The latest addition to the ever-expanding collection of IT buzzwords, artificial intelligence (AI) seems to mean all things to all people. No matter which industry you turn to – from retail to finance, manufacturing to healthcare – AI is touted as a ‘game-changer’ and the answer to any number of problems.
This hype is driving real change: worldwide spending on cognitive and AI systems is expected to increase at an annual growth rate of 50.1% through to 2021.
And one area in which the impact of AI is already being felt is across the global cloud computing market.
The rise of cloud computing has proved pivotal in helping to expand almost all markets and the label ‘cloud-native’ is now worn as badge of honour. For startups, the ability to move directly to cloud infrastructure has allowed them to leapfrog their established counterparts, many of whom have struggled in the attempt to integrate cloud into their complex legacy systems.
With a more powerful and more agile infrastructure at their finger-tips, any organisation – no matter the size, sector, or region – can take a place at the leading edge of the global industry. And this in turn has meant the democratisation of new technologies, most notably in enterprise AI where the sheer number of different sectors able to access this nascent development has meant a wide testbed that has thrown up some of the most exciting innovations in enterprise IT.
Without cloud computing we simply wouldn’t have today’s AI capabilities, which rely on enormous reserves of premium data. The raw power offered by cloud computing is what allows organisations to collect, store, process, and analyse data in the staggering volumes now needed.
Put simply: the better the cloud, the better the AI.
Amidst all the excitement its worth taking a deep breath and understanding that AI is not a silver-bullet or a panacea to any-and-all IT woes. As with any technology, AI is a tool, and one that will only work effectively when it has a clear business aim. Context is everything, and for the best results AI must be directed towards a tangible output.
Perhaps the best way to understand the problems surrounding AI investment is through an analogy with shoe shopping. No one simply purchases a pair of shoes without understanding the context in which they will be used – in the same way that flip flops would be entirely inappropriate for a weekend of hiking, or football boots would look out of place at a black-tie dinner, so too can AI services be used in the wrong context. Finding the right AI solution requires a crystal-clear understanding of the problem you’re aiming to solve and why no solution has been in place.
This is a lesson that many businesses have already learned thanks to their dealings with cloud computing. On its introduction to the mainstream, as with many tech trends, cloud computing was the ‘must-have’ technology, though many businesses were less than clear on why this was the case. As strange as it seems now – in a time when cloud computing is the default option – many early cloud deployments failed. Swept up in the hyperbole, organisations leapt head-first into the cloud without assessing why they were doing it or defining what a successful implementation looked like for their business.
It’s also worth noting that just as the rise of cloud computing has allowed the AI sector to flourish, investment in AI is now driving the cloud industry forward. As AI becomes more sophisticated it needs ever more powerful platforms to sit on. The cloud industry has been enthusiastic in its response, with cloud investment helping to propel the industry to new levels.
What’s more, as cloud becomes more powerful, access to AI is democratised as the infrastructure (and skillsets) needed to implement these services are more affordable and accessible.
Crucially, cloud computing using AI isn’t a radical or revolutionary change. In many respects it’s an evolutionary one. For many organisations, it has been a seamless integration from existing systems, with AI investment gathering pace quickly. Over the next few years we can expect to see the industry continue to boom, with AI driving cloud computing to new heights, while the cloud industry helps bring the benefits of AI to the mainstream. Collaboratively, AI and cloud computing will become the twin-turbo drive engine to smarter businesses.