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Tertiary Institutes Holding NZ Back - Tech CEO

22 January 2013

Tertiary Institutes Holding NZ Back - Tech CEO

Kiwi tertiary institutions will need a radical shift in thinking when it comes to training the next generation of software engineers and developers if they are to keep up with the rapidly changing trends of the global market, says an Auckland IT expert.

Manas Kumar, CEO of NZ's leading technology firm, Optimizer HQ, says that the Cloud Readiness Index 2012 shows that NZ is falling seriously behind in the Asia Pacific region when it comes to readiness for widespread adoption of cloud computing services.

"The Cloud Readiness index has been designed to track the development of infrastructure in the country which allows for cloud computing across leading Asia Pacific economies. At the moment, New Zealand doesn't even feature in the top five countries. We are sixth, behind Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan," says Kumar.

"We should be aiming for at least top three, because cloud computing is where Kiwis, with our unique sense of creativity and no. 8 wire attitude, can really compete with the rest of the world," he says.

Kumar says that the technological changes entering the market in the next decade will move at a faster pace than over the last 100 years.

"Cloud computing is no longer a fashion statement, it's the reality for a lot of businesses and that will only grow. So what we have here is an interesting scalability challenge - that's to say, you have all this demand for a product, but technology has not yet advanced to the level that's required to meet consumer demand at the other end," he says.

"For example, the introduction of high speed broadband internet may be great for the average home consumer for streaming music or movies, but it won't have much of an impact on Kiwi businesses. That's because data still has to reach across thousands of miles of cable to get to say, the US. If a global cloud-based business has to wait an extra one or two seconds to access their account, that's far too long and will impact significantly on our competitive edge."

Kumar says the trick to resolving scalability has been finding the right graduates to fill engineering and development roles at companies like his - and this is where tertiary institutions need to start listening to the needs of the industry.

"At the academic level in NZ, I think there is still a lot of emphasis on theory. It's important to know theory, of course, nobody is saying that's not a good thing, but they need to have at least a basic understanding of the commercial world as well.

I'm only speaking in a very general sense, and I know some institutions are already slowly starting to do this, but they need to invite real-life businesses to come in and share their thoughts, give these kids an idea of what the challenges are in the real world," says Kumar.

"Then there are things like summer internship programmes that could be offered to students to give them a taste of the commercial life. We have to equip Kiwi students so that they are ready to compete on a global stage - which is more important now than ever before in history," he says.

Kumar cites websites like Facebook, which has one billion users all over the world as an example of rapidly evolving technology.

"With Facebook, only about 30% or 40% of them are actual real users. That's 300 to 400 million users a day posting photos, links and news stories. What we don't see when we hop on Facebook is the enormous amount of server engineering that's going on. It's a great case study on how to resolve the scalability issue."

At a smaller scale, says Kumar, would be the Maxmail marketing campaign platform devised by OptimizerHQ.

"We have really had to either sink or swim with Maxmail, because it grew exponentially from around 100 emails a day to a few hundred million a month - and the change was so fast, we had no other choice but to go with it.

"The way we have resolved that is with some very clever server architecture. Essentially, we have invested a huge amount of money into automation and a high availability network, so it's virtually impossible for our network to go down. We've had to think globally about Maxmail from day one.

Kumar says with only one high-speed internet cable coming into NZ, it would have been disastrous for the business if his global audience accessed the server from here.

Instead his servers are spread around 13 data centres in 9 countries all around the world. It is this kind of dynamism that is important for NZ's IT industry to evolve to world class standards he says.


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