Artificial Intelligence Is Changing the Cloud Business

Mike McDonough is passionate about his job. “I wake up every morning with an opportunity to learn something new,” says McDonough. “My job is challenging, exciting, and different every day.” Recently, McDonough has become particularly interested in how the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) with cloud technologies is opening up new possibilities for both businesses and consumers. He sees this as part of a larger vision of intelligent infrastructure VMware is defining.

McDonough, now leading Dell Technologies IoT solutions development, led a VMware team built on a diversity of skill sets, tasked with incubating ideas and assessing new technologies for the company.

“Any employee at VMware has an opportunity to innovate. VMware gives all the tools to help employees innovate; they have streamlined an easy path for patent submissions. Our team looks at two types of ideas, sustaining and disruptive. Sustaining is an improvement on an existing business, and disruptive is breaking into a new market,” says McDonough.

Currently, some of the most thought-provoking work the team is investigating involves artificial intelligence. AI is a broad term that refers to using computers to mimic human intelligence. It relies on rules-based logic, decision trees, and other formal methods to emulate the thinking of human beings. Machine learning is a form of AI that analyzes data and techniques in order to improve the efficiency of repetitive tasks. Deep learning is a subset of machine learning, and refers to machines that learn by identifying and testing competing options against each other in order to discover the best solution.

Mega Clouds and AI’s Salad Days

“Data is key to both machine and deep learning,” explains McDonough, “data in conjunction with a strong algorithm are the keys to success. Mega clouds have been attractive to customers because they make it easier to set up, operationalize, and expand. They additionally offer ancillary services to be leveraged. Today, most consider Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform as the industry’s biggest public cloud vendors. These three ‘mega clouds’ are the market leaders, but McDonough speculates that this may not always be the case for AI. The market is nascent, and other companies with large data sets could be impacting the market in the future.

“Other companies that are gathering data, such as Apple, GE, and Bosh, could be the AI mega clouds of the future. GE is amassing data analytics via the company’s efforts with the industrial Internet, Apple has an enormous amount of consumer and health data from its users, and last year Elon Musk tweeted “222 million miles” under autopilot of information was captured. Those companies or others could grow into leaders in AI or suppliers of data.”

As the cloud matures, vendors increasingly include AI features and capabilities to differentiate themselves and deliver customer value.

Vendors want to deliver an environment that is safe and secure, provides value to the customer, and allows them the freedom to scale up and out. But the mega clouds want to encourage loyalty and long-term customer relationships in return. They aren’t like Tinder; they want marriages,” says McDonough.

He sees each mega cloud focusing on different areas. There isn’t one mega cloud that solves all business AI needs. Diversity may not be a bad strategy for the near future.

“VMware’s strategy of intelligent infrastructure delivers a homogeneous and secure solution across clouds, and it enables our customers to select the right cloud partner for their needs. This is a big differentiator when you add in security, networking, storage, and management with our traditional compute footprint; it makes it easy for customers to partner,” says McDonough.

AI and VMware

VMware has been leveraging AI in many capacities for years. It has been using it internally and for business operations. The company boasts a customer base of more than 500,000, and as telemetry improves that data information in conjunction with AI will be help develop better products, improve services, and boost customer support.

“VMware is constantly innovating and pushing its people to bring new ideas forward, and we expect AI will work itself into many aspects of how businesses interact with us,” says McDonough. “AI will help us solve customer problems quicker and more comprehensively. Our relationship with the Dell family of partners means R&D teams work together to look at products and solutions to help the whole ecosystem run faster. We’re at the very beginning of an exciting journey.”

Machines Analyze Data Better

“The immediate opportunity for AI is to help customers get better insights into large data sets. This can be a competitive advantage in business; being able to mash your data with influencers gives management insights that you could only get recently. This then leads to the next question, the “why.” Why did you get that result, and rationalizing the accuracy of this information over time will bring the power of AI to companies,” explains McDonough. The potential of AI in the enterprise is immense.

McDonough is excited by the pace of AI innovation but thinks the most interesting opportunities are still in front of us. “Every day there’s a new development with AI, and it opens my eyes even further,” he says.

“The other day I was about to leave my house for a meeting and my route guidance said it would take 65 minutes. I looked up an alternate route—a task optimized by AI—and got to the office in 43 minutes,” says McDonough. “That’s what excites me about AI and what should excite everyone. It gave me back time and that is a very precious gift.”