Digital transformation still a priority during leaner times: Red Hat
By Edwin Yapp February 17, 2021
- Verticals looking to build more resilient and scalable IT infrastructure
- Perkeso leverages open sources to modernise infrastructure
DIGITAL transformation activities in Malaysia are expected to grow fueled by managed and cloud services despite what the country is up against due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, according to open source vendor Red Hat Inc.
Speaking to the media, Red Hat country manager Eric Quah, noted that although Covid-19 has had a global and national impact on the Malaysian economy, there are still reasons to be optimistic when it comes to digital transformation.
“Malaysia’s national industry 4.0 framework has earmarked strategic initiatives to drive smart manufacturing adoption including the Internet of things (IoT), sensor technology, artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML), mobile connectivity, robotics, and 3-D printing,” he said.
Quah also noted that on a broader level, a Red Hat Report found that nine in 10 IT leaders in Asia Pacific perceive open source to be strategically important to their organisation’s overall enterprise infrastructure software strategy.
This points to the fact that organisations in APAC do want to stand out and compete on the same level as global competitors, and that is no different for Malaysia, Quah claimed.
According to Quah, organisations in Malaysia across all verticals are looking to build more resilient and scalable infrastructures. Asked what are the examples of some of these sectors, Quah pointed to the adoption of open source in government sectors.
“Government organisations are looking to move away from legacy architecture and modernise their systems in order to provide higher quality applications for their customers,” he argued. They also want efficient support as well as cost-savings for their IT systems.”
Losing and regaining position
One example of such an organisation that has embraced open source software is Perkeso, the national social security organisation, a department under Malaysia’s Ministry of Human Resources.
According to Edmund Cheong, chief strategy officer at Perkeso, the department engaged Red Hat to deploy Red Hat Enterprise Linux to run its servers and to develop new applications that are modular and integrated with Red Hat Fuse.
The social security organisation also used Red Hat Process Automation Manager to build workflows and applications and deployed them on Red Hat JBoss Enterprise Application Platform and Red Hat JBoss Web Server, Cheong added.
He noted that Perkeso had long leveraged automation in the past but over the years had lost its competitive edge and had depended too much on legacy IT systems and applications, which were quite proprietary in nature.
Those systems were so rigid that changes were very difficult and inaccessible, made worse by the fact that expertise was not located in the country, Cheong added.
“The problem was finding a Cobol programmer that could still do the job,” he quipped, noting that some of Perkeso’s IT systems went that far back.
Cobol, or Common Business-Oriented Language, was the de facto programming language that was developed in 1959, and reached the height of popularity between the 1960s and 1990s. It was used in finance, administrative and general business to accomplish some level of workflow automation.
Cheong said that while Perkeso’s business evolved, its IT systems did not, and Perkeso was stymied from moving forward.
To address this gap, Cheong said Perkeso started introducing manual forms and processes because it was too cumbersome to update its legacy IT systems.
“We went from almost 100% automated systems to 20% automation and 80% manual processes,” he said. “Just about 10 years ago, we had data entry clerks manually entering data from forms submitted by the public. If you visited Perkeso, it would be a very scary place to come to, to hear many typewriters going off!”
Cheong said Perkeso’s digital transformation initiatives began in 2010 and its whole goal was to not end up depending on legacy systems, but instead to take control based on an open strategy.
“We determined that the best way forward is to turn to open source so that we can be agile and to ensure that our technology is also sustainable and that we have leverage on local talents that had the expertise.”
From reactive to proactive
Cheong also revealed that Perkeso has digitalised about half of its operations and noted that the social security organisation still has some ways to go.
To a question on what Perkeso’s open source strategy is, Cheong said Perkeso will continue using open source software as it doesn’t tie you a specific technology
“The advantage of open source is the bigger the community the better it is,” he explained. “There is also no shortage of resources even with compliance and security standards as we can easily turn to the community for help.”
Ultimately, Cheong said Perkeso wants to leverage any technology that makes its delivery of services easier for its members.
“Thanks to our efforts these past few years, we will be able to disburse the economic stimulus packages in two weeks, addressing the needs of our members during the Covid-19 restrictions, something we could definitely not have done using older technologies.”
Still Cheong concedes that the organisation’s aim is to provide seamless services to its members through further automation, connectivity via API (application programming interfaces) and data analytics.
“We aspire to have a better way of providing social security not in a reactive way but in a proactive way,” he said.
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