Why Asia-Pacific will score in Digital Transformation
Managing Director, Software and Network Transformation
Technology, Thought Leadership, Digitization, Enterprise Networking, SDN
Maybe Asia doesn’t have the fastest football player, but it sure is the fastest growing region in the world. From the super advanced Singapore to the emerging Vietnam or the highly mobile China (the largest smartphone market globally), all countries in this part of the world possess tremendous growth opportunities and are looking at digital to boost their economies and competitive edge.
It takes a village to do this. It takes vision, adequate skills, new processes and, of course, powerful technology that is able to keep up with the scale of users, devices and data that so well characterizes the Asia-Pacific region. At the core of all this is the network.
Moving and delivering applications through the cloud? You need the network. Deploying sensors and collecting data? You need the network. Want to work anytime, anywhere? You need the network. For all things digital the network is critical, and the more advanced it is, the easier it will be for companies to translate strategies into actual business outcomes.
Despite its importance, though, the network has become so foundational that it is often forgotten and taken for granted. There is an expectation that it will just be there. This perception results in very static networks, which are kept unchanged simply to avoid even the slightest chance of something going wrong.
Unfortunately, this level of risk-aversion invites the consequences the network was designed to avoid - outages, business downtime or cyberattacks. Perhaps counterintuitively for some, being willing to modernize the network not only helps to avoid these risks, it also brings new digital capabilities that can enhance competitiveness and improve outcomes for customers.
The good news is that Asia is emerging as one of the early adopters of next generation networking. Whether it is the intense competitiveness in high-growth emerging markets, or the opportunity to jump ahead of an established competitor in a mature market, modernisation is happening at an exciting pace. There may be a steeper learning curve to drive the transformation, but companies in this region are realising the value brought by network modernisation leveraging newer technologies is well worth it.
Having launched the first intent-based networking in the market a year ago, we rely on our numbers to understand adoption and market drivers. It may be early days, but the Asia-Pacific region clearly stands out as the fastest adopter of some of our most important intent-based networking innovation. This is evident all around, but more so in India and Australia, where we’ve seen an amazing uptake of Software-Defined Access and, more recently, Assurance, which are both part of Cisco DNA Center.
Some of this uptake has been driven by the benefits companies can achieve from automating their operations, and some by the experience improvements they can deliver to their users leveraging Assurance.
But the main reason seems to be the need to reduce risk, especially in ASEAN, where cyberattacks happen more than anywhere else. According to a recent research commissioned by Cisco, cybersecurity represents a real threat to this region’s growth potential - as big as US$750 billion! That’s due to various reasons, including the underinvestment in tackling cyberattacks and shortage of talent in this space.
However, what ASEAN lacks in readiness it makes up for it in hunger to get ahead. As found out by Gartner in its 2018 CIO Agenda: An Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam Perspective, CIOs budgets in these countries are twice as large as the average in Southeast Asia, with 70% of them prioritizing security.
At Cisco, we can confirm the trend. A great deal of the adoption we are seeing for intent-based networking is being driven by our customers in ASEAN (and APJ overall) who are modernizing their networks to improve their security posture. If the network is a company’s most pervasive asset, with the right mechanisms in place it is also the most important security asset.
It’s a journey and it’s different for every company
As with all transitions, companies face challenges in the process of transforming their networks. It’s no small feat, we know. But no challenge is bigger than the one they already face: a network that can’t respond to the speed of digital and the demands of business. There is no place for a manually managed network in today’s digital market.
At the core, all companies want the same things: more agility, scalability and security. If all can be achieved at a lower cost, even better. Is there a single way to get there? Not at all. Network transformation is a journey, and different companies in different geographies will take different paths based on their goals.
So why will Asia lead in Digital Transformation? Because it’s best at combining external demands (such as growing populations, intense competitiveness and cybersecurity risk) with willingness to take risks and innovate in such critical areas for digital success as networking. We see companies in Asia already forging ahead, and I am excited for what the future holds as more and more start to transform.