Managing IT operations across multiple clouds

Many governments have started taking steps to embrace the advantages cloud computing for their core business applications.  It offers opportunities to modernise infrastructure and automate IT management to allow business customers to provision and adjust capacity at will.  Service quality and security benefit from consistent application of policy and management, and there is greater flexibility and control over costs.  IBM recently delivered these benefits for a large social benefits department of a European Government.

However, Governments want more.  The current pandemic has accelerated their pursuit of digitisation.  Use of the latest hosting and cloud services offered by public cloud providers is helping governments deliver using current technologies and adapt at speed to meet citizens’ expectations.  The UK Government recently signed an agreement with IBM for public cloud services, the latest in a series of similar arrangements with leading public cloud providers.  Government departments can more easily access IBM’s technology advances for innovation.  This includes artificial intelligence (AI) for which IBM patented over 1,800 inventions last year in areas such as natural language processing to go with over 2,500 inventions in cloud.

Modernising on-premises infrastructure brings coherency and consistency to the IT environment.  However, it is important that these advantages are not lost when extending it to public cloud providers.  Avoiding lock-in and workload portability are two goals, but departments also benefit from having a single approach to accessing, managing and understanding the cost of cloud services.  IBM’s platform spans on premises infrastructure, private and public cloud services to integrate:

  • Enterprise management for developers to consume services
  • DevSecOps management
  • AI-enabled operations
  • Governance (cost and assets)

It spans cloud-native workloads built as microservices in containers as well as more traditional virtualised workloads.

IBM implemented a multi-cloud management platform for consumer products organisation’s IT department that was struggling with manual asset cost-tracking processes – they were time consuming and inefficient.  The assets were in public clouds with IBM and another provider, in the private cloud with VMware and on IBM-managed traditional IT.

IBM’s multi-cloud management portal captures and tracks all IT provisioning requests and fulfilments for the organisation.  It is now able to identify monthly cloud asset costs according to its organisational hierarchy.  It can view all its public cloud and private cloud spend in the consolidated Cost and Asset Management dashboard.  Ultimately, the organisation reduced the lead time to consolidate, distribute and verify departmental asset costs across the IT organization by 85%.

Find out more about managing IT operations across multiple clouds.

 

Fix IT incidents 50% faster with AI

Modernisation of infrastructure and applications has seen many CIOs and IT leaders struggling to cope.  They are wrestling with how to balance stability with innovation whilst navigating challenges of increasing complexity.  Some organisations report facing over 2,000 IT incidents each month.  It is a measure of the proliferation of disparate and inconsistent tools overwhelming IT operations reliant of 10% of staff who have 90% of the critical expertise.

Cloud computing offers huge advantages to Governments in flexibility, automation, speed of delivering IT infrastructure and application services, and improved IT service quality.  Done properly, it brings greater financial predictability and control.  But this requires a sound and coherent approach to management across on premises and public cloud environments.

  • Unified Visibility – See all of your infrastructure and applications regardless of where they are running from a single pane of glass.
  • Infrastructure Automation – Improve operational efficiency by leveraging infrastructure as code practices to define, deploy, configure, decommission infrastructure.
  • Consistent Governance – Avoid potentially catastrophic security breaches with a declarative policy model that ensures that your infrastructure is compliant no matter where it is running.
  • Application Centric Management – A consistent application model across the entire hybrid infrastructure, Deploy and Move applications across clouds and Optimize performance with end to end visibility. Ensure your clients are getting the application experience they deserve.
  • Cost Management – Drive financial optimization with visibility into where your cloud spend is going, and how much different parts of your business are spending.

Three key elements enable these fives use cases.  Firstly, IT monitoring and service desk.  Secondly, analysis and collaboration tooling and practices, eg ChatOps.  Thirdly, the adoption of automation to detect, decide and act across the technology estate.

This automation has been the focus of IBM’s latest application of Artificial Intelligence (AI).  By adopting explainable AI in IT operations, IBM has developed Watson AIOps.  It works by integrating IT event analysis with unstructured content including logs and tickets to offer deeper insights and analysis to guide staff in better decision making and action.  It harnesses IBM’s leadership in AI across all fields.  For example, IBM patented over 1,800 inventions in AI last year.  The impact of such innovation is that organisations report fixing incidents up to 50% faster with AIOps.

Find out more about how Watson AIOps can help IT operations can improve identification and remediation of issues in hybrid cloud at: https://www.ibm.com/products/watson-aiops

 

How ready is the public sector for AI?

Artificial intelligence (AI) should now be seen as a core part of business transformation rather than merely an interesting technical project.  It means revisiting the relationship between government and its citizens, and rethinking how public services are delivered.

