Malaysia a key market and hub for Western Digital’s SEA and Middle East operations
Local enterprise storage market will see additional boost from explosion of personal cloud service providers
FOR Western Digital (WD), Malaysia holds a special place within the network of its Asian operations.
Patrick Lo (pic), the storage brand’s regional marketing senior manager, CE & Enterprise Storage Division for Asia Pacific, said the country is an important one in the regional enterprise market space.
With Malaysia’s Muslim-dominant population, the country acts as a best practices test-bed and launch pad for serving other countries in South-East Asia and the Middle East.
“We have factories here, and is sort of like a home base in the region for us so I can’t accept it if we lose out on any business opportunities here,” he said.
When asked his take on the level and pool of talent in the country, Lo said that Malaysia is an origin point for a sizeable portion of the region’s talent.
“Actually, Malaysia has a lot of talent, but it appears that they are working in hubs such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan. When I visit other countries in the region, most of the time I meet Malaysians,” he said.
Lo added that one shouldn’t forget that the country is also home to factories of many technology companies such as Western Digital and Intel, and does have plenty of industrial proficiencies.
“It is possible that there are not enough job opportunities here. I don’t believe talent is a problem, the key might be the salary scales offered by local companies. It will be difficult to compete for talent with the rest of the region,” he said.
Room to grow
Lo sees plenty of opportunities in the coming months from the local storage market, most notably from local systems integrators, especially in relation to government projects.
“Most government projects stipulate having a local company provide the solution due to national security concerns,” he said.
The rise of cloud computing and cloud-based services in the country is also another source of business opportunity.
“This will be a huge opportunity within the next 10 years, as more local companies are established offering hardware, software and services,” he added.
To meet the ever growing storage demands of enterprise customers, WD intends to flesh out its hardware offerings across the tiered storage spectrum.
Tiered storage is the assignment of different categories of data to different types of storage media in order to reduce total storage cost (click diagram to enlarge).
There are four tiers with Tier 0 based on Flash Memory which typically holds 1-3% of total company data, now emerging for high performance applications where response time is critical. Tier 1 is based on high-performance disk arrays, and holds about 12-20% of total data intended for mission critical and revenue generating applications.
Tier 2 is for serving vital, sensitive, business important applications which make up about 20-25% of company data and is based on midrange disk arrays, SAS, SATA technology.
Tier 4, where 43-60% of a company’s data would reside, is for archives, fixed content, compliance and reference data needs, typically leveraging on tape libraries or offsite data vaults.
WD currently has multiple Tier 1 and Tier 2 storage offerings and Lo said the company will soon expand its portfolio to extensively cover the entire hierarchy.
“We see the enterprise market, with systems for data centers and cloud storage, needing all tiers of storage and we aim to have a presence at all levels,” he said.
Lo also shared that electronic device companies and personal cloud service providers have been the biggest drivers of storage hardware globally.
He also predicts 4TB capacity drives will become the mainstream option in 2013, with the company having expanded its range during the last quarter of 2012.
Enterprise-class storage offerings by WD now include the WD RE SAS and WD RE SATA hard drives in capacities up to 4TB (terabytes).
Meeting challenges for the future
IDC projects that the digital universe will reach 40 zettabytes by 2020, with approximately 5,247 GB of data for every man, woman and child on earth.
With the data explosion still underway, there remain challenges the storage industry must first overcome in order to rise to the occasion in meeting customer needs.
Lo highlighted two main obstacles: The lack of advancements in processing times for large capacity drives; and the need to control operational and investment costs.
In the case of high capacity drives, Lo shared that it takes an average of two weeks to format and process a 2TB hard disk drive before it is ready to be shipped out to a customer.
“With these ‘fat drives’, the processing time is fixed and we can’t improve formatting speeds – no one in industry can yet,” he said.
“It will be the bottleneck for the industry. As larger and large capacity drives come into the picture, how do we manage the longer lead times for production?” he added.
The second challenge faced by hard drive companies is the need for high capital expenditures and investment as newer storage technologies come into play, requiring the retooling of existing manufacturing and operations assets.
“We are not unlike the semiconductor industry in that regard, also, the need for continual investment in research and development, balancing that with the costs of other aspects of the business will continue to be a challenge,” he said.
Despite these challenges, the future remains very bright for a storage company such as Western Digital.
Margaret Koh, WD’s director of sales for Asia South, said the company has “no fears” regarding the rising popularity of cloud storage solutions for mainstream consumers.
“If you have data, you have to store it and that means storage devices. Doesn’t matter if it’s in the form of a personal hard drive or the enterprise-class storage units required by data centers or cloud service providers,” she said.
“In fact, we welcome it. The more people download or create data, the better!” she added.
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