Artificial intelligence (AI) has been around for a long time. But recently there has been a resurgence of AI, with many IT vendors large and small rushing to incorporate AI technologies into their offerings making it one of the leading buzzwords of 2017. The cynical side of us wonders whether companies are simply jumping on the AI and machine learning bandwagon, however that is not necessarily the case according to Chris Chelliah, Group Vice President and Chief Architect, Core Technology and Cloud of Oracle Asia Pacific. He assured us that advances in technology have finally allowed AI to thrive outside of the research realm and into everyday life and business. And the cloud, he said, has played an influential role in making that happen.
DSA got the chance to interview Chris while he was in KL last week for Oracle Cloud Day 2018, where he elaborated on that point. “I think this is now is the right time for artificial intelligence. It’s the same AI we’ve seen for many years, but two things are different. For AI, you need data and you need algorithms. In years past, we didn’t have as much data, we didn’t have as much compute to process the algorithms. Fast forward to today, cloud gives you unlimited data storage and unlimited computer power. So it’s a key enabler that has allowed machine learning and AI to really become beneficial on a day to day basis.” Oracle Cloud Day is a yearly event organised by Oracle across the region to showcase the innovations that Oracle is bringing to the cloud space.
Oracle first announced its autonomous database services at the end of last year and is now looking to extend it to the cloud. Machine learning, which is quickly accelerating the development of AI and changing the landscape of IT, was one of the focus areas for this year’s Oracle Day. Chris sees AI-powered automation as the next evolution of the cloud. And what exactly does autonomous cloud entail? According to Chris, there are three parts to it. An autonomous cloud has to be:
Self-driving – which means letting the computer handle all the mundane, recurring tasks such as provisioning, securing, monitoring, backup, recovery and troubleshooting, thus increasing productivity
Self-securing – using the patterns of data access to take action and automatically protect your data from external attacks and malicious internal users
Self-Repairing – to provide automated protection from all planned and unplanned downtime, allowing the cloud provider to give the customer a much higher service level
But just a few years ago, big data analytics used to be all the rage before companies started moving on to AI and machine learning. So we asked Chris how do we now differentiate between actual AI and just a good use of analytics. He said, “Traditional analytics used to be based on human introspection of historical data to make predictions that are based purely on mathematic correlation. It was based on inference. Today, more and more analytics is actually AI- and machine learning-based. It keeps learning and narrowing the gap towards the answer, so it’s very different. It’s a model that is correcting itself. And it’s doing that by itself very quickly.”
This progression towards automation is important as the cloud continues to be an essential tool that enables enterprises to modernise their business and innovate. One massive difference that the cloud has made over the years is that it has democratised the access to so called “enterprise-grade” technologies that were once only available to the largest companies. Now, organisations big and small have the tools to try fast, fail fast and learn fast, at a fraction of the cost.
“The traditional barriers that used to be there for people to adopt the cloud (around security, data residency, risk, etc.) are rapidly going away. The cloud makes it easy. You don’t have to be a large organisation to use enterprise-grade software like Oracle’s. Our strategy has been to address that by helping organisations to have a simple, seamless, lowest risk transition to the cloud. Machine learning and AI really depends on the two things we talked about, data and algorithms. With Oracle being in the infrastructure, platform, SaaS and data as a service space in the cloud, I just want to be clear that that puts us in a fantastic position to go out there and make a massive difference. And I think it is the time now for that to explode,” he concluded.