Asian cloud gets boost with Singapore Net exchange

By Victoria Ho, ZDNet Asia on June 15, 2010

COMMUNICASIA, SINGAPORE–With the launch today of a neutral Internet exchange in the country, cloud services are primed to enjoy a boost across the region in the near future, according to Singapore Internet Exchange (SGIX) Chairman Malcolm Rodrigues.

In a press briefing held at the CommunicAsia tradeshow here Tuesday, Rodrigues said the SGIX has been commercially launched and boasts 15 members which are now connected to it. These include the three local telcos–M1, SingTel and StarHub–as well as foreign operators such as Orange, Pacnet and Tata Communications.

The Singapore government first called for industry comments on the establishment of the neutral Internet exchange in July last year. This was aimed at attracting more providers to host content in the country, as well as getting foreign carriers to use the island-state as a hub for Internet traffic, with the promise of quick and reliable connectivity.

Carriers connecting to the not-for-profit exchange are expected to reap economies of scale through consolidation of connection points. Instead of having to connect to individual carriers around the region, they can bypass that by linking to the SGIX as a central point, Rodrigues explained.

As interconnections within members ramp up, the cost and latency of connectivity can be expected to drop by as much as 90 percent, he said.

The initiative was commended in a previous interview with Glimmerglass’ Jay Bowker, who said such a facility would help keep costs low for ISPs (Internet service providers) and provide users cheaper access to the Internet.

Another benefit will come in the form of lower latency, since data will travel a shorter distance without having to loop through a chain of ISPs based overseas before coming back to the user’s location, he added.

“We think with the cloud taking off, [the SGIX] can help in the development of high bandwidth applications.

“The [SGIX launch] is well-timed with the next-generation national broadband network (NBN) on its way,” Rodrigues said.

With the launch, the SGIX is now ready to start connecting members to its network. Its services are priced at a monthly fee of S$800 (US$573.1) for a 100Mbps port speed connection, S$1,500 (US$1,074) for 1Gbps and S$5,000 (US$3,582) for 10Gbps.

Connecting to the cloud
Pacnet CTO Wilfred Kwan said during his presentation here at CommunicAsia that networks in Asia have to cope with a rapid growth in broadband and wireless subscriptions.

There were 175 million new Internet subscribers in the first quarter of this year, with 70 percent of those coming from the Asia-Pacific region, said Kwan. In particular, these came from countries such as India and China, as well as Vietnam and Indonesia, he said.

On network congestion experienced in the region, he said intra-Asian traffic has grown 550 times over the last 10 years and is expected to continue expanding as Asia grows to become its own trading zone.

Cloud computing will only serve to push bandwidth needs, he said. “The cloud demands more bandwidth, and also low latency and redundancy to make its vision work for businesses.”

Punit Minocha, senior vice president of corporate development, data center solutions and cloud computing at Trend Micro, pointed out a number of items companies should watch out for as they move to the cloud.

“Cloud computing emphasizes the [model] of plugging in, [letting it] handle your data burst and leave. That creates problems,” said Minocha, who was also speaker at the tradeshow.

He urged businesses evaluating cloud providers to ensure these vendors provide “inside-out” protection, as opposed to the traditional “outside-in”.

He defined “outside-in” as the traditional setup of having a firewall or other security applications on the physical machines at the data center. But, he noted that this is insufficient for a cloud environment, in which companies are sharing resources with multiple strangers.

The “inside-out” model will entail placing protection such as encryption around each virtual machine in order to shield it from others running on the same physical machine, he said.

Each virtual machine also carries its own encryption key so they cannot be unlocked by the cloud provider’s IT administrator, Minocha added.

Such measures further allow users to be portable between cloud providers, avoiding the issue of vendor lock-in and enabling them to retain control over their own data, he said.

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