There are already numerous applications deployed that use AI in public sector.  These fall into five areas:

  • Improve customer service contact centres. Assistants are being used to increase both civil servant and citizen satisfaction through greater productivity and accuracy, and extended hours of support.  There is a reduction in mundane work for civil servants, and the burden from citizens on specialists is reduced.  Benefits are being realized within a few weeks.
  • Enhance knowledge workers. AI is particularly attractive in fields with massive volumes of domain-specific data to find patterns that offer improved results.  Fields include legal and regulatory, policy development, oncology, cyber security, and more generally taking this approach helps those on rotation become productive more quickly.
  • Manage the complexity of risk and Contract governance is one such use of AI by Governments.  Operational decision making has also been augmented by AI by monitoring current situations, assessing risks and making recommendations.
  • Find the best talent and modernise learning. AI is being used to analyse the talent market to find candidates who best fit a role.  Aptitude can be assessed to help build digital skills in scarce areas, eg cyber security.  Furthermore, AI aids learning in content, its delivery and management.
  • Empower developers to build AI-powered Equipping business teams to build applications using AI tooling and training platforms has facilitated integration of AI with both existing systems and emerging technologies such as blockchain.  Governments have been able to provide access to video content for its citizens using audio analysis, improve the way they deliver services using speech to text, and better protect critical infrastructure.

The opportunity apparent here is to deliver better services to citizens more quickly whilst reducing the burden on civil servants.  General characteristics can be drawn from these implementations that can be applied to assess those processes that are suitable for AI and likely to deliver benefits.  These are:

  • Does the process exploit a lot of data? And could it benefit from using other accessible content?
  • Is a personalised service required?
  • Is the process repetitive and reliant on a degree of knowledge and intelligence?

Business teams will need to be prepared to move away from the way things have always been done.  One technique to imagine new possibilities with AI is to creatively explore problems from an end user perspective using Design Thinking.

AI needs IA

Too few artificial intelligence (AI) projects succeed.  Many organisations approach AI believing that you can collect data for an algorithm in the hope that it realises the anticipated benefits.  Instead you should look at data and design a system to address a problem, not an algorithm.

Here are some keys to success for adopting AI.

  • Select the right business problem. This must be one for which a team already exists and has the data.  It avoids the pitfall where, “We need to test AI,” results in a deceptively attractive initiative which has low business value and is hard.  For example, a business process is required to collect data.  Nevertheless, there is a conundrum for many organisations that the business case to get the data requires a demonstration of AI.
  • Look at the data. Typically, organisations significantly underestimate the effort needed to orchestrate the data in readiness for AI.  AI needs accurate data, and data cleansing and preparation takes 80% of the effort.  This is a hard engineering problem and requires a sound approach to information architecture, technologies and a range of skills, not just data scientists.
  • Build systems, not algorithms. Many assume that a sequence of steps is sufficient to generate insight and recommendations.  However, feedback is crucial to improving overall accuracy.  It is complex with lots of moving parts and demands a multi-disciplinary approach.

AI must be transparent for the public to trust it.  This is especially significant for the public sector because important decisions must be explainable.  It is essential to understand who trains the AI system, what data was used to train it, and what went into the recommendations made by the algorithm.  This extends the realm of information governance.

In summary, AI needs IA: Information Architecture.

Wimbledon technology impressions

The dominant impression left with those taking IBM’s technology tour at Wimbledon this week is how artificial intelligence is used to enhance fans’ experiences of The Championships through automation and scale.  The magnitude of what it takes to amplify match data and content out to millions of fans is always a revelation.  This spans drawing fans to Wimbledon’s own digital platforms, supporting its media partners, through to providing a valuable service to the players.

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AI and Augmented Reality

The Championships Poster for 2018 applies artificial intelligence (AI) to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.  AI is used not only to select 8,400 photographs that make up the mosaic from the archive of over 300,000, but also to match the colour, tone and content of the picture used in each tile to the part of the picture it represents.  The reaction when I enlarge a section of the mosaic, such as the umbrellas by the umpire’s chair which is made of photographs of umbrellas, is amazement.IMG_0066

IMG_1181There are various pictures displayed around the grounds when visitors can experience augmented reality (AR), including the mosaic poster.  Their locations are indicated on the map in the mobile app.  I show how you can tap on the ‘AR Experience’ tile in the app.  The camera recognises the picture, and in the case of the poster, the app launches the video showing how it was made.

You can experience augmented reality for yourself using Wimbledon’s phone app by pointing the camera at the poster on wimbledon.com.

