The pace of cloud adoption has speeded up in the last one year or so, as organizations shifted to ‘work from anywhere’ and almost everything went digital. In such a scenario, many businesses are banking on a hybrid cloud strategy, which offers an inherent flexibility, agility and efficiencies – in other words, the best of both worlds. Hybrid cloud is a core part of IBM’s growth strategy. The IT giant has recently partnered with Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore to launch an innovation lab to advance research in hybrid cloud technologies and drive innovation in this area. In a conversation with CXOToday, Dr. Mukesh Khare, Vice President, Hybrid Cloud, IBM Research, explains the hybrid cloud landscape in India and how the company through cutting-edge research is helping organizations leverage the true power of hybrid cloud and drive business transformation.
How do you see the landscape of cloud developing in India and globally today? What specific trends do you see now that will shape the future of cloud adoption?
IT trends in India are quite similar to global trends and what is very apparent is that the pandemic has significantly accelerated the adoption of digital technologies for success, growth and resilience. Enterprises are looking for agility, speed to market, and continuous innovation. The application of data, the value of cloud and the scaling of artificial intelligence are now core to many companies’ strategies as they embrace digital transformation. And, as companies make their digital transformations, they are realizing the value of hybrid cloud environments and how to get the best value out of each cloud solution.
IBM recently surveyed CEOs in India and around the world, and found that globally, 74% of CEOs expect cloud computing to deliver results in the next 2-3 years, compared to nearly 60% of Indian CEOs. As this adoption increases, every organization will use multiple clouds and on-premise environments. Our clients are looking to modernize and move their mission-critical workloads to the cloud, and infuse AI deep into the decision-making workflows of their business. They need a Hybrid Cloud platform that is open, flexible, and secure.
What are the most pressing challenges faced by enterprises in India and globally in terms of hybrid cloud adoption? What is your advice to those businesses to overcome such challenges?
The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted operations worldwide, forcing businesses to quickly adapt their technology infrastructures to accommodate all or most of their workforces remotely and cope with unprecedented levels of long-term uncertainty. For many businesses, re-vamping IT infrastructure has been a key to survival that meant accelerating plans to move additional workloads to the cloud by adopting a hybrid cloud environment. For example, businesses must find the optimal balance between traditional infrastructure and cloud-centric model to run their workloads. A hybrid cloud solution – where on-premises hardware is combined with public and private clouds — offers an ideal solution. I do believe we’ll see more businesses adopting a hybrid cloud approach in the future.
What role is IBM playing in accelerating the hybrid cloud innovation globally and in India?
At IBM Research, we are focused on innovations that will make the move to cloud seamless, scalable and secure. Our hybrid cloud research strategy fits into four key areas:
First, scaling Hybrid Cloud adoption through AI and automation. Our teams have accelerated research in new ways to automate and simplify hybrid cloud management. Whether modernizing application management, enterprise operations, or IT infrastructures, we are focused on making it easier for developers to create and build AI applications – enabling AI to identify problems even before they are deployed.
Second, advancing a seamless, open platform for hybrid cloud. We are exploring new ways to remove barriers between computing environments. Our platform is open, fast, easy to use, and flexible, and we are working with Red Hat on several areas, including containers and infrastructure, such that our hybrid model gets customers to the cloud in a future-proof way.
Third, ensuring security, compliance, and reliability. We are architecting enterprise-grade solutions to predict and mitigate threats and working on innovative technology to secure sensitive data – from fully homomorphic encryption to quantum-safe cryptography. And lastly, building computing systems that push the envelope for enterprise hardware. As technology scales, hardware must meet the high demands of power and energy. We are building industry-leading serverless systems that meet tomorrow’s complex workloads. We are developing a new class of AI hardware that is inherently energy-efficient, increasing compute power by orders of magnitude without the demand for increased energy.This work includes new innovations in nanotechnology, and AI digital and analog accelerators.
What according to you will be the role of AI in driving Hybrid Cloud growth?
AI can play a very critical role in accelerating Hybrid Cloud adoption. Today, organizations are looking to use Automation to migrate their mission-critical workloads to cloud environments. Applying AI technologies like graphic based techniques, Natural Language Processing and explainable AI, machines can be taught to understand programming languages or code. This will significantly accelerate moving applications to the cloud as well as their subsequent manageability. These AI techniques offer reasoning about applications’ behavior and its structure to recommend and automate the generation of identified microservice candidates.
Often, companies first need to determine exactly where their mission-critical applications are running. Once that’s done, there is a lot involved in moving these applications and data that have been operating on-premises for years to hybrid cloud environments, parts of which those companies may not directly control. IBM Research introduced a new tool, Mono2Micro that uses AI to simplify how enterprises adapt monolithic applications into microservices to run anywhere on the hybrid cloud. The tool helps simplify and speed up an error-prone process, which can reduce costs and maximize ROI.
Recently, we released CodeFlare is an open-source framework designed to save developers time and effort to create machine learning pipelines to deploy in hybrid environments.
Many organizations today are looking to embrace open source technologies when it comes to Cloud. Where do you see the role of Open source in today’s time?
For years, IBM has been a driving force in the development of open source technologies. Open-source tools can help integrate many clouds and on-premise systems into a single, seamless hybrid platform by shortening the learning curve for programmers and non-programmers alike. Companies are looking to adopt an application deployment model that’s easier for those without lots of hybrid cloud expertise to program and use. Using open-source tools, programmers with hybrid cloud expertise can work on higher-value projects. We need subject matter experts to be able to focus on the actual problem they are trying to solve rather than on how to run their software efficiently across multiple clouds. We have also partnered with the open source community to advance security and compliance.
We are also committed to fostering hybrid cloud innovation through public-private collaborations. We recently announced our collaboration with the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru to advance hybrid cloud research, including work on open-source software. Our research aims to provide interoperability, portability, and security that is easily accessible to the developer community.
Can you tell us about the upcoming trends that will boost hybrid cloud innovation in the enterprise?
Across the board, we expect businesses to embrace technologies like Confidential Computing in their hybrid cloud environments to protect data during processing and at rest. Confidential Computing has the potential to accelerate the adoption of hybrid cloud computing in particular for highly sensitive industries like finance, healthcare, insurance, or any business concerned with the migration of data and workloads to the public cloud. When customer software is deployed on a remote Cloud Data Center, the customer’s stringent security requirements – motivated by legal compliance, corporate governance, and customer confidentiality – are challenged by the fact that multiple organizations share the same underlying infrastructure. Therefore, security must be maintained through technologies that extend the trust domain of the customer from their local premises into the relevant sections of the Data Center. Hence, Confidential Computing can provide the additional assurance they need to be able to migrate mission-critical workloads to the cloud.