Asia in better position to tap digital, data growth with 5G

With its aggressive rollout and investment in 5G, the region is better placed to take advantage of the business environment brought about by the pandemic and drive the value of data, say SAP executives on the 10th anniversary year of Hana.

Asia is better placed to leverage the current business environment and drive the value of data, as the region accelerates its 5G rollout. Businesses also realise they need data to facilitate planning and maintenance, whether it is in human resources, inventory, or financial. 

Asia has put in far greater investment in 5G and been more aggressive in rolling out these next-generation networks. This has meant it is better positioned to take advantage of the current circumstances brought about by the global pandemic, said Irfan Khan, SAP's president of platform and technologies. 

Businesses in Asia can also access a broad and robust ecosystem of developers, including citizen developers, who tapped new tools to rapidly create workloads, Khan said, in an interview with ZDNet. 

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According to GSMA, Asia-Pacific is projected to be the world's largest 5G region by 2025, hitting 675 million connections or more than half of the global volume. The region's growth would be led by markets such as China, Japan, and South Korea, with mobile operators investing $370 billion between 2018 and 2025 building out their 5G networks

GSMA further estimated that 24 markets across Asia-Pacific would have launched 5G by 2025, including China where 28% of mobile connections would run on 5G networks and account for a third of the world's 5G connections.

Apart from 5G, enterprises in the region are also pivoting faster to the cloud, noted Aneesha Shenoy, SAP's Asia-Pacific Japan senior vice president and head of platform and technologies. She said the software vendor was seeing "good traction" in the adoption of HANA Cloud and Data Warehouse Cloud that was released in Asia-Pacific during the late-second quarter. 

Shenoy noted that businesses were starting to realise they needed to drive the value of data, whether it was to facilitate better planning or maintenance such as inventory management or human resources. Healthcare institutions, for instance, are using HANA Analytics Cloud during the COVID-19 pandemic to give them better visibility of personal protective equipment (PPE) inventory or which hospitals have available beds, she said. 

On how the role of data has impacted the development of databases, Khan said most organisations are looking to monetising data and identifying ways to use data in a more meaningful way to predict how their business needed to move forward. These objectives have been further accelerated in today's market climate, he said, adding that companies are looking to be data hoarders and extract real-time analysis from their data.  

At the same time, this should not be accessible only to big companies with deep pockets and enterprises should not be expected to put all their investment into data management and analysis, especially given the more difficult economic outlook. 

Khan projected that, over the next 10 years, there would be ubiquitous access to all the data one owned, regardless of where the data resided -- whether it was in an edge network, device, hybrid cloud, or in a legacy system. There would need to be a semantic layer to enable this, he said, likening it to an orchestration of processes. 

This was what SAP has moved towards with its platform development efforts, as well as its integration with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning capabilities in everything it has built. 

The German software vendor this year marked the 10th anniversary of its in-memory data platform, HANA, by unveiling a roadmap for the product that converged with cloud. HANA 2.0 featured hybrid cloud support with SAP HANA Cloud and could query HANA Cloud and return results that tapped capabilities in machine learning, amongst others. Customers could also choose between accessing data through federated query and through replication. 

Describing HANA a pioneer in disrupting traditional databases, Khan said the SAP platform now would look to drive the future transformation of data and analytics for every customer in the market.

HANA has evolved from a purely in-memory database to support near-line storage and native storage extension, providing the ability to automatically move data where it needed to be. 

With enterprises increasingly moving away from on-premise environments to cloud-native, they would want to be able to move to a hyperscale infrastructure. This drove the need for HANA to be converged with HANA Cloud, he said. 

Asked how the emergence of edge computing, IoT, and distributed storage would change the role of data management, Khan said HANA Cloud was designed to be a gateway to all data. This would include smart home appliances such as inventory-tracking refrigerators. 

Built to be able to handle distributed query processing, HANA can shift a query request and push it to every edge appliance, he said. It can also push the data query processing directly to where it needs to be and analyse it there, and have the data pushed back to HANA, or push the request to the edge and retrieve only the query. This ensures query processing can be carried out where there are sufficient compute and storage capabilities, if not at the edge or device, he said. 

"It's modern data processing that's fit for purpose, where the real-world data is." 

Shenoy said there has also been an increasing need to adopt robotics processing and automation across Southeast Asia, Japan, and South Korea, including in applications related to finances, receivables, or logistics. 

A Frost & Sullivan report noted that robots were being used in Thailand to monitor and care for patients amidst the outbreak, while South Korea also was tapping autonomous robots to combat COVID-19. These deployments were powered by 5G, which the research firm said would be key to enabling new applications that required widespread, high-speed broadband access and connectivity and previously could not be adequately supported on 4G networks. 

The robot applications, for instance, were developed with AI, autonomous driving capabilities, and Internet of Things (IoT) sensors. These needed the low latency that 5G networks could provide, Frost & Sullivan said. 

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