Rethinking cloud strategies to make way for AI

In numerous Asian cultures, 2024 marks the Year of the Dragon in the lunar calendar, a period associated with transformative growth, progress, and abundance. Likewise, within the Asia-Pacific region, known for its leading and rapidly growing digital economies, abundant opportunities emerge for businesses within the digital sphere.

While many believe the cloud is a silver bullet for success in their digital transformation initiatives, the reality is that having an effective cloud strategy that encompasses AI is as crucial as the cloud itself. In fact, APAC is emerging as the latest hotspot for global investors eyeing data centres, as companies capitalise on the growing computing and data storage needs – propelled further by the surge of AI. Wasabi’s recent APAC Cloud Storage Index survey found that 99% of APAC businesses plan to adopt, or are already implementing, AI/ML solutions.

Yet, the same report revealed that 46% of APAC respondents expect AI/ML workload adoption to create new challenges with storage migration. As businesses increasingly harness the scalability and flexibility of the cloud, it becomes imperative to reassess existing cloud strategies to accommodate the unique requirements of AI workloads.

The appeal of the cloud 

Central to the power of AI is data, and it is within the cloud that a vast reservoir of data storage and processing capabilities resides, enabling the realisation of AI’s transformative potential. This contributes to an escalating volume of data to be generated and stored – with 93% of APAC organisations increasing the amount of data they store in the public cloud over the next 12 months. AI, inherently reliant on extensive data repositories for producing precise insights, will inevitably contribute to the escalation of data volumes. This intensifies reliance on cloud services for data access, ingress, and egress, resulting in escalating data storage needs.

After all, the mobility of data is key to ensuring businesses continue to be able to extract value from the explosion of data they can expect to generate. By securely storing data in the cloud, businesses attain the flexibility needed to customise AI solutions to their unique technological requirements. Businesses can dynamically scale their cloud storage capacities in response to demand, streamlining the customisation and deployment of AI across different aspects of their operations. Moreover, the cloud functions as a repository for insights derived from AI, amplifying its efficacy for businesses harnessing this groundbreaking technology.

The synergistic potential of cloud and AI offers the prospect of enhancing capabilities, reducing costs, and fortifying agility. Yet, in the rush to digitalise amidst mounting financial pressures, business leaders are also under pressure to meet growth objectives, prompting some to expedite AI investments without fully grasping the complexities and implications involved, often without a clear cloud strategy.

Common pitfalls 

The biggest impact on businesses without a cloud strategy is related to their wallets – with many grappling with issues such as cloud waste due to inadequate planning, over-provisioning, underutilisation, and unforeseen costs. In fact, according to the Wasabi Cloud Storage Index Report, 51% of businesses in the APAC region exceeded their storage budget in 2023 – with Singapore’s figure standing high at 66%. In some cases, businesses do not realise the depth of costs and integrations when it comes to providing storage.

Presently, hyperscalers are dedicating resources to infrastructure and tools essential for storing the formidable compute power and real-time data processing capabilities demanded by AI. Yet, while hyperscalers may appear convenient initially by offering all-in-one solutions, this convenience can result in escalated expenses over time. Businesses may become ensnared in pricing models that become prohibitively costly as their requirements grow.

Additionally, ransomware remains a substantial threat, both in Singapore and globally, as cybersecurity vendors observe a 13% surge in ransomware incidents worldwide in 2022. Especially as AI becomes more accessible, cyberattackers are anticipated to exploit it for malicious purposes – including highly targeted spear-phishing attempts.

Moreover, a survey commissioned by Salesforce and conducted by YouGov found that 40% of Singaporean workers use generative AI at work. The reality is that failing to safeguard data will cost businesses dearly, especially considering the inevitability of ransomware attacks and other threats like viruses or equipment failures, which can lead to data destruction and reputational damage. This underscores the importance of robust security measures within cloud strategies to safeguard cloud-based assets.

Especially as data continues to burgeon, businesses must proactively engage in developing and rethinking their cloud strategies to comprehend current and future cloud usage – to more effectively remain agile, data-secure, and prudent with their cloud spend.

Building a comprehensive cloud strategy 

Ultimately, the cornerstone of effective cloud strategies revolves around the bottom line. Without the ability to predict costs and the flexibility to scale as needed, businesses may struggle to optimise their cloud operations, hindering the ability to achieve maximum returns and realise the cost savings initially promised.

This can include choosing providers that waive additional charges for egress or API operations, ensuring a straightforward and predictable budgeting process on a monthly basis. Particularly within the media and entertainment sector, where organisations must manage an expanding repository of data, using AI-driven intelligent storage solutions can enable swift searching and retrieval of specific media segments, and this may help expedite time to market of media content.

Moreover, integrating security and backup functionalities – such as immutable backups can also safeguard against data loss and facilitate the deployment of backups in response to ransomware attacks or accidental modifications. Another layer of protection against human-related security breaches is multi-user authentication, which poses challenges for unauthorised access, ransomware attacks, or attempts at data manipulation.

As the saying goes, cloud adoption alone does not guarantee success in digital transformation. While the cloud is omnipresent and enduring, success hinges on businesses implementing the right strategies. Businesses must acknowledge the reality that the cloud is a delivery model, and not an end in itself. The same saying applies to AI too. AI does not exist in silo within an organisation for its potential to be maximised.

Together, developing a comprehensive strategy that encompasses both cloud and AI is imperative for businesses, ensuring alignment with their specific needs and long-term objectives. The critical factor is to approach cloud computing, or any other technology, with a mindset of questioning everything as you progress.