2021 Planning: Top 4 Cloud Trends Tech Leaders Need to Know

4 min read

A look at how tech trends are converging in distributed cloud architecture.

Distributed cloud made real: Consistent cloud services anywhere” — Check out the event replay to learn about the new IBM Cloud Satellite.

With the shift of workforces online in 2020, Chief Technology Officers pivoted IT priorities to shoring up availability, back-up and disaster recovery capabilities. In general, the pace of digital transformation increased during the pandemic. An intention to take advantage of that momentum, positioning teams for achieving post-pandemic business objectives, is reflected in the key trends for 2021.

Those trends can be extrapolated from a recent CTO roundtable with these panelists:

  • Andrew Trossman: Vice President of Innovation at the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC)
  • Paritosh Bajpay: Vice President of Business Products from Verizon
  • Rana el Kaliouby: co-founder and CEO of Affectiva
  • Jason McGee: IBM Fellow and Vice President and CTO of the IBM Cloud Platform

Trend 1: Operationalizing artificial intelligence (AI)

As CEO Rana el Kaliouby explains, Affectiva is an artificial intelligence (AI) company whose mission is to humanize technology. Affectiva innovates its product to more accurately track the complex signals in human perception. Machine learning algorithms trained on great volumes of data, along with cloud computing resources necessary for iterative work at scale, are essential to what Affectiva offers clients whose business depends on understanding the subtleties of what customers and consumers want.

To learn more about the differences between different AI technologies, see “AI vs. Machine Learning vs. Deep Learning vs. Neural Networks: What’s the Difference?

For many large-scale IT organizations, using AI cloud services to innovate app user experiences, improve and optimize operations (AIOps) and gain insights from all types of data remain parallel goals in an ongoing journey of adopting cloud native tools, practices and services.

While AI-related goals have been carried forward as next-year priorities in each of the past five years, other cloud adoption challenges preempt achieving them. The elephant in the room that is demanding attention at the beginning of 2021 is a security breach of US Government and Fortune 500 Corporation networks that is already the biggest in decades, but whose extent really has not yet been determined.

At this point, because most enterprise companies use more than one cloud provider for different purposes, the big challenge standing in the way of AI-infused operations is the distributed location of the data on which machine learning work might be done.

Should a company — to realize the ambition of giving data scientists easy access to data — build a lake where all sources of data converge across different clouds? Just the data egress and ingress costs for such an undertaking may currently be cost-prohibitive. And even if the costs are acceptable, how does a rapidly evolving business pick the right long-term site to build the lake?

An alternative to solving that problem is bringing the needed data preparation, machine learning and other artificial intelligence tools directly to wherever the data resides, which will likely be in multiple locations.

With the IBM Cloud Pak® for Data as a Service, for example, data science teams get everything they need to process data in place, without the burden of maintaining the IBM Cloud Pak software, and with the great benefit of being able to monitor and manage the relevant data operations from a single, consolidated view within IBM Cloud. IBM Cloud Pak for Data as a Service integrates with IBM Cloud Satellite, a distributed cloud as service offering.

In the case of Affectiva, they used IBM Cloud bare metal computing resources and advanced vision algorithms to stand up their human perception analytics service. To do that, Rana el Kaliouby and her teams brought data into the public cloud. With distributed cloud computing, however, as their client base grows, Affectiva will gain efficiency from being able to do the necessary model training and machine learning wherever the client has their data.

Trend 2: Evolving the foundation of cloud security

As an innovation officer at Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), Andrew Trossman needs to make public cloud services readily available to banks’ development and operations teams. The only way a financial institution like RBC can do that would be either by bringing the cloud services into on-premises environments where their business-critical workloads run or by moving those workloads onto a public cloud platform with trustworthy security and regulatory compliance safeguards.

Here I’ll note there are two IBM Cloud offerings that meet these needs. IBM Cloud for Financial Services precisely provides a public cloud platform with a framework of controls for validating and automating compliance with financial regulations around the world, and it provides data security at the highest cryptographic standard (FIPS 140-2).

The other potential solution to help RBC succeed with Trossman’s innovation remit is IBM Cloud Satellite; distributed cloud architecture that delivers cloud services wherever they are needed — on-premises, in any cloud or in edge computing situations. The cloud services that RBC needs for their teams to innovate customer experience of their financial services would be delivered, with IBM Cloud Satellite, directly into the on-premises environment where the company prefers to keep their most important workloads. With Satellite, RBC teams would use access and identity management across any environments they define as Satellite locations. For any location, IBM manages the versioning and patching of the software necessary to keep the cloud services up to date and highly available.

Trend 3: Opportunities opened by the low latency of 5G at the edge

With 5G connectivity, Verizon’s Paritosh Bajpay tells us, the burden is on service providers to make sure the applications used over their networks deliver consistently good experience befitting the promise of the enlarged bandwidth. That means having application servers exchanging data with customers as close to the edge of the network as possible. Yet, the edge consists in millions of access points that all need regular software updates.

This is again a job for a distributed cloud. IBM Cloud Satellite, with its centralized monitoring and management of deployments, provides a way for a telco provider to consistently deploy and update software at edge sites without greatly expanding technical staff. And this is why Verizon and IBM Cloud are partnering in the roll-out of Verizon’s 5G services.

Trend 4: Distributed cloud simplifies the complexity having multiple clouds

As the technical leader of IBM Cloud Satellite — the distributed cloud thread running through this article — Jason McGee gets the last word, at least in paraphrase. In short, Jason presents Satellite as a cloud solution that lets user launch cloud services anywhere they need them. Users get the benefits of cloud — elasticity, extensibility across environments, API-driven services — without having to maintain everything themselves. At the same time, users gain the flexibility to have location independence and can consume cloud anywhere they need it.

Distributed cloud made real: Consistent cloud services anywhere” — Check out the event replay to learn about the new IBM Cloud Satellite.

Satellite offers big benefits to each of the panel’s CTOs. I’ve already mentioned the future benefits of distributed cloud for Affectiva as that business scales. At Verizon, using Satellite to keep Verizon connected to the cloud while delivering applications from myriad points closer to edge devices, Bajpay can maximize benefits of lower latency on its 5G network at any location. Rather than having to consider how “to use 5G to get close to the user and . . . figure out how to deploy software and 5,000 stores around the world,” Bajpay can actually use a cloud model everywhere he wants to do applications. Customers will have a better experience with the help of Satellite’s distributed cloud architecture.

For Trossman and RBC, one benefit is seeing real data that show RBC has received absolute improvements on availability, cost, scale and agility when serving customers. At the same time, he is careful and mindful of all the cyber risks, like many other financial services businesses. Over many years, RBC has built up some serious defenses on our own premises, and it now has more agility, availability and cost factor on-premises. Trossman added, “If IBM can combine the power of Satellite and bringing the distributed cloud stack to the premises with the regulatory compliance aspects that's going on in the whole financial services space, that's a winner.”

Register for the event to learn more about IBM Cloud Satellite and distributed cloud

All trends converge to demonstrate the versatility of a distributed cloud architecture in addressing the requirements of different use cases — for enabling AIOps, extending cloud security across environments and enabling industry to develop applications once and deliver them to their great many customers at the edge.

Distributed cloud made real: Consistent cloud services anywhere” — Check out the event replay to learn about the new IBM Cloud Satellite.

For a closer look at distributed cloud and its benefits, watch "What is Distributed Cloud?": 

 

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