Mobile to fuel storage uptake in SEA emerging markets

Huge data and traffic flows from high mobile penetration will drive demand for storage infrastructure and management, but these developing markets may not be the most lucrative.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Storage vendor NetApp expects demand for data storage and management to have a strong opportunity in emerging markets in Southeast Asia (SEA) because a high mobile penetration there will generate huge data and traffic flows. However, a key hurdle is there are areas in those markets with limited to no basic IT and public infrastructure in place.

With the growing pervasiveness of mobile ownership, companies in SEA's emerging markets want to take advantage of mobile compute and mobile data to achieve various business goals, such as customer data analytics and mobile payments, said Scott Morris, Asean managing director at NetApp.

That impetus will eventually set off demand for storage infrastructure and management. Data and traffic flow has "got to live somewhere", and companies would not risk poor storage management at the backend which can lead to a "cranky" user experience for customers at the frontend, Morris said at an interview Wednesday.

High mobile penetration in emerging markets of SEA will spur a demand for storage infrastructure and management to cope with the data generated.

However, it does not mean emerging markets are automatically more lucrative than developed markets in SEA and Asia-Pacific, he noted. While there is stronger appetite for storage in emerging markets, actual deployment is likely accelerated in the developed markets since companies in those economies are more experienced in using ICT to address business needs.

The challenge for tech vendors in emerging markets is the limited or lack of core infrastructure, Morris pointed out. For example, some banks in emerging markets still rely on paper ledges.

For these organizations, IT adoption is the first "wave of efficiency" before anything else comes into the discussion, he said.

Karthik Ramarao, NetApp's Asia-Pacific CTO who sat in at the same interview, concurred: "The last thing we want to do is force technology down [customers'] throat. Because ICT adoption will fail if it's irrelevantly deployed."

Ramarao added some areas also do not have in place the broader public ecosystem needed to sustain technology adoption of companies, such as a consistent power supply necessary for data centers.

These circumstances present an opportunity for companies in developing economies to leapfrog with "bleeding-edge" technology, meaning they are more receptive and ready to think out-of-the-box, he said.

Storage a key pillar
Expanding NetApp's presence in emerging markets in SEA thus boils down to the maturity of the sales team in educating customers as well as the vendor identifying and enabling the right local partners, both executives emphasized.

Morris noted: "[Emerging market companies] are in open arms mode and have the appetite to consider new technologies to get where they want to go. But someone can't just go in and talk storage, they need to tell a holistic story, including virtualization, server, networking, and ask the customer what's your aspiration."

He added that "storage is the petrol of the computer industry", and not just because people today tend to hoard digital information.

Even as the responsibilities of a company CIO are increasingly defined by boosting business competitiveness or gaining new customers, the IT enablement behind these indicators--from virtual desktops to rapid development of apps--has a storage component to them, Morris explained.

Furthermore, while storage is hardly a "boardroom discussion" among senior management, companies have grown more conscious of the fact that storage is a predominant component of the IT environment and in turn, the operational expenditure, he added.

The volume of data is not going to reduce, and as storage infrastructure grows, audits and corporate governance will step in, which will call for more efficient and compliant storage management, noted the managing director.

Within Southeast Asia, NetApp has offices in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam. It also has partner networks in the Philippines, Brunei and Cambodia, and is in the midst of establishing one in Myanmar.

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