literacy of the population.
“Would have,” I added, “if only Thailand had political stability.”
The OLPC project was torn up by the other military junta of General Sonthi Boonyaratglin after the 2006 coup against Thaksin Shinawatra. Rumours at the time were that the military was afraid of the Negroponte OLPC’s mesh networking capabilities and ordered the project scrapped on national security grounds. More likely it was an inability to see the enemy’s policy succeed, even good ones.
The more recent, current coup saw the One Tablet Per Child project scrapped and the program to deliver learning material to schools scrapped with it. Which is fine, except that two years later the new Digital Economy Minister is now talking about giving state telco TOT Corporation bucketloads of taxpayer money to build pipes into villages to deliver educational, government and healthcare content. Perhaps if they had not torn up the OLPC project and fixed it (it did have major issues) the country would not have wasted two years.
We reminisced about how today the Digital Economy Ministry’s programs were simply rebranded projects from the early days of the ICT Ministry. Today’s Smart Cities were once called ICT Cities back in 2003. The idea for Digital Park Thailand to have its own connectivity to overseas mirrored how, back in 2003 in Phuket, Chiang Mai and Nakorn Ratchasima ICT Cities were ordered to have their own IIG. Nothing happened back then (it was watered down so much that in the end “its own IIG” meant just offering the same price as in Bangkok) and one wonders if anything will happen now.
After being so long away in the telecoms wilderness, it’s nice to be back on the enterprise IT beat. It’s nice to be home, as if among friends. Natasak still uses his old file photo from 2006, and over lunch he still showed the passion about how ICTs (now called “digital technologies”) can help uplift the quality of life in Thailand. In 2003 he displayed his passion to the brand new ICT Ministry. Fourteen years later, he is still at it. Nothing has changed and that, somehow, is as heartening as it is sad.