May 19, 2020

5 Steps To A Successful Cloud Strategy

Colin McCabe, Senior Manager, ...
5 min
5 Steps To A Successful Cloud Strategy

The cloud has been the subject of much hype recently, and with good reason. There are significant benefits of moving to the cloud, including shorter application deployment times and plummeting costs. These measurable benefits make it tempting for businesses to run towards the cloud. Right now the most challenging, important and strategic decision that CIOs face is how to build the right cloud for their business.

CIOs that make the right choices can significantly improve their organisation’s competitiveness, flexibility and IT economics for the next decade or more. Fearing security risks and being locked in to unsuitable arrangements, many CIOs are reluctant to let go of the traditional model of capital expenditure, hardware budgets and data centres. In order to leverage the benefits of the cloud and avoid the risks, new architectures at the infrastructure and application levels are necessary.

To fully benefit from the value that cloud computing offers, organisations should follow these five key steps.

Understand Your Current Situation

Many organisations, especially large enterprises and government IT departments, have long utilised costly proprietary systems. These organisations will need to standardise legacy systems onto modern, standards-based hardware and software before embarking on a cloud strategy.

It is vital that organisations take inventory of and develop a plan for existing IT infrastructure and applications. There may be assets, processes and skills in place that ideally position the organisation for a move to the cloud.

Additionally, it is unlikely that an organisation will achieve strong benefits if it simply transfers imperfect or inefficient solutions and processes into the cloud. It can be worthwhile to review existing systems and plan a migration to a common or standard operating environment. This helps eliminate the complexity created when one-off configurations and siloed systems are allowed to flourish.

Without undertaking this step, it will be very difficult to add the further functions that enable a fully operational cloud deployment.

Know Your Destination

Not everything is suitable for cloud deployment. Moving to the cloud must enable the organisation to react with greater agility and speed to new requirements. While the cloud can deliver cost savings, these will only be of significant benefit if the application will perform well, fulfil customer needs and be manageable within the existing processes and organisational structure.

It is therefore vital to identify a workload that will actually perform in the cloud as Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS).

To mitigate the potential risk of a significant cloud project it can be beneficial to start with a smaller

project such as storing web services, email, intranet projects, data collection or social media in the cloud.

Don’t Rush

Cloud computing is not a revolution but rather an evolution. There can be a strong temptation to run towards cloud projects with the aim of realising benefits sooner. However, the flexibility inherent in open-source cloud solutions is ideal for a more organic, measured approach.

As with most technology innovations, the costs associated with the cloud continue to drop, giving potential cloud users an incentive to proceed slowly. While cloud can offer significant business benefits, on-premise hardware infrastructure may still be the best approach for some businesses. Organisations should carefully consider their options before pursuing a cloud strategy.

Collaboration Is Key

A “DIY” attitude can put organisations at risk. Companies that can maximise and leverage the work of open source software have the opportunity to experience strength from the power of a network.

Open source software is built on collaboration. It lets organisations reap the benefits of work others have done and further develop that to make it suit the business’s specific needs. It can significantly reduce costs and time-to-deployment because it eliminates the need for organisations to do all of the development themselves.

A new software architecture is needed to fully leverage the agility of the cloud. Open source can be the pathway to that new architecture and offers two key benefits.

First, organisations can run management toolkits that prevent lock-in to a proprietary silo. This gives businesses the freedom to change the cloud strategy where appropriate.

Second is the ability to access the technical and commercial advantages that arise from cloud technology. A broad open-source strategy underpinned by a software stack lowers costs and strengthens independence from software vendors.

The open source approach can also create change for the better in an organisation’s processes and working practices.

Consider An Open, Hybrid Cloud Approach

While it may seem simpler to implement a cloud strategy by completely replacing all existing applications and infrastructure, this is rarely the most efficient or cost-effective approach. An open, hybrid cloud management approach offers an alternative without requiring organisations to just extend the

existing set of proprietary technologies and products into the cloud (an approach that can transfer an organisation from one form of vendor lock-in to another).

Open hybrid cloud combines features of public cloud, private cloud and open source to deliver an environment that is more flexible and efficient and offers more choice through portability.

