Understanding the next wave of cloud computing

How much do you know about the intelligent cloud and the intelligent edge?

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella discussed the company’s vision for the era of the intelligent cloud and the intelligent edge at the 2017 and 2018 Microsoft Build conferences in Seattle.

In both keynote speeches, he highlighted the fact that we’re living in a world powered by digital technology. And not just living in it, but participating in it, with the help of web-enabled devices that connect us in ways we often take for granted.

Nadella said the world is now, essentially, one huge computer. And he wasn’t wrong: Gartner’s research predicts that there’ll be 20 billion connected devices across the globe by 2020. Earth’s current population is around 7.4 billion. We’re definitely looking at a future with more machines than people. But what does that mean for human beings?

Opportunity, according to the Microsoft chief. The chance to take advantage of a diverse, digitally connected ecosystem. The chance to bring together industry players. The chance to create and deliver solutions that weren’t possible before. A window for change, and growth, and innovation. A time to leverage Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, and Big Data to address the problems we face today, as well as the challenges we expect in the future.

Nadella calls himself an unrepentant tech optimist, and at both Build conferences he was confident about the continued evolution of cloud computing – especially as a vehicle for delivering products and services to customers. Microsoft aims to harness advancements in machine learning to give people the tools they need to accomplish more in less time. How? By capitalising on the processing power of the intelligent cloud, and the data-gathering power of devices at the intelligent edge.

What is the intelligent cloud?

Microsoft defines the intelligent cloud as “ubiquitous computing, enabled by the public cloud and artificial intelligence technology, for every type of intelligent application and system you can envision”.

If you take a closer look at the definition, you’ll see that Microsoft is talking about the everyday, everywhere kind of computing that we tend to dismiss. But don’t forget that computers themselves are no longer the big, clunky machines of yesteryear. Today, computers can fit inside the smartwatch on your wrist and the mobile phone in your pocket. Technological development, combined with industrial-scale production, has seen an explosion of small, powerful, and cost-effective computational devices that are web-enabled or directly connected to the cloud.

Nadella has also said that, simply put, the intelligent cloud refers to Microsoft’s ongoing drive to build AI into all of its applications and services, to ensure that customers’ data is always with them (and constantly available) no matter which device they use.

“Our homes, our cars, our workplaces, our factories and cities – every sector of our economy, whether it’s precision agriculture, precision medicine, autonomous cars or autonomous drones, personalised medicine or personalised banking – are all being transformed by digital technology,” Nadella wrote on LinkedIn after the 2018 Build event. “As computing becomes woven in to the fabric of our lives, the opportunities are endless.”

What is the intelligent edge?

“The intelligent edge is a continually expanding set of connected systems and devices that gather and analyse data – close to users, the data, or both. Users get real-time insights and experiences, delivered by highly responsive and contextually aware apps,” according to Microsoft.

Plainly speaking, the “edge” in intelligent edge is a reference to the devices that are close to where they need to be (in order to function purposefully), but are still connected to the cloud. Consider, for example, an agricultural research drone… It’s a physical device designed to operate in a specific location, but its accumulated data can be transferred via the cloud to farmers on the ground, to facilitate immediate decision-making. The drone’s on-board sensors can gauge environmental factors like wind speed, so the device has “intelligence” to enable it to “understand” and adapt to its surroundings.

“When we take the power of the cloud down to the device – the edge – we provide the ability to respond, reason, and act in real time,” explained Kevin Scott (Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Microsoft) in a recent blog post. “With the power of AI enabling these devices to intelligently respond to the world they are sensing, we will see new breakthroughs in critical areas that benefit humanity, like healthcare, conservation, sustainability, accessibility, and disaster recovery.”

Microsoft believes the intelligent cloud will inspire intuitive new apps and services that give organisations and businesses the insights they need to achieve greater productivity and efficiency. As cloud specialists ourselves, we’re keen to see what the next wave brings.

BUI is an official Microsoft Partner in South Africa, and an award-winning leader in identity and security solutions.

The Intelligent Cloud: AI-Powered Connectivity

Our commitment to ensuring business continuity – even in the face of disruption – has been recognised by the British Standards Institution.

We’re proud to announce that we have earned ISO 22301 certification after a rigorous independent evaluation by the British Standards Institution last month. The ISO 22301 badge is recognised internationally and sets the standard for Business Continuity Management Systems.