Trusted data

Wimbledon Interactive is a system running on 400 press desks at The Championships that contains 2 million pages of data.  It is only available on site, and I explore the wealth of data of current matches and Wimbledon’s history all the way back to 1877 on my tours.  Screen Shot 2018-07-06 at 08.10.24IBM employs tennis players to read matches and record the data associated with every point accurately within a second.  This trust in data is essential for amplification out to fans on Wimbledon’s own digital platforms and by the world’s media.

Players from the six show courts receive point-by-point video analysis about twenty minutes after the match completes to help them prepare for the next round.  This is always a highlight on my tours.  In addition, IBM has a data science team on site to assist Wimbledon and the media with access the best possible information, including bespoke reports for any angle a journalist might want to investigate.

One example of how data is made available to fans is the tactical Keys to the Match delivered in the IBM SlamTracker on wimbledon.com.  They are the top three areas that each player in a match should focus on to maximise their chances of winning.  Keys are custom generated from analysis of individual player data, including the 4.8 million tennis data points collected at last year’s Championships.  Analytics have been further honed using ball placement and player movement insights.  Fans are able to monitor players’ performance against their keys as the matches unfolds.

Brand quality

IBM uses artificial intelligence to automatically generate a video highlights package within five minutes of a match finishing.  Clients are amazed that the speed.  Video analysis of player gestures and detection of their emotions is combined with audio Screen Shot 2018-07-06 at 08.07.59analysis of the crowd’s reaction, e.g. clapping and cheering, plus analytical insight from the data collected.  The points with the highest excitement score are assembled, along with captions generated from meta data that tell the story of the match, for Wimbledon to share with fans on social media and its digital platforms.

Wimbledon has become the host broadcaster of The Championships this year with the launch of Wimbledon Broadcast Services.  It is indicative of Wimbledon’s shift to become more of a data-driven media organisation rather than simply global sporting event – this digital transformation is food for thought for those joining my tours.  Despite this approach, Wimbledon is permitted one hour of tennis action coverage from each day so as to not undermine its media partners.  The digital team uses the excitement level calculated from analysis and AI to quickly search for the points of greatest interest.  This enables the team to optimise this hour to maximise fan engagement by easily identifying and sharing the moments that matter most.

Taking Wimbledon to its fans

IMG_1196Wimbledon aims to be where its fans are.  In 2018, it is widening its appeal to those that use messaging.  The Wimbledon messenger can be accessed from within Facebook Messenger to provide up to date scores on matches, monitor the progress of your favourite players, and access news.  It also provides assistance to all fans in natural language using an AI chatbot building on the ‘Fred’ in-app service that was introduced last year.

You can access the latest information from within Messenger by searching for Wimbledon on Facebook.

I found that all the clients that I took on tours this week, technical or not, are impressed with the scale, reach and focus of the Wimbledon’s digital operation.  Find out more about the technology at ibm.com/wimbledon.

 

Wimbledon’s use of AI to engage fans

At one o’clock this coming Monday, Roger Federer will walk out on to Centre Court to begin the defence of his Wimbledon Championship.  I particularly remember his semi-final match last year.  I was in the bunker where I runs the technology for Wimbledon, and about eight minutes after the match had finished, Wimbledon had produced a two-minute video highlights package of the match.  This was the first time that a sports highlights had been generated automatically.

The rise of video

Wimbledon continues to extend its appeal to a time-poor, younger demographic, and sharing short videos is a key element of the strategy to drive engagement on its digital platforms.  Video views were up 75% year-on-year to 201 million in 2017, of which 14.4 million were such match highlights.  Automatic generation accelerates production so that Wimbledon has first mover advantage, and it enables scale.

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It is achieved using artificial intelligence (AI): learning player reactions in analysis of video, detecting crowd reactions by applying AI to audio, and fusing both with statistical analysis of the data to identify the most important points in the match.  Meta data is used to generate captions that tell the story of the match in the highlights package which Wimbledon then shares with fans through its digital platforms and on social media.

AI becomes the artist

This is an example of technology innovation using AI, Cloud and Data at Wimbledon – 2018 is the twenty-ninth year of IBM’s partnership – that I described yesterday at the Cloud and Data Summit held at Landing Forty Two in London.

Cloud and Data Summit

I opened my talk with a video of the poster that Wimbledon created using AI to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (AELTC).  AI has become the artist to create a poster.  It looks like a water colour but is actually a mosaic made up of 9,000 images.  These were selected from over 300,000 images in the AELTC’s archive using artificial intelligence to match image recognised content and colour tone.  You too can watch how 150 years of archive photography has been used to stitch together a single beautiful image.

