Interview | Digital transformation using AI and hybrid cloud has accelerated amid pandemic: Shailesh Agarwal

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Updated: Dec 14, 2020 12:05 PM

There is no one solution for clients’ journey to the cloud

Shailesh Agarwal, vice-president, Strategy & IBM Cloud Platform, IBM India/South Asia

Data fuels digital transformation. Artificial Intelligence (AI) unlocks value of data and hybrid cloud democratises AI. “We are sharpening our focus towards this vision,” Shailesh Agarwal, vice-president, Strategy & IBM Cloud Platform, IBM India/South Asia, tells Sudhir Chowdhary in a recent interview. Excerpts:

What are the technologies clients are looking at today?

Organisations are talking about the new normal, which will have an immense effect on future technology decisions. These are:

Network design: Organisations need to urgently revisit their networks, which were designed around a much heavier intranet load than the internet load;

Digital channels: Most B2C business will experience a larger shift to digital channels—banking, telecom, retail—which will require them to revisit and redesign their capacity and capability;

Customer support: Increase in customer support calls and decrease in customer support people will lead to increase in adoption of technologies such as agent assist and more sophisticated chatbots;

Security and compliance postures: Increased strain on security infrastructure and internal control and policies, as remote working becomes new normal;

Robotic process automation: Organisations will consider more aggressive adoption of RPA to automate various processes;

Touchless datacentres & cloud adoption: The experience is likely to accelerate cloud adoption and investment in automation for touchless operations;

Business continuity planning: Organisations will invest to demonstrate a much stronger business continuity posture to their board with less dependence on personnel and more on tech and processes.

How do you look at the evolution of hybrid cloud?

The hybrid cloud goes beyond a simplistic definition of a mix of a private and public cloud. We define ‘Hybrid Cloud’ as the intrinsic modernisation of a client IT environment to give it the capability to be elastic (change with the workload) and mobile (capable of being deployed and moved across different cloud implementations— private, public, and multi-cloud). While there can be a much more simplistic IT environment in startups and ISV, there will neither be one shoe nor one size that will fit all. With our large presence in enterprise datacentre —we understand that complexity—and hence there is no one solution for clients’ journey to the cloud.

How is the role of AI evolving within enterprise?

We believe that every company will be an AI company. AI will not be a separate initiative but embedded in everything that an organisation does. After having experimented with AI in the previous years, enterprise demands for real-time and near real-time analytics – at scale – is on the rise this year. Businesses are more eager to have AI make a positive impact on their bottom line. Our Watson AIOps solution demonstrates the power of IBM and Red Hat together.

How is the Red Hat acquisition adding value to IBM’s cloud portfolio?

At the heart of IBM’s hybrid cloud architecture is Red Hat, the world’s leading provider of enterprise open source solutions. There’s a unique window of opportunity for IBM and Red Hat to establish Linux, containers and Kubernetes as the new standard. We can make RedHat OpenShift the default choice for hybrid cloud in the same way that Red Hat Enterprise Linux is the default choice for the operating system.

We are redefining our future as a hybrid cloud platform and AI company. With the acceleration of the Red Hat platform adoption and the changes to clients’ needs for application vs infrastructure services we are separating our managed infrastructure services into a new publicly traded company.

What is IBM India’s strategy and future roadmap?

We want to be the partner of choice for the enterprise clients in their journey to cloud, digital reinvention and harnessing data insights for business returns. Data fuels digital transformation. AI unlocks value of data and hybrid cloud democratises AI. We are sharpening our focus towards this vision. The pandemic has provided conviction—that helps us shape the proposition of our strategic imperatives further. Digital transformation using AI and hybrid cloud has accelerated amid the pandemic and these new technologies will play a big role in helping companies gain competitive advantage.

IBM will continue to focus on the $1 trillion hybrid cloud market opportunity and invest in the areas where we see clients focusing their efforts.

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