“This certification highlights the strength of our company’s business continuity strategy,” says Gayle Roseveare, our Chief Operating Officer (COO) here at BUI. “It proves to our staff, partners and customers that we’re prepared for any eventuality – and that we’re able to serve and support the people who rely on us, no matter what. Our ISO 22301 badge represents our commitment to effective risk management, organisational resilience, and reliability – even in the face of disruption,” notes Roseveare.

What is ISO 22301?

Developed by the International Organisation for Standardisation, ISO 22301 lays out a framework to help companies like ours create, implement, and maintain a comprehensive business continuity management system (BCMS). The main aim is to ensure that companies are protected against unforeseen business challenges and equipped to respond and recover when such events do occur.

“BUI is a global company with offices in East Africa, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States,” says Roseveare. “On any given day, our teams are provisioning cloud infrastructure, monitoring and securing digital environments, and delivering a wide range of IT services to customers. We operate around the world and around the clock – and we have to be able to do so continuously. Whether there are power outages in South Africa or internet connectivity issues in Europe, we need to ensure we can deliver uninterrupted services to our customers. Our ISO 22301 certificate validates our planning for disruptive incidents and disasters.”

Why is ISO 22301 certification important?

“In an unpredictable business climate, it pays to be prepared,” explains Dhiren Boodhia, our Group Governance and Compliance Manager. “And that goes double for service providers like us. To earn our ISO 22301 certificate, we had to demonstrate that we have a thorough BCMS in place; that the staff in our various offices understand the BCMS and the processes required to sustain it; and that we are focused on maintaining business continuity and sustainability regardless of market uncertainties and challenges. I think the ISO 22301 badge is an important differentiator – especially when customers are looking for a steadfast technology ally that is as dedicated to legal and regulatory compliance as it is to protecting the business resources of the organisations it works with,” he says.

For customers who choose to partner with BUI, there are five key benefits, adds Boodhia.

  1. Consistency. ISO 22301 emphasises the importance of consistency when it comes to best practices and business processes. “We’ve been assessed on our capabilities around risk assessment and impact analysis as well as our strategies for mitigating disruptions. Our teams excelled in every area – and that means our customers can expect the highest standards of service and care from everyone at BUI,” says Boodhia.
  2. Data protection. With the cyber threat landscape evolving so quickly, data privacy and data security are critical considerations for customers. “ISO 22301 includes extensive conditions for data protection and data recovery,” notes Boodhia. “Our ISO 22301 badge, together with the ISO 27001 certification we achieved for our commitment to information security management, should give our customers even greater confidence: we handle all data respectfully and safely.
  3. Faster recovery. “ISO 22301 requires us to have a holistic strategy in place to deal with disruptions and disasters. It also mandates a detailed recovery plan to ensure that downtime is minimised – for our company and for the business organisations we serve,” says Boodhia. “BUI customers can be assured that, in the event of an issue, our teams will follow a step-by-step framework to resolve the problem as quickly as possible.”
  4. Greater compliance. By achieving ISO 22301 certification, BUI has met the global benchmark for business continuity management, adds Boodhia. “Many of our customers operate in highly regulated industries, like financial services and healthcare, and they must adhere to their own standards in terms of the services they provide to their clients. BUI is committed to maintaining essential functions during adverse circumstances – and that’s a big plus for customers who have strict compliance obligations.”
  5. Peace of mind. ISO 22301 calls for certified organisations to update and improve their business continuity processes to ensure that their strategies remain current, relevant, and effective. “We’re obligated to adapt and enhance our BCMS plan as our company grows,” explains Boodhia. “It’s good news for our customers because it means we’re always prepared. Whatever happens, the BUI services and solutions that so many businesses utilise every day will be available.”

Our commitment to your success

ISO 22301 may be our newest certification, but it’s also a testament to our unwavering focus on our customers, notes our COO. “To be a dependable, reliable technology partner, you need to anticipate the challenges you’re going to face and then take the necessary steps to ensure that you can address those challenges as soon as they arise. We’re being proactive today so that we’re ready for tomorrow – and always on hand to help our customers be productive, secure, and resilient,” Roseveare concludes.

Do you have a disaster recovery plan in place?

Our experts can help you craft a comprehensive backup strategy aligned with your business structure, your IT resources, your budget, and your goals.

Contact our team to arrange a discussion today.

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