A Smart Nation needs an intelligent network

These terms, or what some would crisply be described as VUC, have increasingly come to describe a tumultuous world. Businesses today face unprecedented challenges, both externally and internally.
From an external macroeconomic perspective, the new paradigm is about economies and businesses coping with slower economic growth.

Even countries with strong growth in years gone-by are struggling to re-invigorate their economic engines.

  • A Smart Nation’s systems need to scale and easily integrate
  • Need to ensure built-in measurement processes and technologies

Internally, businesses have to relook at the various dimensions of their organisations, with a view to raising productivity.
The common takeaway answer about raising productivity is to push more technology into the organisation. As a result, there has been an unprecedented implementation of new technologies and applications trying to address every conceivable challenge faced by businesses. This has also brought with it startling amounts of complexity. Many corporate leaders are likely to acknowledge that their enterprise resource planning systems have grown into intricate and, perhaps, convoluted machines. It is not an overstatement to say that far more data processes exist today than ever before. More technology applications to manage business exist today than are necessary. This is essentially the business and industry backdrop, all in the context of Singapore’s pursuit to create a Smart Nation.
Much has been said about Singapore’s bold vision and journey to deliver such a notion. According to Wikipedia, “Smart Nation is Singapore’s national vision of using technology to improve lives and business.”
Drilled down a bit lower, the Smart Nation vision is a multi-government agency and private sector collaborative effort. The aim is to conceptualise and deliver initiatives and programmes that will leverage on highly connected data to deliver services more efficiently to Singapore’s populace.

This phenomenon explains part of the proliferation of data centres, an industry segment which is experiencing enormous growth rates.
With such proliferation, there has been a resulting strong demand for everything relating to information technology, from computing to storage capacity. This, in turn, has driven further demand for additional computing capacity. Such underlying developments bring with it challenges relating to manpower as well as keeping data centres productive and efficient. From a manpower perspective, there is the heightened challenge of having enough headcount to manage data centres and an ever-growing information technology infrastructure. To keep up with this development, operational processes need constant optimization, and powerful management tools must be implemented. This is compounded by the demand of service providers and customers seeking to enjoy speedy delivery of services, which subsequently affects customer satisfaction and has a financial impact. Most data centres continue to use legacy planning and documentation technology tools which do not provide a transparent view of the entire data centre, from facilities and physical devices to logical connections and applications running in a virtualised environment.
More often than not, very basic drawings and graphical representations of the infrastructure, complemented with Excel spreadsheets for the logical connections and other information, are used to understand what is going on in the network. This leads to slow recovery of services, when infrastructure does inevitably fail.
We know this for a fact because, as we have seen in past one to two years in Singapore, there have been significant failures despite the vast IT investments made. When legacy systems and processes fail, the task of extracting comprehensive information from these data centres becomes a shocking challenge. We have seen how much time it has taken for systems to get back up again.

These legacy cases do not help in Singapore’s Smart Nation pursuits.

To overcome this challenge and get the Smart Nation on the right footing from the start, one key strategy is to ensure that we build robust systems with process-based documentation. There are powerful technology solutions that provide customers reliable solutions to address these management issues and optimise operational processes.
Another step involves ensuring that information is captured and traced in a quick and timely manner. This is at the core of data management in the Smart Nation pursuit. If this is not done, it will take a long time before specialists are able to ascertain why systems behave the way they do. This would go back to the premise that real-time information across different networks and infrastructure need strong documentation and intelligence embedded into the systems. Finally, there is a need to ensure that there are built-in measurement processes and technologies to deliver on the Smart Nation promise.

Strategists, key stakeholders and urban planners, among others, need to plan, measure and ascertain that the life expectancy of each of the thousands of items in their networks. When intelligent, integrated systems are built into an organisation’s infrastructure, the ‘smart’ notion in the Smart Nation journey starts to take place. It may sound like a cliché, but a Smart Nation needs a smart information technology strategy, and the key is really to plan and build information technology networks which leverage appropriate tools. These systems need to scale and easily integrate with a multitude of computing systems. This has to be done within a defined service level that needs detailed documentation, knowledge of the basic working assets, and transparency of the underlying infrastructure.

A master central tool for planning will be a good start overcoming future challenges, and would make documentation of the information technology infrastructure a breeze. It will also provide full transparency of the entire infrastructure that is required in the service chain to deliver a disparate range of services.

The result is identifying and analysing faults quickly and accurately, hence alleviating service disruptions.