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BT EXCLUSIVE

Clear skies for careers in the cloud

Companies in Singapore in recruitment push as digital transformation, IoT, 5G, AI propel surging demand for cost-effective cloud services

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Pure Storage's new office in Guoco Tower features a customer area (above) where the company can demonstrate its innovative all-flash enterprise storage technologies.
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Alibaba Cloud is the only global cloud provider from Asia, and is well-positioned to support the new digital reality where cloud is at the heart of operations.

Las Vegas

CLOUD companies in Singapore are hiring - and in a big way - as the industry reaches for the sky.

So fast has the sector grown that the Asia Cloud Computing Association recently named Singapore the most cloud-ready economy in the Asia-Pacific, ahead of even the US.

From VMware and Alibaba Cloud to Acronis, these companies contribute to a quietly-burgeoning industry that counts big names such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.

There are two reasons behind the growth surge: the digital transformation of businesses, and the cloud as an enabler of innovation and emerging technologies.

VMware, a subsidiary of Dell Technologies that provides cloud infrastructure and digital workspace solutions, is upsizing its global team of over 20,000 employees, more than a third of whom (6,700) are based in Asia. According to Sanjay Deshmukh, vice-president and managing director for South-east Asia and Korea at VMware, the company will "continue to grow and expand" its team in Singapore, a market it tipped as the hub for the Asia-Pacific and Japan.

Mr Deshmukh told BT: "This becomes especially critical as Singapore and Asia move through transformation - adding capabilities and enabling technologies of the future."

"Everything of value today is connected to the network, and this is accelerated through the increasing use of IoT, 5G, AI and other emerging technologies by governments and businesses. Cloud is a critical enabler of these emerging technologies and innovation."

Rising smartphone penetration rates are a key driver behind the growing adoption of the cloud across Asia, said Mr Deshmukh. In addition, businesses and governments in the region are looking to create better customer experiences, boost innovation, open up new revenue streams, and empower employees to work smarter and better, he added.

VMware, which holds its annual conference on cloud technologies, VMworld, in Las Vegas this week, opened its Singapore office in 2004, six years after it was founded in Palo Alto. The company is listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and is today worth US$60-billion.

Serguei Beloussov, chief of Singapore-founded data protection firm Acronis, noted that cloud solutions lets businesses simplify their IT operations, outsource infrastructure management to cloud providers (which can "buy hardware at scale and offer economic benefits to customers") and enjoy lower operational costs.

He said: "Cloud allows businesses to get an incredible amount of processing power when they need it, while not needing to maintain large infrastructure locally." Acronis, headquartered in Singapore, plans to add over 100 employees to its Singapore office in the next 18 months. It currently has about 100 staff here, nearly half of whom work in R&D.

California-based data and cloud storage firm Pure Storage, too, is on a growth path in Singapore. The US$6-billion, NYSE-listed company set up shop here in 2014 and recently moved to a new office in Guoco Tower that's triple the size of its first shophouse office in Tanjong Pagar. Singapore is the company's regional headquarters for Asia.

David Wirt, vice-president for South-east Asia and Greater China at Pure Storage, said: "We're in the process of building out our regional tech support centre and we need highly qualified engineers with specific skills. Also, we're in the process of hiring across a range of positions to sustain our growth momentum in Asia."

Another California-based firm, NetApp, which offers hybrid cloud data services, is "actively hiring talents" for its Singapore office, which opened in 2000 and has to-date 125 employees. Founded in 1992, NetApp is a Nasdaq-listed entity with a US$22-billion market cap today.

Wang Yoke Choo, country manager for NetApp Singapore, said: "Customers are under pressure to harness an enormous volume of data and apply it to optimise operations and create new value and innovative business opportunities - all with limited time, skills and budget."

Leon Chen, country manager for Singapore and Indonesia at Alibaba Cloud, said: "Singapore is a strategic gateway to the wider South-east Asia region and serves as a global business and digital hub - with stable governance, an established testbed for innovations and R&D, and a lead in continuously developing the right talents to support the future."

He added that demand from the "fast-digitising nature" of South-east Asian economies means that Alibaba Cloud is "constantly looking" to expand its presence in Singapore and the region.

Alibaba Cloud has the local advantage, said Mr Chen. "As the only global cloud provider from Asia, we understand Asia better... Having witnessed and supported this journey in China, we are well positioned to support this digital reality, where cloud is at the heart of it all."

The cloud industry is said to be unique in that companies aspire to work with one another - public cloud providers (eg, Amazon Web Services) will ally with cloud infrastructure players (VMware), which will partner cloud operations platforms (CloudHealth Technologies) - creating endless possibilities and jobs within the sector.

Forrester analyst Charlie Dai told The Business Times: "The leading cloud readiness of Singapore will help it further accelerate the national digital transformation and open up new business opportunities for cloud companies to serve customers in the Asia-Pacific and globally."

Talent, however, is a challenge that cloud companies here will have to navigate, he said. "The type of talent needed is shifting from infrastructure to platform and emerging technologies, including AI, IoT and blockchain. In the short term, these talents will be short in supply.