Cloud risks and challenges, according to IBM Systems CTO

For all its challenges, the cloud has been an increasingly common go-to for companies who want their data stored within an agile and efficient environment.

With file backup, the monitoring of customer behaviour and customer engagement practices such as chatbots being just some of the many company practices that benefit from cloud technology, it’s clear that this realm is regarded highly among many across various industries.

However, while public cloud technology is indeed popular, there could be more preferable ways for companies to leverage technologies such as AI.

“My market perception is that analytics is done in several areas, not only within public clouds,” said Thomas Harrer, CTO of IBM Systems. “Public clouds are 40% of the market. The rest, or 60%, of the market is our data centres of organisations, or maybe larger service providers.

“These make up the on-premises part, and also build a fundament for innovation with AI with analytics, and AI and analytics can be advanced everywhere where you have data.

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“Nowadays, the cloud is becoming risky. It’s becoming expensive, and companies don’t have the right control when it comes to the real critical data.

“So starting with uncritical data wasn’t a problem, but when it comes to critical data, they want to bring control back to their data.”

A recent Cloudera-sponsored Harvard study found that over two-thirds (69%) of multi-cloud users felt that a comprehensive data management strategy was required in order to meet company targets. Only 35%, however, declared that their company’s data management and analytics capabilities were sufficient for meeting these targets.

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“An architecture that enables multi-cloud flexibility, applying workloads between a private cloud and a public cloud and getting it back and forth,” Harrer continued, “and connecting with the core systems that continue to be private, seems to be the right way to advance analytics and AI.

“There is data that companies put into the cloud, and it increases its growth, but now the perception of many leaders are a little bit like a pendulum that swings back.

“So they started to see the cloud as the only way to innovate, especially the line of business in the organisations, because their IT department were seen as hinderers of innovation.”

The challenges of balance and protection

For IBM Systems’ CTO, ensuring that the ever-growing amount of data is under control by keeping innovation strategies balanced is key for companies.

“There is increasingly more data than there has been in the past,” said Harrer. “Every year, the amount of data grows by nearly 40%, because of additional unstructured data from sensors and cameras, while the structured data at the transactional core of every company continues to grow, but that’s only a small part.

“One of the biggest challenges my clients have is balancing the innovation from the data with the protection and the risks that are coming from cyber attackers.

“The evil side is now very strong, and it continues to get stronger. The abilities of these organisations that try to get the core of company data, try to destroy it, or make money from encrypting it have grown exponentially, and companies are no longer able to have the same robotics approach, tools or funds that these organised criminals have.”

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According to a recent report by Symantec, 93% of participating cyber security decision makers identified excessive sharing of sensitive or compliance-related cloud files as a factor in regards to losing control of data.

Additionally, with companies being found to use an average of 452 cloud applications, 54% said that they couldn’t keep pace with expansions to their cloud arsenal.

However, Harrer went on to explain that companies can be too protective over their data, which brings its own challenges within cloud infrastructures.

“Companies could hinder innovation by protecting themselves 100%, as protecting means no longer interacting with the outside world and getting rid of the Internet. It doesn’t work.

“You have to be open, make contact with customers and be interactive with the ecosystem around you, using the digital models that are available.

“You have to invest in AI in order to become more intelligent about what’s going on and to automate what’s outside.”

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The cost of returning data

Another one of the cloud’s challenges that Harrer identified involves the possible need to retrieve data from cloud infrastructures.

This may be needed in order to ensure that the masses of data within company systems remain under control.

“Once you have data in the cloud, you have difficulties getting it back,” he said. “It becomes expensive, and you have difficulties to control the data in the way that you want to have it controlled, because when you have it in the cloud, the standards to handle the data is coming from the cloud provider. It’s no longer in your hands.”

Harrer went on to revisit the matter of cost as a risk when trying to control cloud data.

“Many companies have started to put data into the cloud,” he explained, “but more than two thirds of them, according to an IDC study, have changed their mind and consider how to bring it back.

“Dropbox, for example, started this service that’s based entirely in the Amazon cloud, but they realised that this was getting very expensive.

“So they decided to build an own data centre to put storage in the data centre, put servers into the data centre, build the application there, and they saved almost $75 million from that approach.”

While the cloud offers speed, scalability and agility to users, the high cost of possible mistakes, as well as the ever-present issue of security, still provide challenges.