Future-proofing digital growth in the cloud

OVHcloud Australia

By Terry Maiolo, Vice President & General Manager, Asia Pacific, OVHcloud
Thursday, 25 January, 2024

Future-proofing digital growth in the cloud

For many, 2023 was defined by the emergence of new and disruptive technologies, such as generative artificial intelligence (AI). But its long-lasting impacts are far from over. As companies move into 2024, many will grapple with the best approach to unlocking the technology’s full potential.

The cloud will act as a necessary foundation that supports and unleashes the true power of generative AI. Questions around the environmental impacts of AI, its data sovereignty implications, and what proper infrastructure can withstand the power of AI, will shape the technology and cloud landscape in 2024. Ultimately, these new pillars will illustrate how Australian organisations can use the cloud to progress their digital and business growth.

Connecting AI with sustainability

AI holds the potential to be more revolutionary than any other recent technology, promising to usher in new industries and professions while steering the global economy towards a new era of digitalisation.

In response to this rapid pace of change, the Australian Government released a discussion paper in June 2023 looking at the use of Safe and Responsible AI in Australia. The paper was published amid increasing demand for data processing, which is poised to experience exponential growth with the integration of AI, as data plays a crucial role in the learning and decision-making processes of AI systems. In fact, by the end of 2026, 73% of AI workloads are expected to be in the cloud.

Given AI’s capability to transform vast amounts of data into valuable insights, the performance of data centres becomes pivotal in our ability to utilise the full potential of this transformative technology. In 2024, we expect to see even more businesses harnessing AI to drive efficiencies across their operations, following the federal government’s investment of $101.2 million aimed at enabling small businesses to integrate AI technologies into their operations.

However, a prominent yet surmountable hurdle is the anticipated environmental impact of AI, stemming from the energy and data centre resources required to operate larger computing models. The computational intensity and server computer density required by AI generate significant heat — with estimates that suggest that training certain AI models, such as Natural Language Processing (NLP), can produce carbon emissions equivalent to building and driving five cars over their lifetimes. This underscores the pressing need for greener data centres equipped with the necessary power and scalability to address the growing carbon footprint associated with the increasing reliance on emerging technologies.

After all, as the Asia–Pacific region scales its digital ambitions, it will also have to balance the carbon impact of its data centres. Power, water and carbon usage are all critical metrics in assessing the efficiency of data centres. Fortunately, water cooling technology has proven itself as a far more energy-efficient and sustainable way of cooling, eliminating the need for air conditioning — with significant benefits to costs and environmental impact. Collaborating with efficient providers, especially in light of the increase in AI workloads, becomes increasingly valuable. Such partnerships can pave the way for a clear, bright trajectory toward a more environmentally responsible future.

Navigating the intricacies of data sovereignty

In establishing a truly secure digital ecosystem in the Australasian region, governments are strengthening initiatives to secure consumer data amid the escalating dependence on digital technologies, with a particular emphasis on the cloud. However, government policies and regulations cannot be the sole benchmark. Cloud providers and other technological entities must collaboratively address the escalating threat of cyber breaches by implementing additional safeguards.

Countries across the world are intensifying efforts to develop data governance strategies and legislation, and enforce new laws focused on data privacy, security and protection. In recent months, the Australian Government has begun reforming the Privacy Act to ensure data regulations are fit for purpose in the digital age. Despite this, disparities in data protection policies among countries persist — these variations create a complex regulatory landscape, leaving companies perplexed about differing enforcement practices worldwide and impeding local customers from fully leveraging cloud services. Particularly in the context of the APAC digital economy where data serves as the lifeblood, ensuring unimpeded and secure data flows through the cloud will be crucial for the region’s success.

Ultimately, these considerations will see data sovereignty grow to become a driver of data storage trends in 2024 and beyond. Given the intricacies involved, Australia’s progress towards embracing cloud solutions has to emphasise transparency. This becomes imperative, especially considering over 80% of global organisations will encounter contemporary privacy and data protection requirements by 2024. In such a scenario, cloud providers need to offer businesses enhanced support through local compute and storage capabilities to meet the evolving data compliance needs. Transparency must be the established norm sought by businesses, alongside with cloud providers willing to adhere to this standard.

Unleashing the raw power of bare metal servers

With the spotlight on emerging technologies such as AI, machine learning (ML) and the Internet of Things (IoT), businesses are actively incorporating these innovations into their strategies to unlock new growth frontiers. However, the success of these initiatives relies on robust processing capabilities with the aptness to handle complex algorithms and vast datasets. In fact, 52% of global organisations have opted to bring back cloud workloads to on-premises infrastructure due to factors like management decisions, data security concerns, higher-than-expected costs, and limited access to new technologies.

In the rush to adopt cloud computing, hasty migration of all workloads to public cloud infrastructure has presented considerable challenges. Many organisations have neglected the crucial step of assessing technical requirements first and determining which workloads would genuinely benefit from a cloud environment. Consequently, workloads relocated without proper consideration often led to suboptimal performance or the need for extensive refactoring to achieve cloud optimisation.

In today’s digital realm of emerging technologies and the escalating demands on computational capabilities, relying solely on ordinary servers proves insufficient for diverse and intricate business requirements. Processing substantial amounts of data through high-performance computing will require businesses to take a nuanced approach to server infrastructure. 2024 will see businesses increasingly turning to fit-for-purpose servers, such as bare metal servers, to provide the robust platforms required for handling their sensitive data effectively.

Bare metal servers offer dedicated and single-tenant hardware, ensuring enhanced performance, predictability and security. This bespoke approach not only addresses the specific computational needs associated with emerging technologies but also caters to the heightened sensitivity and regulatory considerations surrounding the processing of confidential and proprietary data. As such, we expect to see businesses actively seeking out these specialised server solutions as an essential component of their strategy to create a secure and high-performance environment for processing and managing their critical data.

Image credit: iStock.com/Nikada

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