SRKK Chief Operating Officer, Yeoh Kai Hearn article was featured in the Education section for Inspire magazine. Find out how rapid changes in Information & Communications Technology (ICT).
“Change is the only constant” – Heraclitus
Rapid changes in Information & Communications Technology (ICT)
Every year, it has become a norm for the ICT industries to forecast the technology trend at the beginning of the year and reviewed what has happened and what did not happen for the past year. These forecasts provide a glimpse on what to expect for the technology trend that will impact the business world. It also serves like a lighthouse in the dark and foggy sea to provide a strategy direction to ICT vendors for their business sustainability preparation and planning. Maybe it’s a good time to provide a quick review of the recent year ICT trending forecast; what has happened, what is happening and what is due to happen especially in Malaysia’s business environment.
It is important to understand the two keys of fundamental factors that drive the rapid changes of the ICT trends in the past (last decade), present and future (likely in the next 10 years):
- Moore’s Law in the semiconductor industry
- The revolution of the speed of internet
Moore’s Law is named after Intel co-founder Gordon Moore in 1965. In layman’s terms, this law stated the processor speeds, or the overall computers processing power will double every two years. The chart below displays a visual understanding of the speed of growth in processing power:
If you do a simple mathematics calculation for the powers of 2 and plot it into similar chart above, the figure will start small initially, become slightly larger, then growth exponentially upon reaching a trigger point. The subsequent changes after trigger point will be a quantum leap shoot like a steep line as per chart above. We are in the trigger point era since the last decade. If we compare an Intel Core-i processor (2013) to its first 4004 processor (1971), Core-i processor is:
- 3,500 times faster in performance
- 90,000 times more efficiency and
- At only 1/60,000th the cost of 4004
The exponential growth of computing power makes the processing power of chipset become more powerful, its size shrinks into much smaller yet maintaining the same cost or even cheaper. It basically answers what we have today of the powerful PC, laptop, tablet, smartphone, camera and other ICT gadgets with getting smaller form factor. Just take out first generation iPhone launched in 2007 (if you still have it), to the latest iPhone 8 of 2017. The technology revolution is simply amazing in less than 10 years. Moore’s Law will end eventually in the future, but the computing power will follow its path in high acceleration speed.
High Speed Internet
When World Wide Web (WWW) was introduced in the early 1990s, it also marked the beginning of first commercial of internet dial-up access availability to the mass. As time goes by, users to start demand a faster internet connection for a quicker information access. At the same time, the richer web content required faster internet speed for interactive user experience.
The chart above provides a quick glance of the cable and mobile broadband speed from the 1980s to 2025. Though internet speed revolution does not follow Moore’s Law, it does share a similar pattern of exponential growth particularly over the last 10 years. For the time being, the highest fiber broadband speed commonly available in Klang-valley is 100Mbps. It’s about 1,786 times faster than the 56k modem in the 1990s, which was more than 20 years ago. Recently, one of the telcos launched 4.5G mobile network in Johor Bahru and customers are enjoying the enhancement of double the speed of 4G on supporting devices. In the next 3 years, Malaysians are expecting the arrival of 5G mobile network with 1 to 5Gbps speed. That’s almost 10 to 50 times faster than the current 100Mbps. Cable broadband is expected to reach the speed of 10Gbps by 2025.
The Powers of Two Together
Getting tinier hardware with processing power that doubles every two years and high-speed internet sounds like a simple fact that you and I already knew?
You are RIGHT; these are the two keys of the fundamentals behind the scene although there are other factors involved. It is just that simple. The exponential growth of computing power and internet speed happened almost the same period and it is not by coincidence. Both factors act as catalyst agents that drive each other. Tinier and more powerful hardware drive a higher speed internet backbone infrastructure. The catch-up internet contents and applications demand for more powerful backend servers, larger storage capacity, high-speed network switching etc. The cycle keeps looping year-over-year to where we are today. The age of economy is based on digital technologies with the connection of multibillion devices through the internet – Digital economy. When the internet speed is as fast as the local office network system, your server system can be virtually hosted anywhere in the internet.
