When AI Finally Hits the Enterprise

    Artificial intelligence (AI) in the enterprise is the source of both enthusiasm and trepidation as the knowledge workforce comes to grips with what the future of IT automation has in store.

    But while there is no shortage of predictions as to what AI can and cannot do for the data environment, one thing is certain: It is going to arrive within the next few hardware refresh cycles now that vendors of all stripes are building it into their core platforms.

    According to eWeek’s Gary Needle, top researchers at IBM, Salesforce and Oracle are looking at nothing less than an autopilot for IT management as intelligent systems become more adept at solving their own problems. At a recent gathering sponsored by Constellation Research, Bernt Wahl, executive director of the Brain Machine Consortium, spoke of a “wisdom engine” that can base decisions not just on simple data but accurate, verifiable knowledge, and this will lead to IT management that is not only faster and more responsive, but highly accurate and less prone to error. As well, Oracle’s Jack Berkowitz noted that traditional rules-based automation will quickly give way to more adaptive, intuitive decision-making in the management stack.

    Among the top vendors, AI is quickly turning into a key selling point. HPE recently launched a new portfolio of systems and services expressly intended to streamline the adoption of AI capabilities like deep learning. The package includes an integrated hardware/software solution built around the Apollo 6500 server and the Bright Learning application development stack featuring pre-configured frameworks, libraries and cluster management tools. As well, the company has devised a “deep learning cookbook” to help users select optimal hardware and software components for their unique IT management needs. (Disclosure: I provide content services to HPE.)

    Meanwhile, AI is making its way onto silicon through projects like Intel’s Nervana neural network processor that is expected to power everything from data center environments to the cloud and the IoT. ZDnet reported recently that Intel is aiming at becoming the processing brains behind AI by supporting industry-driven efforts like Facebook’s Open Compute Project and community-based open platforms like OpenStack. The company is aiming for a world in which every application will have an AI component and it will be up to chip-level processing to implement the broad coordination between multiple layers of the IT stack to produce effective results.

    While much of the trade press has been focused on the threat that AI poses to the IT workforce, recent research suggests this may be overblown. According to Workfront, most tech employees are looking forward to AI relieving them of the pesky routine tasks that take up a good chunk of their time so they can focus on the more interesting, productive aspects of their jobs. A solid 86 percent of surveyed workers agreed that automation will allow them to work in new and innovative ways while only 34 percent were worried about having to compete with robots. Two key tasks that AI is expected to take over are email management and meeting scheduling.

    Of course, AI will do more than just help us manage our days. With tools like natural language processing and facial recognition, the enterprise itself is likely to become a talking, thinking member of the IT team. No, it won’t be fully autonomous, but it will be able to manage and coordinate resources on a level that humans cannot match, and this will be crucial in the high-speed, highly complex world of the IoT.

    But like any new employee, AI will have to learn how to leverage its unique talents to enhance overall productivity, preferably without stepping on too many toes.

    Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.

    Arthur Cole
    Arthur Cole
    With more than 20 years of experience in technology journalism, Arthur has written on the rise of everything from the first digital video editing platforms to virtualization, advanced cloud architectures and the Internet of Things. He is a regular contributor to IT Business Edge and Enterprise Networking Planet and provides blog posts and other web content to numerous company web sites in the high-tech and data communications industries.

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