InterviewsOutlook

Outlook 2021: AI, IOT, Big Data, and Blockchain Will Continue to be in Demand

Jeff Jacob, the Regional Sales Manager for Commercial Business at ASUS Middle East, speaks about the opportunities to look forward to, in 2021

How was 2020 for the industry and your company?
2020 has been an unprecedented and challenging year for the whole world with the Pandemic affecting every human being on earth in one way or the other. The technology industry especially had to transform, evolve, and adapt to the unimaginable scenarios where traditional working modes had shifted to the new normal of WFH.

The new paradigm has offered loads of opportunities to tech companies to serve their customers. WFH and LFH scenarios gave rise to a huge demand for upgrades to existing infrastructure ranging from client computing to Edge computing right up to the enterprise infrastructure like data centers.  Asus being the no 1 motherboard company in the world together with being one of the top 3 Consumer notebook brands rode the unprecedented wave on demand for devices and computing power due to the new shift to remote productivity.

What sort of opportunities did 2020 bring along?
With the WFH and LFH being the new normal, we saw a clear uptake in most of our product lines, namely the notebooks, motherboards for the DiY enthusiasts who had time on their hands to tinker and take up projects on upgrading, Monitors for the workforce at home and the millions of children schooling from home, Wireless routers for upgrading the wifi networks, GPU based Workstations and Servers for use in demand for high profile research projects especially areas like covid vaccine research, Machine learning, Data analytics, Surveillance; thermal sensing, etc.

Did you face any challenges in 2020?
Together with the challenge of facing the pandemic, normal business routines had to be changed, the customary in-person meetings either for sales, business reviews, partner interfaces, customer interactions, channel events, etc had to completely shift to a new paradigm of online meetings and seminars. Initially, each one of us went through an adjustment phase on not having to meet and greet physically which over time became normal. The second major challenge was supplied chains’ schedules went haywire.

Products which until then took a normal lead time of 3 to 4 weeks now took months to reach our customers. Last but not the least, large sections of the global economy were directly affected by the pandemic especially the transport, travel, tourism, hospitality, events-related sectors, etc. which in turn affected corporate spending culminating in a sluggish growth in the commercial sector. Customers cut IT budgets and instead focused on other priorities.

What were your key achievements in 2020?
We would rate our mini PC, display annual contract with Etisalat as a premier customer as one of our key wins this year. Our partnership with VisionLab the facial recognition vendor resulted in a key govt entity in UAE choosing the combination of ASUS hardware +software as a standard solution to be implemented across the country in the coming months.

In spite of the challenges of doing business during the pandemic, our channel has grown with new partners and Distributors building a vibrant Commercial partner ecosystem for ASUS in the region. We were able to identify partners to focus on the key verticals, workloads like surveillance, data, GPU based computing.

What promises does 2021 bring along?
2021 definitely looks promising, with at least 3 or 4 vaccines on the verge of release for manufacturing I imagine the world is gearing up for a post covid world. In the new fiscal we intend to build on the momentum created by the new Nvidia GPU card launches, helping us position our wide array of GPU-based server and workstations portfolio addressing the workloads like AI, HPC, data analytics, ML, and healthcare.

With cloud adoption accelerating in the MEA region, we see much higher investments by the Hyper Scaler partners like Microsoft and AWS in the region which means more business for server infrastructure manufacturers.

Do you see opportunities in the regional markets with new markets opening up?
Countries like Israel and other African countries opening up would be the new frontiers which ASUS as a company will be focusing on. We did have a presence in Israel, but in the past, it was cumbersome to collaborate with our team there but now initiatives can be replicated across easier. We see that there could be shifts from the partners from these countries who could open up shop in this part considering these markets are opening up.

According to you, which technologies will be in demand in 2021?
AI, IoT, Big Data, and areas like Blockchain will continue to be more in demand considering the fact that countries like the UAE and Saudi Arabia are leading in investments in these areas. Technologies to enable areas like smart cities, start-up ecosystems will drive demand in the coming years.

What will be your key focus areas for 2021? 

  • Focused verticals areas will be Security /Surveillance
  • GPU based solutions for AI, Research, and Education.
  • IoT projects to position our Edge PCs and Edge Server portfolio.

What milestones have you set for 2021?
To be one of the top 3 preferred server and workstation brands in the commercial space in the MEA region replicating our template in the Gulf region. We intend to maintain our competitive advantage that we have due to our legacy of having our motherboard in every third client computing device being used in the world.

What would you like to do differently in 2021, when compared with 2020?
Have a more blended approach towards interactions with Customers and partners rather than having only online meetings. Human interaction we believe is still key to long-lasting relationships, which is the core of any business. Same reason, the authorities have decided to go in for a blended GITEX last year.

Position ASUS as a one-stop-shop addressing all the computing needs and solutions for enterprise customers rather than being a product-centric approach. In a post covid scenario, ride the momentum of the increase in demand which is inevitable.

Do you plan to enter new markets or add new products/applications to your portfolio in 2021? 
We would be more focussed on penetrating projects like smart cities, Electric vehicle-related infrastructure, 5G centric solutions positioning our IoT portfolio. The new version of our remote device management software known as Asus control center (ACC) is scheduled to release shortly enabling IT infrastructure management personnel to better manage the wide array of connected devices in today’s Omni networked world.

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Chris Fernando

Chris N. Fernando is an experienced media professional with over two decades of journalistic experience. He is the Editor of Arabian Reseller magazine, the authoritative guide to the regional IT industry. Follow him on Twitter (@chris508) and Instagram (@chris2508).

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