Jeff Jacob, the Regional Sales Manager for Commercial Business at ASUS Middle East, speaks about the opportunities for 2022
How was 2021 for the industry and your company?
I would say the year 2021 was the year the world learned to “live” with the pandemic or living through this pandemic in its various stages. Now with the new Omicron variant, we are in a cautionary mode again. With the vast majority of populations in the region being vaccinated and in the process of getting fully vaccinated we can observe cautious optimism in all areas. As for the technology industry, the continued existence of covid and now the new variants gave rise to newer challenges and opportunities.
Remote productivity, WFH, LFH, when, where, and how we work and learn continued to drive demand in 2021. As for ASUS as a company especially in the MEA region, in 2021 it was growth overall, mainly driven by the pandemic-related shift in the business models both for our client computing segments as well as our nascent Enterprise computing portfolio including our emerging AIOT offerings.
What sort of opportunities did 2022 bring along?
As mentioned it was the acceptance of more AI solutions, security, surveillance, video analytics, remote productivity, and hybrid working models which gave rise to more and more opportunities in areas where we never knew existed. Video conferencing became an everyday activity With people working a lot more from their home environments, cloud computing, remote compute capacity, SAAS, IAAS has become more acceptable in sectors where it was not the norm in the past.
The public sector especially became open to the hybrid workforce, a few govt agencies gave freedom to employees to follow a hybrid working model whereby, employees chose which days to work from home/office. In fact, data revealed that productivity went up by 6-8% in certain areas. Employees with young children had an opportunity to spend more time with them giving rise to an enhanced sense of well-being, a sort of perfect blend of work/life balance.
Commuting in heavy traffic or via crowded public transports no longer remained a concern. Hybrid learning is an area that has also grown in the Schools and Higher Educations segment combining the benefits of classroom learning and digital lessons and resources, enhancing the learning experience for students everywhere. A Gartner research report states that “by 2025, 25% of institutions will leverage hybrid classrooms to deliver all core teaching.” Driverless cars, mission-critical delivery drones, actual use cases in robotics, holograms are some of the few technologies which in until recently was still in the incubation stage can now be seen in execution in 2022 – 23.
Did you face any challenges in 2021?
The biggest challenge every hardware manufacturer faced in 2021 was the “Chip Shortage” issue. With the pandemic the pace of digitization increased rapidly, thereby increasing demand for technology products. The demand-supply ratios drastically fluctuated, leading to major shortages in components especially chips. Industry experts stated that the chip shortage would be lasting up to 2023-24. ASUS too faced the impact of the chip shortage issue.
Lead times got longer, there were customers waiting for months on end for the products ordered. GPUs became more expensive, with the channel raising prices leading to serious customer dissatisfaction issues. Prestigious projects bagged in the HPC and Data Center space had to be postponed. Thankfully at ASU, we followed the concept of “Smart Allocation” whereby we prioritized our customers/partners’ requirements based on the strategic importance to our long-term goals. Partners were guided to adhere to reasonable pricing and allocations to keep the partner ecosystem motivated to fulfill customer needs.
What were your key achievements in 2021?
We would highly rate the achievement of our win in a major government entity in the region for being the recommended hardware for the server backbone in video analytics solutions implemented across the country. The sensitivity of the entity does not allow us to reveal the end-user organization’s name.
Another key achievement would be our GPU-based servers being accepted by the most prestigious university in the region specialised in Artificial Intelligence for their HPC computing requirements. And last but not least our key alliances and wins with ISVs specialised in AI Centric solutions like facial recognition, Retail Analytics. Our alliance with Video analytics ISVs has resulted in big wins for us in the region, again the sensitivity of the end-user organisations prevents us from disclosure in the public domain. 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 such as surveillance, data, GPU-based computing. Our client computing division is gaining traction in the commercial business space, which has also been an added impetus for our enterprise portfolio. Our client computing business is now gaining momentum in the region, which has helped us position our enterprise portfolio thereby positioning ASUS as a one-stop shop to our commercial enterprise customers.
What promises does 2022 bring along? Do you see opportunities in the regional markets with new markets opening up?
In the region, we have observed numerous AI-centric solutions being adopted by all the sectors in the economy which means more IoT and computing power to process all the data being accumulated will drive demand for our GPU-based portfolio and Edge Computing portfolio. AI/HPC-based solutions in the region are being sought in Areas like Scientific and healthcare research, Vaccine development, Genome tracing, oil and gas exploration, data analytics, inferencing, and ML.
