By Hillery Hunter, IBM Fellow, VP, and CTO, Cloud Infrastructure, IBM
Cloud infrastructure has become a ubiquitous part of our daily lives. While most people primarily associate the cloud with backing up their phone or storing photos online, you’re actually using the cloud in more ways than you may realize.
The cloud plays a critical role when we check in at the airport, interact with customer support from our favorite store, use a mobile banking app, or check the weather forecast. But even these experiences are just starting to scratch the surface of the impact that the cloud can have on our lives.
So, what actually is “the cloud” and why is it important? Let’s start by taking a step back.
What is the cloud: beyond infrastructure as a service
The concept of cloud computing was introduced in the mid-2000s. It started as a way for businesses to rent IT infrastructure and computing power (“infrastructure as a service”) and access software at a massive global scale. This first chapter of cloud was all about driving productivity and cost benefits, and, for many, this model of cloud has become the new dial tone of IT. But as time passes, the definition of cloud must evolve and grow.
The real value of cloud today is not defined solely by the productivity and cost benefits of renting computing power on-demand. Instead, the value of cloud is being redefined by how it can help businesses innovate with confidence and security, and profoundly change the way companies work.
Entering chapter two
Cloud adoption has grown rapidly, and today we find that almost all companies are using some form of cloud. However, research estimates that only approximately 20% of an enterprise’s applications are in the cloud today.
We are now entering chapter two, where we will focus on getting the next 80% of workloads — the mission-critical ones — to the cloud to optimize everything from supply chains to sales transactions.
As we enter this next chapter, the definition of cloud is expanding and companies are now viewing it as an opportunity to incorporate existing IT and private cloud environments with new public cloud capabilities like AI and analytics completely underpinned by security. Moreover, they need to be able to easily choose where to deploy their workloads across all of these environments, which requires a commitment to open source technology and increased automation and management. This is a hybrid cloud approach, and this strategy is helping companies find new ways to solve age-old challenges, launch brand new business services, completely transform user and employee experiences, and much more.
This higher value hybrid cloud opportunity is already starting to enable truly transformative work.
For example, STOP THE TRAFFIK is using AI on the IBM Cloud to combat human trafficking, which victimizes an estimated 40.3 million people worldwide, according to a 2017 study. IBM is working with STOP THE TRAFFIK and its partners Barclays, Europol, Liberty Shared, Lloyd’s Banking Group, University College London, Western Union, and others to develop Traffik Analysis Hub (TAHub), a platform that enables institutions to share data and provide its analysts with enhanced information to help combat human trafficking. Using AI and machine learning on the cloud, the tool is trained to recognize and detect specific human trafficking terms and incidents. AI also enables the hub to ingest open source data at scale — including thousands of daily news feeds — to help analysts identify the characteristics of human trafficking incidents more easily.
Realizing this kind of impact requires a much more strategic approach to cloud computing than just adopting infrastructure as a service for productivity improvements. It requires a focus on data sets, industry and business process expertise, and iron-clad agreements on data use and ownership. It requires transparency, confidence, and security. It requires pioneering technology capabilities in areas such as AI, blockchain, and cybersecurity. Most importantly, it requires an open, hybrid approach that spans public cloud, private cloud, and existing IT.
The future of cloud
It is usually impossible to predict the transformative effect of emerging technology. Whether it’s broadband or the programmable computer of the 1960s or the internet of the 1990s, the initial business models are usually little more than “fireflies before the storm,” as Lou Gerstner famously said of the first internet content publishing boom.
Similarly today, we cannot yet see the full force of transformation that cloud computing will yield. But as we enter chapter two and the cloud evolves well beyond infrastructure as a service, we can be sure that its value will be much greater than just a dial tone. We’ve only started to scratch the surface of its potential.
This post is sponsor content from IBM and was created by IBM and Insider Studios.
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