Social engagement

I told the story of data, how it is captured courtside by tennis professionals who can quickly read a match.  They aim to accurately capture all the data associated with every point within a second.  It’s about making data simple and building a trusted foundation that allows insights to be scaled on demand.

Wimbledon combines such insights with analysis of conversations and what is trending about the Championships on social media.  It uses Watson AI to exploit 23 years of articles, press and blogs – 11.2 million words have been analysed – so that it can share facts, video clips and stories with fans in the moment.

Digital resilience

IBM runs Wimbledon’s applications in the Cloud.  Four IBM public cloud and three private cloud data centres around the world are used, offering elasticity and resilience.  The software-defined operating environment allows capacity to scaled up quickly for The Championships.  Easy access to Wimbledon’s digital platforms is sustained through huge fluctuations in demand, such as a spike in interest in an epic match.  Capacity is quickly deprovisioned when no longer required to optimise the cost of infrastructure.

Over 200 million security events were halted during The Championships in 2017.  IBM correlates and normalises security event data to prioritise them and remove false positives.  Security analysts make use of threat intelligence from IBM’s X-Force research on vulnerabilities and malicious IPs, etc.  A knowledge graph is generated to help security analysts understand what is happening.  Watson for Cyber Security offers assistance through its application of AI on the corpus of security research, information on events, security notices, blog posts and more.  The result is a reduction in the time taken to analyse a threat from sixty minutes to one.

AI assistant

Wimbledon launched “Fred” last year, an AI assistant that helps visitors prepare for and make the most of The Championships.  This year, Wimbledon continues to put content where its audience is.  “Fred” powers the new Wimbledon Messenger, a service for millions of other fans available through Facebook Messenger.

Wimbledon’s digital platforms provide the window into The Championships for many fans.  A fabulous experience is enabled by AI that is powered by the IBM Cloud to exploit data.  Experience a little of this for yourself by downloading the Wimbledon app or visiting wimbledon.com/mobile.

 

Re-thinking defence and security for the digital age

Strategic threats

The world if facing four strategic threats.  We have unstable but predictable threats from Russia.  Unstable and unpredictable threats in the form of migration, terrorism and nuclear from parts of Africa and the Middle East.  Stable and predictable threats, for now, from China.

This is the backdrop set out by a former senior military officer at SPADE last week in Copenhagen.  This defence conference, now in its sixteenth year, was sponsored by AFCEA, IBM, Samsung, Secunet and SES.  The fourth threat is ourselves in the western world: populism, diminishing cohesion and leadership.  It raises the question, how prepared are we to face these threats?

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Informed decision making

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Let’s consider a macro perspective on information.  I have previously blogged on how data pipelines enable smarter decision making.  They take raw data, fuse and analyse it to sift out the valuable indicators.  These are used to build a coherent picture of what is happening.  The challenge is then making decisions that use the evidence rather than taking the easy option of aligning with prevailing perceptions, and then being capable of acting accordingly.

Four areas to improve

Speakers from eighteen defence departments around the world, NATO and the EU debated how technologies can help present the indicators and coherent picture.  An essential, if partial, contribution.  Here is a selection.

  1. Coherent C4ISR is required. Fusion of sensor data and integration of systems, both tactical and command, overcomes current siloes.  A step-by-step approach should be taken.  Connectivity and interoperability between allies are important design principles.
  2. Mission, including platform, readiness needs greater focus. It is dependent on network enabled capability, but also requires smarter approaches to communications, maintenance, optimising inventory for operations, and through the supply chain.  Mesh networks, IoT, predictive analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies offer opportunities.
  3. Kinetic operations have become secondary to the digital domain. Information security efforts must focus on protecting communications as well as information.  Approaches are needed to deal with influence through disinformation.
  4. Use of Artificial Intelligence is gathering pace in the commercial world. Scale is being achieved through the use of machine learning, graph analytics, and video and speech analysis.  Defence will need to shift from requirements-based procurement to writing capabilities statements for what it needs on the battlefield.  It is the only way to stay ahead of the emerging technology curve.

Reinvention

NATO sees mobility, cloud and AI as technology disruptors.  From these come opportunities, some of which are outlined above.  Nevertheless, re-thinking defence and security for the digital age – the theme of the SPADE conference – demands more: digital reinvention.  Critical success factors are:

  1. Business projects with business commitment, not IT projects
  2. Create culture of innovation where air cover is given for teams to fail
  3. Agile thinking in place of programmes
  4. Partnerships with benefits for everyone
  5. Senior/board level focus on talent

Integration across siloes, interoperability and the application of AI are just three examples of what it takes to be ready for highly intensive, full spectrum operations.