Embracing Cloud in the Cognitive Era

By Arshad Munir Sharif, GM IBM Cloud, Malaysia

Since I moved to Malaysia four years ago, my insights on the psyche of Malaysian clients have grown by leaps and bounds. Although I am Asian by birth, much of my life and career was in Europe and the Middle East. Forgive my ignorance but I must confess that I was under the grave delusion that Malaysian clients thought like Europeans.

In truth, they don’t. In fact, Malaysian clients are far more challenging, creative and courageous. Perhaps it is due to their exposure to multiple cultures and choices that influences their decisions to adopt disruptive technologies.

The decisive behavior echoes the findings of IBM’s 2016 Global C-Suite study.[1]  The study found that 77% of CIOs believe mobile solutions, cloud computing and the Internet of Things have the most significant impact on their organizations in the next three to five years. Of that number, more than 60% think innovative use of cognitive cloud solutions would set them apart from their peers. In fact IBM Institute for Business Value projects that the number of companies that are using cloud to drive innovation will more than double from 16% to 35% in just a few years.

Arshad Munir Sharif

Arshad Munir Sharif

The era of cognition

Pacesetters who have merely scratched the surface on cloud computing’s promise of cost efficiencies, now realize they can do much more. Cloud not only shrunk infrastructure costs that yielded operational efficiencies but also allowed them to channel time and resources on valued added activities such as strategy and innovation.

A group of forward thinkers are avidly exploring ways to use the cloud to drive innovation, break into new markets or create new revenue streams. They understand that it can be done with cognitive cloud technology as the era of cognition is one where systems have the ability to learn at scale, reason with purpose, and interact naturally with people.

Based on the interactions with clients here, allow me to humbly share three guiding principles to realize the innovative value of cognitive clouds:

  1. “As a service” model to create cloud native apps

We all know speed is of the essence and time means money. Cloud computing “as a service” model sped up developer time from idea to application. What used to take weeks and months can now be in days or even hours!

The “as a service” model offered the much needed catalogue of services with Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) that reduced effort and time to provision and manage hardware; Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) simplified the management of various middleware from databases to APIs to services while Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) gave end users access to business applications hosted and maintained by the vendor.

In short, the IaaS, PaaS and SaaS cloud models simplify the workload of developers by managing complex tasks that are orthogonal to the developers’ goals. It freed them to create innovative new applications.

 Leverage hybrid cloud technology to connect

The conversation on public, private and hybrid clouds are now centered on connecting the dots in the data centers.  Companies that have spent billions of dollars to build up their data centers need to change their business model to stay in business. Some data center owners have started to offer new services above basic data center offerings to retain their customers.

The power of embarking on cloud gives organizations the speed and agility to create new digital services and at the same time, they have the ability monetize the newly minted services. This is sometimes referred to as “application programming interface” (API) management.  These APIs can be shared across multiple organizations thus connecting what were previously stand-alone or disparate systems.

  1. A successful cloud deployment optimizes each workload to the best fit.

The next step after create and connect is to optimize. Optimization is necessary to ensure that a solid cloud foundation is in place so that the analytics, mobile, social workloads which run at different speeds, can work together.

It also important to know what runs where, how close the data is to the application, how fast the analytical queries can be done, and how secure the integration is on different platforms. By optimizing each workload to the best fit, you would have all the ingredients needed to transform your business.

Cognitive action

The three principles can be likened to foundation stones to built cognitive cloud solutions or deployments. Once the three principles of create, connect and optimize is complete, the next logical step is to embed intelligence or cognitive APIs to the business.

I would argue that every business has to transform to stay relevant or risk becoming inconsequential.  Today, the entry and journey to transformation is sped up because we have cognitive technologies readily available to build the APIs. In fact, our study indicated that 24% of leading companies see a future of intelligence – cognitive analytics – being embedded in everything.

There proof is out there with examples such as Hong Leong Bank, DBS Singapore and Bumrumgrad Hospital who have adopted cognitive technology to take their business into the next millennium.

For instance, Bumrungrad International Hospital in Thailand is deploying cognitive solution called IBM Watson for Oncology to improve the care and treatment of cancer patients. Doctors in the hospital now have access to the very best brains in the profession at their fingertips –including the information captured in 12 million pages of articles, 300 medical journals, 200 medical textbooks, millions of patient records.

Hong Leong Bank will use IBM Watson cognitive banking solution to raise the level of service delivery to its credit card customers. The bank is in the process of creating an interactive library of commonly asked questions related its credit card customers. In doing so, the bank would free its service team to focus on business essentials instead dealing with mundane and routine questions.

You too can experience the power of cognitive technology on the Watson Developer Cloud website where applications such as Watson Personality Insights or Tone Analyzer or Tradeoff Analytics. Basically the Personality Insights API analyses your personality based on whatever data you input — for example, a blog entry, or all your social media posts. Then, it describes your personality traits based on these inputs.

You can also have some fun with apps that emerged from Watson Developer Cloud. For example, “Your Celebrity Match” was a fun spin-off app from Watson Personality Insights API. Try it out by entering your Twitter handle to see which celebrities’ personalities are most similar to yours.

We have more than 350 Watson Ecosystem Partner companies across the world and a third have already launched apps to the market. The tools and talent is here and ready. An imagination that combines the guiding principles of create, leverage and optimize on the cloud will bring innovation to the fore and magic happens!

[1] http://www-01.ibm.com/common/ssi/cgi-bin/ssialias?subtype=XB&infotype=PM&htmlfid=GBE03729USEN&attachment=GBE03729USEN.PDF

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