Digital transformation: 3 contrarian advice


Many organizations are struggling to determine the best ways to modernize their internal and external business processes and applications. In this process, it can be difficult to determine the best way forward, especially when the options sometimes seem to conflict.

Here are some of the more common approaches, based on conventional wisdom, as well as some emerging alternatives that run counter to mainstream thinking. You might be surprised at which approaches best suit your organization’s specific needs.

Conventional Wisdom: Go Public Cloud

Contrarian Advice: Embrace Hybrid Cloud

Your organization may have had a few false starts moving to the cloud or modernizing the application development lifecycle. You may have worked with consulting firms that made using a public cloud provider easy, only to discover that your conglomerate of custom-built enterprise systems, off-the-shelf CRMs, and myriad third-party SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS don’t cleanly map the services provided by the public cloud services you hoped would solve all your problems.

The conventional wisdom has been to bet on the public cloud. But despite all the benefits of the public cloud, it’s not a silver bullet.

[ Also read Hybrid cloud: 5 ways it can improve the customer experience. ]

The contrary advice, which is now beginning to enter the mainstream, is that it is time to fully embrace the hybrid cloud. Businesses are learning that while the public cloud still has many benefits, the cost adds up over time. As an organization grows, there are typically opportunities to move at least some of the workload to the private cloud to gain location, data transfer, and flexibility benefits. internal customizations.

Other private cloud considerations include various compliance, privacy, and security benefits. The hybrid cloud can provide “best of both worlds” benefits, such as advanced computingg and more efficient pathways to advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML).

The “best of both worlds” effect comes into play when you leverage open source and standards-based APIs and solutions. An example of this is running a workload that is simple to run in your private cloud and only has acceleration when run on specialized hardware such as a supercomputer, quantum computer, or AI/ML hardware (or other workload-specific hardware).

Edge computing can be advantageous in situations such as manufacturing or transportation, where moving data and/or computation away from the peripheral device (e.g., factory machinery or cars, airplanes, or other vehicles) is not feasible or practical with technologies current. In these cases, it is beneficial to bring the private cloud to the edge for domain-specific computing. Additionally, edge computing can provide privacy benefits because you can create rules about what data is transmitted or stored.

Another benefit of hybrid cloud is the ability to scale to specialized hardware after it has been proven (perhaps even proof-of-concept using the public cloud). Specialized equipment can be expensive and difficult to obtain. Working with companies that offer specialized hardware can be a great way to test the waters, but once you’ve found the right hardware for your specific use case, it makes more sense to bring it in-house for avoid blockages and subscription fees. However, it can be useful to test AI hardware or cloud-based quantum hardware first to find suitable use cases.

Conventional Wisdom: Cut Spending in Times of Uncertainty

Opposite advice: Invest now in AI, R&D, science, automation and future technology

A recent article by Andrew Ng posits that “the transformative value of AI is financially more powerful than interest rates”. AI is not the only option to get the best return on investment in times of uncertainty; there are many benefits to investing in automation and platform engineering. There are also many applications for research and development in the field of AI, science and any specific field. Innovations that have an impact – for example, the development of advanced software or hardware – can have a return on investment far superior to that of the stock market itself.

[ Want best practices for AI workloads? Get the Ebook: Top considerations for building a production-ready AI/ML environment. ]

Before you limit or stop your digital transformation efforts, think about the potential benefits of investing heavily in areas that are now proving profitable.

Another reason for taking a “bullish” approach to innovation is that in times of uncertainty, geopolitical situations can change the landscape. Organizations of all sizes can choose to raise funds from both public and private sources. Examples include computer chip manufacturing and climate/green initiatives. Before limiting or halting your digital transformation or research and development efforts, consider the potential benefits of investing heavily in areas that are now proving profitable. (Did I mention AI/ML?)

Conventional Wisdom: Focus on the Basics

Contrary Advice: Embrace ASICs, AI Hardware, Domain-Specific Custom Solutions, and Edge Computing

When making widgets, it is important to create economies of scale to maximize profits. Public cloud providers have also relied on commodity hardware to scale and become profitable, even in a competitive landscape.

One of the challenges for public cloud providers is providing access to more specialized hardware at a reasonable cost. For example, even general-purpose GPUs are quite expensive when rented in the public cloud. Over time, however, even GPUs will become commoditized. remember that Moore’s Law went beyond packing more transistors onto chips and adding more CPU cores. To track AI/ML data processing doubles every 3.4 monthsthe current generation of innovation relies on application-specific ICs, AI hardware, and other domain-specific custom solutions.

The industry has only recently experienced this inflection point (away from basic hardware solutions and towards domain-specific solutions), so there is plenty of opportunity for innovation. For example, many old and proven technologies, such as analog hardware, have been made new again to reduce power consumption. This is particularly interesting to solve at the periphery, where the available power may be limited.

Wherever you are in your digital transformation, consider this contrary advice and how you might apply it to your situation.

[ Discover how priorities are changing. Get the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services report: Maintaining momentum on digital transformation. ]


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