Choosing open source protects organisations from being locked into a single cloud solutions provider, giving them freedom to switch to other suppliers without incurring high exit costs. This mitigates the risk of vendor lock-in that prevents some CIOs from pursuing a cloud strategy more aggressively.

Open source also provides an adaptable platform, ready to assimilate future advances in terms of capturing, storing and accessing enterprise data. Organisations can adopt emerging technology to fulfil new business requirements and to integrate new applications while protecting previous infrastructure investments.

No matter what approach is chosen, organisations should take into account the ease of management in a cloud and across different clouds, as well as the ability to change cloud providers as and when necessary.

The decisions companies make on cloud computing today will directly affect competitiveness over the next few years. It’s important to choose a cloud strategy that can adapt to changing business requirements.

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Jun 17, 2021

Chinese Firm Taigusys Launches Emotion-Recognition System

3 min
Critics claim that new AI emotion-recognition platforms like Taigusys could infringe on Chinese citizens’ rights ─ Taigusys disagrees

In a detailed investigative report, the Guardian reported that Chinese tech company Taigusys can now monitor facial expressions. The company claims that it can track fake smiles, chart genuine emotions, and help police curtail security threats. ‘Ordinary people here in China aren’t happy about this technology, but they have no choice. If the police say there have to be cameras in a community, people will just have to live with it’, said Chen Wei, company founder and chairman. ‘There’s always that demand, and we’re here to fulfil it’. 


Who Will Use the Data? 

As of right now, the emotion-recognition market is supposed to be worth US$36bn by 2023—which hints at rapid global adoption. Taigusys counts Huawei, China Mobile, China Unicom, and PetroChina among its 36 clients, but none of them has yet revealed if they’ve purchased the new AI. In addition, Taigusys will likely implement the technology in Chinese prisons, schools, and nursing homes.


It’s not likely that emotion-recognition AI will stay within the realm of private enterprise. President Xi Jinping has promoted ‘positive energy’ among citizens and intimated that negative expressions are no good for a healthy society. If the Chinese central government continues to gain control over private companies’ tech data, national officials could use emotional data for ideological purposes—and target ‘unhappy’ or ‘suspicious’ citizens. 


How Does It Work? 

Taigusys’s AI will track facial muscle movements, body motions, and other biometric data to infer how a person is feeling, collecting massive amounts of personal data for machine learning purposes. If an individual displays too much negative emotion, the platform can recommend him or her for what’s termed ‘emotional support’—and what may end up being much worse. 


Can We Really Detect Human Emotions? 

This is still up for debate, but many critics say no. Psychologists still debate whether human emotions can be separated into basic emotions such as fear, joy, and surprise across cultures or whether something more complex is at stake. Many claim that AI emotion-reading technology is not only unethical but inaccurate since facial expressions don’t necessarily indicate someone’s true emotional state. 


In addition, Taigusys’s facial tracking system could promote racial bias. One of the company’s systems classes faces as ‘yellow, white, or black’; another distinguishes between Uyghur and Han Chinese; and sometimes, the technology picks up certain ethnic features better than others. 


Is China the Only One? 

Not a chance. Other countries have also tried to decode and use emotions. In 2007, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) launched a heavily contested training programme (SPOT) that taught airport personnel to monitor passengers for signs of stress, deception, and fear. But China as a nation rarely discusses bias, and as a result, its AI-based discrimination could be more dangerous. 


‘That Chinese conceptions of race are going to be built into technology and exported to other parts of the world is troubling, particularly since there isn’t the kind of critical discourse [about racism and ethnicity in China] that we’re having in the United States’, said Shazeda Ahmed, an AI researcher at New York University (NYU)


Taigusys’s founder points out, on the other hand, that its system can help prevent tragic violence, citing a 2020 stabbing of 41 people in Guangxi Province. Yet top academics remain unconvinced. As Sandra Wachter, associate professor and senior research fellow at the University of Oxford’s Internet Institute, said: ‘[If this continues], we will see a clash with fundamental human rights, such as free expression and the right to privacy’. 


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