“Cloud gaming” is another area we see the region is open to discussing. We at ASUS pride ourselves to be the leading brand in gaming and are proud to guide regional players, ISPs to explore the potential of Cloud gaming along with our Gaming platform partners. Being a leader in the gaming industry we intend to play a major part in the increased uptake of Leisure and entertainment infrastructure in the region.
Regional governments spending on science and technology is on a high in the region. The vision to have a minister having a portfolio of AI is a clear indicator of how the region perceives the adoption of technology. The vision 2050 unveiled this year by the UAE and the NEOM city project in KSA are some of the initiatives by the regional governments which are exciting opportunities for technology companies to showcase and execute in the coming years.
According to you, which technologies will be in demand in 2022?
5G adoption will become the standard across the board, thereby proliferating connectivity to all areas of human lives. Together with AI, all basic human interactions whether business or personal will be driven based on AI. Right from grassroots basic solutions like chatbots, surveillance robots, voice assistants to high-end analytics for Disease mapping and so on to handle the huge amounts of data that is being generated today via our networked world.
Automation across verticals will be the norm using a combination of AI, Machine Learning, and RPA. Hybrid work environments will continue to be the norm, which means all remote work environments will require a robust Video conferencing solution. The likes of Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Google Meet, and other similar solutions will have to be incorporated in all sectors. ASUS and Google have collaborated to offer customers a proprietary conferencing system suitable for the Google environment known as the Google Meet system.
What will be your key focus areas for 2022? What milestones have you set for 2022?
We see opportunities for our Enterprise portfolio in 5 focus areas namely HPC/AI, Cloud Gaming, CSPs, Healthcare, and 5G. We intend to replicate our breakthroughs in key accounts especially higher education HPC projects, Cloud gaming offerings via ISPs, small scale ISPs, position our healthcare centric portfolio to the healthcare sector like for example our white monitors with antibacterial ionic silver treatment for sterilised environments or our portable ultrasound device, mobile nursing station, and so on.
Together with our client computing team, we intend to penetrate the public sector entities with multiple solutions catering to their specific requirements ranging from our world-class client computing product portfolio to the enterprise-grade Server/Workstation portfolio. We aim to be the first choice server brand for customers who are seeking a more flexible solution in the GPU computing space.
Continuing the momentum, we have achieved this year leveraging key alliances with all the ISVs we have aligned with on areas like facial recognition, video analytics, and 5G solutions. We intend to leverage our partnership with Intel in the 5G space to collaborate with the regional telecom providers. Surveillance as a Service, GPU as a Service, are some of the areas we intend to focus, in the coming fiscal year.
What would you like to do differently in 2022, when compared with 2021?
In the past we’ve been supplying a physical server to our end customers to test their applications, instead of accessing more customers and to reduce the hassle of the partner/customer we are offering “remote testing” of applications on our servers as an option, basically allowing end-customer organizations to test, simulate and experience real-time performance on ASUS Servers via remote testing options, we have currently made available to our customers via our HQ and as an Option locally via our Authorized distributor who is hosting the server in their premises locally in the region.
Currently, we have one of the biggest enterprise customers in the region using our device management software the “ASUS Control Center” having deployed over 1000+ users. We intend to replicate this win positioning this management tool as an added benefit to customers who purchase our hardware. Being a brand agnostic software, it can manage devices across brands considering our customers would have a substantial install base of other brands in their infrastructure.
Do you plan to enter new markets or add new products/applications to your portfolio in 2022?
We intend to focus on geographies that are neglected by some of the market leaders. Countries that would be more penetrative in the near future would be Bahrain and Oman and KSA mainly for the new initiatives in areas like Smart Cities, Healthcare, and Retail. For that, we intend to go to market as a solutions vendor rather than a product-centric vendor.
For that we really need to build solutions with an ecosystem of partners, it needs to be collaborative and in partnership, because if we try to build them on our own it will be a struggle as we may lack the relevant expertise in certain areas. For applications, areas we are focusing on, we have tied up as the preferred hardware vendor for specific specialized applications. For example, in Video Analytics we have tied up with the world’s 2 top ISVs in the field of VA. In the area of Facial recognition, we have some in-house solutions as well as other specialized ISVs. For 5G, we have Intel and Silicom as two of our strategic partners. For healthcare-centric solutions with Octon. For digital signage ISVs, we are in discussions about being the preferred hardware brand with our fanless mini PC portfolio.