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Cloud: Foundation for the future

The future of the cloud lies in how it can bring data to life, and this will be the real driver of innovation in the future.

A cloud rack containing servers and hard drives inside one of the pods in IBM's Softlayer data centre in Dallas, Texas. IBM has unified its cloud technology into one architecture so organisations can seamlessly integrate data from their existing systems with other kinds of data in the cloud and use higher-value services such as IBM Watson to bring it all to life.

ENTERPRISES worldwide are facing a massive wave of digital disruption that's spurring them to rethink their current business and IT deployment models. They are evaluating the best ways to move their data to the cloud, and they are looking beyond pure infrastructure as a service and focusing on the value the cloud can unlock in their data. The challenge to this transition lies in the fact that enterprise data often lives in different places and in different forms, so many clients are choosing a hybrid model to address their evolving needs as they migrate their workloads to the public cloud.

To help simplify this, IBM has unified its cloud technology into one architecture so organisations can seamlessly integrate data from their existing systems with other kinds of data in the cloud and, perhaps most importantly, use higher-value services such as IBM Watson to bring it all to life.

Specifically, the IBM Cloud approach is differentiated by three core elements:

  • Designed for your data: Connects to client and third-party data, structured or unstructured and regardless of where it sits with the broadest range of databases, while ensuring strong consistency, high integrity, and no delay. IBM Cloud allows you to keep your data proprietary to you.
  • Secure to the core: Secures the movement of client data on a network of networks. Public, private and management traffic travel across separate network interfaces, segregating and securing traffic while streamlining management.
  • AI-ready: Provides a network built and optimised for data integrity, low-latency and parallel processing that AI-intensive workloads demand, while offering a broad range of Watson AI and machine learning APIs to build applications.

As we continue to watch as more businesses embrace this cloud transformation, what follows is a deeper look at how exactly these three elements of IBM's approach are helping businesses manage and migrate their data as they take advantage of all that the cloud offers.

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Taking a data-first approach to fuel innovation

With organisations adopting multi-cloud environments with fully integrated platforms and industry solutions, the hybrid cloud is becoming the path many enterprises are choosing as they migrate their data to the public cloud.

For example, IBM announced IBM Cloud Private (ICP), a transformative private cloud platform - located behind the firewall - that gives the best of both worlds (public and private cloud) with a focus on enterprise need. The new platform is built on the open source Kubernetes-based container architecture and supports both Docker containers and Cloud Foundry. This facilitates integration and portability of workloads as they evolve to any cloud environment, including the public IBM Cloud.

An airline, for example, could use IBM Cloud Private to bring a core application that tracks frequent-flyer miles into a private cloud environment and connect it to a new mobile app in the public cloud.

A financial services firm could use it to keep customer data in-house as it works to meet its security and regulatory requirements while taking advantage of new analytic tools and machine learning in the public cloud to quickly identify investment trends and opportunities.

To help address the need for enterprises around the world to meet data and compliance regulations, IBM has been focused on expanding its cloud footprint. IBM now has nearly 60 data centres across 19 countries including our new cloud data centre in Sydney Australia. This is in addition to the Cloud Data Center that was launched in Korea last year in collaboration with IBM Business Partner, SK Holdings C&C. With access to a local on ramp for IBM and SK Holdings' Cloud services, Korean enterprises and startups can accelerate their digital transformation, business innovation and global expansion.

Companies are turning to IBM because of this strong global momentum and enterprise strength. One area where we are seeing this take off is with the IBM Business Partner ecosystem, which is comprised of a variety of partners all focused on delivering contemporary business solutions for their clients and end-users. Taking advantage of IBM Cloud capabilities and investments, IBM Business Partners conceive, create and deploy the right app for clients, set solutions apart with advanced AI capabilities, and expand functionality with differentiating services and APIs.

As one of IBM's business partners, Skymics, a born-on-cloud, IoT Independent Software Vendor (ISV) is a startup offering Smart Energy Monitoring, Hydroponics and Flood Management Systems to several customers in Malaysia. Having signed up for the IBM Global Entrepreneur Program, Skymics leveraged IBM Cloud to build solutions which are market-ready with a rapid deployment time.

We've also seen traction with broader enterprise client adoption. Take for example Wanda Internet Technology Group, which earlier this year formed a new company built on IBM Cloud. Through the new Wanda Cloud Company, Chinese businesses have access to select IBM Cloud infrastructure and platform as a service technology. Wanda will deploy leading-edge technologies through the IBM Cloud Platform nationwide through a network of cloud data centres.

Riding the AI wave and generating new insights

Leading and contributing to the development of transformative technologies is in IBM's DNA. IBM's business has always been about managing and optimising our clients most critical business processes.

With the rapid growth of higher value services such as AI, analytics, blockchain and Internet of Things (IoT), companies are well positioned to unlock transformative insights from their data like never before. Business leaders are fully embracing cloud as the primary platform that will help them gain a competitive edge, and they are increasingly turning to these higher value services to deliver more value for their bottom lines.

An example of this is our engagement with Prudential in Singapore, which launched an AI-powered chatbot to provide its financial consultants with real-time information specific to their customers' life insurance plans.

The chatbot, called askPRU, is built with IBM Watson and integrated into Prudential's backend systems. It can retrieve instant data such as a customer's policy cash value, policy premium due dates and status of submitted claims, among other items.

Using IBM Watson's Conversation Service, askPRU can determine customers' intent and quickly generate accurate answers. The bot also helps financial consultants better understand non-scripted questions, probe users to get to the intent of their queries and deliver responses in natural language.

IBM has one of the most robust portfolios of cloud services in the market that gives clients complete control of their data. As more enterprises migrate their data to the cloud, we are seeing a shift beyond pure cost-savings and productivity gains.

The future of the cloud is directly connected to how it can bring data to life, and this is what will drive true innovation for enterprises around the world in the years to come.

  • The author is the general manager of IBM Cloud for the Asia-Pacific