Current and Future Trends in ICT Cloud
There is more than ten ICT trends expected over the next 5 years; the top three trends that are happening in our country and in our day to day business operations are:
Software as a Service (SaaS) Cloud Offering
Based on Microsoft’s definition, SaaS allows users to connect to and use cloud-based applications over the Internet such as e-mail, calendar, office productivity suites etc. SaaS Cloud Service providers offer a complete software solution that you purchase on pay-as-you-go subscription model. With all the underlying infrastructure, application software, data storage located in service provider’s data center. The service provider manages the backend data center’s hardware, software with certain agreement of service availability up-time as well as taking care the privacy and security of your data. SaaS allow organization to adopt the application quickly with minimum upfront cost. Unlike the traditional IT practice in the past, a complex hardware sizing and software licensing is needed from the vendor. However, there is one component needed from the subscriber: high-speed and reliable internet broadband.
Office 365, a well-known SaaS offering from Microsoft provides business productivity tools for e-mail, calendar, instant messaging, video conferencing, portal, cloud storage etc. into various suites to cater organizations’ communication and collaboration needs. Office 365 was launched in June 2011 and available in more than 200 countries right now, including Malaysia. The user acceptance in the first two years was relatively low. Its customers’ base is somehow limited to Malaysia’s medium and large enterprises due to its pricing model in USD and the assumptions to wait-and-see for every introduction of a new technology. Today, the number of Office 365 subscription through many organizations is 200 times more compared to five years ago and the number of SMB customers’ growth is five times higher than before in Malaysia’s business environment.
Malaysian SMB are typically slow in adopting new technology as compared to developed countries such as USA due to lower spending power. For example, it took more than ten years for virtualization to become common for SMB industries ever since the first launch in early 2000. The adoption of Office 365 took a shorter period of time and its momentum is still going strong. Cloud SaaS somehow flattened the gap of technology utilization between large corporate and smaller businesses in developed and developing countries with its equal service availability and lower price subscription model. This is not possible in the past without the exponential growth of computing power and high-speed internet.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
We are entering another technology milestone when Google’s AlphaGo AI defeated all the best human GO players in the world. We might think AI is still far from us as we are not a technology invention savvy country compared to first world countries – AI is already with us, a part of everyone’s life. It is embedded silently into the tech product in our daily routines. Office 365 now carry some AI-powered features like proofreader editor, incoming e-mail auto priority with machine learning. Google latest Gmail mobile app features a machine learning called “Smart Reply” to auto reply certain mails automatically. One of the upcoming major benefits to a business will be the AI-powered business intelligence analysis where predictions of potential outcomes can be made to discover a new chapter of a business. Research has shown that machine learning and AI is as good as a human or even better with reliable accuracy. AI is much closer than we thought!
While the Cloud solution is enjoying its rapid growth backed by light speed internet, there is also the dark side – the security threat from the hackers. The biggest concern among businesses in Malaysia is the security issues in exploring the adoption of Cloud solutions since all of their important data is stored in the Cloud Service Provider’s data center. Among the biggest cyber security incidents are the issue of Ransomware infection that has struck across the globe and crippling computers globally and the recent outbreak of WannaCry ransomware attack has infected countries worldwide. We have seen an excessive number of cyber security chaos and the cyber plight to combat these cyber threats and risks.
Closer inspection into security incidents revealed most of the security compromise occurred at the endpoint devices instead of the main server infrastructure system. Targeting an end user’s neglect or ignorance is much easier than a secured backend system for a hacker to carry out an attack. That’s why Cloud service providers who invest heavily in security are able to defend such attacks. There is no 100% secure solution in the ICT world regardless how much a business invests in security solution. This is a catchup game between the light and the dark side. Some security service providers disrupt the traditional protection mechanism by embedding AI technology for an effective pattern analysis, prediction, prevention and protection against the unseen or undiscovered attack and the approach has been proven successful. With the rapid growth of digital economy, security industries will work towards a safer and more secure ICT protection.
As working and living lifestyle changes and moves at such a fast pace, ICT is also evolving at such a rapid speed. We are heading towards the age of acceleration, a high-speed internet world with no boundaries. Countries are competing to build the high-speed internet infrastructure with broader coverage to tap on the largest slice of the cake from the digital economy. A world powered by high-speed internet with the most of applications deliver through Cloud is the new normal. The good news is that it will focus on ease of use for novice users, so you don’t even know you are using it.