Security exclusive: The nitty-gritty of enterprise cloud in Malaysia

AvantiKumar

Today's threats typically utilize multiple entry points, and break apart the attack sequence into smaller segments that are re-packaged and executed. The attack surface is now targeted rather than indiscriminate, which makes user awareness and attribution invaluable in detection. The ability to correlate anomalous events from the network, applications and user behaviours is key in early detection and containment.
 
This challenges the current network-centric philosophy on defines, as tools are being asked to secure data and assets in ways that they may not be capable of. Identity is now the bridge between the worlds of user, application and network controls. [See -Identity management in an era of digital disruption: exclusive interview]

It is the identity context brought together with new technologies such as machine learning, big data, and advanced analytics that allows a security professional to centralise and normalise user activities. Then correlate and analyse those user events against cloud application, user and network based events to identify anomalistic and potentially risky behaviour in near real-time. Last, the outcome of this leads to preventative actions to defend across the affected domains.
 
Security concerns are, of course, also increasing around 'emerging tech' - have you seen any related cases in Malaysia?
 
We're definitely seeing increasing numbers of customers moving to the cloud and with a sense of greater confidence and ease, and in areas just a couple of years ago you might not have expected.  This includes ERP, even though finance departments can traditionally be thought of as conservative and slow to move, as digital business models demand more modern and nimble IT systems.
 
Why?  There are two major forces that are driving this change. One is lower internal risk for taking on a major IT project. Cloud IT implementations are faster and easier, so even core IT projects can be done in months instead of years.

More importantly, companies now realise they must adapt to changing business models in the digital era. Their processes, performance metrics, channels, and data needs are all evolving fast, and business leaders won't tolerate ERP or other systems that can't keep up with their customers' demands.

In the last couple of years, security fears were also touted as a barrier to cloud adoption - what's your take on this?
 
 This year's threat landscape will be highly changeable still. External threats - coupled with the need for better governance and privacy mandates - will make security a key priority for all lines of business.

In years past, security was indeed a major barrier to cloud investment. Data sovereignty, data privacy, and control issues deterred many organisations from pursuing cloud adoption. But in future, those very same concerns will be the things that draw new organisations to the cloud. Established cloud vendors with solid security track records have the expertise and resources to deploy layers of defines that many companies simply cannot duplicate in-house.
 
 Nevertheless, there are a number of changes ahead driven by the increasing adoption of cloud technologies that are going to transform the IT industry.  They offer great opportunities for vendors that get the cloud mix right.
 
We now hold that corporate-owned data centre numbers will plummet.  Just a few years ago, this statement would have seemed outrageous. But now, it seems all but inevitable: As organisations focus their IT spending on cloud computing, they'll begin to migrate their workloads from corporate-owned data centres to purpose-built facilities, managed and run by enterprise cloud providers.
 
Mark Hurd, Oracle's chief executive officer, predicts that we'll see corporate-owned data centre numbers fall 80 percent by 2025, and that the same percentage of IT spending will be devoted to cloud services. While corporate data centre numbers may not fall straight away, we do expect an immediate reduction in direct investment for compute capacity, storage, and networking services. Enterprise cloud is becoming the most secure place for IT processing.

What signs are you seeing about the rise of 'enterprise cloud'?
 
We expect that Cloud-based mission-critical workloads will take off: Cloud has long promised the migration of all enterprise production workloads. But that migration has yet to happen. The chief barrier to cloud migration remains a lack of commitment and recourse to support production service-level agreements. On one hand, cloud providers are limiting their accountability as they lack the talent to support custom portfolios. On the other, they're failing to provide sufficient control into the public data centre to self-manage service-level agreements.
 
The IaaS provider best equipped to take more responsibility and deliver the control tenants demand will be the one to drive cloud migration in 2017.

Also, Digital transformation is becoming today's norm: Our world is becoming increasingly digitally connected, and it's transforming the way we live, work, and play. These same technological advancements provide unprecedented opportunities for businesses to expand, innovate, and create new value. Sectors including healthcare, manufacturing, and even urban planning have been reimagined and redefined by the cloud.
 
To realise these opportunities, today's enterprises must not only develop new cloud-ready tools, but also put digital at the centre of their businesses. Hidden within today's digital connections are the solutions to our most urgent business challenges. This year, we'll see more companies successfully embrace new integrated cloud technologies.
 
Another sign is the rise of intelligent applications: Artificial intelligence (AI) might sound like science fiction, but many of us use it every day. The software behind many online shopping sites and on-demand music services, for example, is a highly successful and highly pervasive form of AI.
 
These systems depend on technology infrastructure capable of importing, analysing, and interpreting huge volumes of data before acting on it-all without human intervention. And the next step for such technologies? To become an established part of customer service and other business operations. Soon, we'll see intelligent applications capable of automatically recommending individualized actions and streamlining business tasks.

As you see, there are a lot of opportunities ahead.

Oracle has chosen Malaysia as a regional hub - can you give some of the story behind that and also perhaps how you see the immediate future?
 
The market around cloud computing is one of the many reasons why Oracle has chosen Malaysia as a home for one of the five regional Oracle digital sales hubs that will support its cloud strategy in the APAC region.  The focus here is to improve overall customer experience and meet the growing demand for cloud solutions among local SMBs (small and medium businesses) and mid-sized firms in the region. As part of this strategy, we are also hiring 200 professionals with strong interest in digital, sales, cloud and social.
 
We believe we are building the most advanced, technology-rich, state-of-the-art offices in the industry to put our digital sales teams at the front line of a massive sales revolution. Our digital representatives will leverage the most modern sales tools in the world to discover opportunities, respond to customer requests and deliver customized solutions. Using our 'Smart Walls', 'Social Listening Hubs' and one-click contracts, we can be more responsive to each customer and help them adapt to market changes as they strive to gain market share.  Oracle is developing new capabilities in Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and software as a service (SaaS), as we continue to build and expand our integrated stack of cloud services.
 
Choosing Malaysia as a sales hub also demonstrates our commitment to Malaysia. It is also a testament to the standard of IT infrastructure and talent pool that the country currently possesses. 

 Looking ahead, given today's global economic turbulence, and the level of digital disruption we are seeing amongst companies, we have a very interesting year ahead of us, and certainly CEOs will need to be focused on how to drive their organizations to weather these storms.  No company will be immune - our CEO, Mark Hurd, in New York City, just the other week highlighted how many of the Global Fortune 500 companies have disappeared in recent history; 50 per cent since 2000! 
 
So the pressure is on for companies to drive change while at the same time reducing costs, all in a time of low economic growth, and ever increasing consumer expectations, and when IT budgets are predominantly flat.  So innovation will be key as companies seek to attract market share from their competition. 
 
Fortunately, for those that harness its capabilities, the cloud is on hand and at a point where it has the potential to change the game.  By reducing cost, complexity, and giving companies the focus, rapid time to market and tools to power innovation, organisations have a possible way out.

 This article first appeared on Computerworld Malaysia 7 February 2017.

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