Every company will be an AI company, says IBM CEO

IBM CEO Arvind Krishna says this is a pivotal moment in history that will transform every company into an AI company. Image credit: John O’Boyle
IBM CEO Arvind Krishna says this is a pivotal moment in history that will transform every company into an AI company. Image credit: John O’Boyle

Twenty years ago, experts predicted that every company will become an internet company. To survive in the post-pandemic world, however, your company must now become an AI company.

“Today, I am predicting that every company will be an AI company. Not because they can, but because they must,” said newly appointed IBM CEO Arvind Krishna in his inaugural keynote at Think Digital.

AI as basic necessity

Krishna has taken over the helm of the more-than-a-century-old tech giant in interesting times. Not only is the company making big bets on AI, hybrid cloud, and 5G, but also the world is battling the COVID-19 pandemic. He pointed out, however, that these three technologies will power digital transformation, which will be necessary for businesses to survive in the post-pandemic world.

It may be hard to imagine nowadays, but some experts once thought the internet was just a fad. Similarly, some companies might not think AI is a basic necessity. However, the increasingly complex challenges businesses are facing now with COVID-19 and in the future will require human and artificial intelligence working hand in hand.

“On AI, I’m extremely thrilled to share with you the launch of AI for IT. AI for IT are capabilities that give every CIO, every technologist, the ability to automate their IT infrastructures to immediately reduce cost and to be more resilient,” Krishna said.

One of the key components of AI for IT is the new AI solution IBM Watson AIOps, which the vendor announced yesterday.

As big companies have seen when the world changed almost overnight due to the pandemic, automation and scalable solutions are more critical than ever. Adaptability is the new norm to survive the current and future crises.

“AI is the only way to scale innovation, insight, and expertise,” Krishna emphasized.

Hybrid cloud is the way

IBM is also betting big on hybrid cloud technology.

“If you look at the technology landscape today, hybrid cloud and AI are the two dominant forces driving digital transformation. As I talk to you, I see four underlying reasons that drive hybrid cloud adoption. I’ll call them the four imperatives of hybrid cloud. And this I owe a lot of credit to [VMware CEO] Pat Gelsinger, from whom I’ve taken some of this,” Krishna said.

These four imperatives are history, choice, physics, and law. History matters because companies rarely start from scratch, and solutions must work with existing IT infrastructures. Meanwhile, choice is crucial because relying on a public cloud locks you in, and, worse, locks you in to only one company’s innovation.

Physics is an imperative, because of the speed of light.

“You simply can’t run a factory flow with robotic arms that require a 50-millisecond response time through the cloud. In many cases, your IT systems need to be physically close to your data and services,” he pointed out.

Lastly, law is determined by where your company is physically located.

“Where you are in the world, physically, which nation, matters. It determines which legal framework you have to comply with,” he said.

Rise of edge computing

As the world embraces 5G technology, edge computing will be even more crucial for businesses. This decentralized system brings computing to the source of the data, or near it.

“This makes it easier to act on the insights that are generated from the data. This creates massive opportunities for new products, platforms, and experiences in virtually every industry,” Krishna said.

He pointed out that the world is becoming “software defined”. Just like with software, consumers and business customers expect products–such as edge devices–to improve continuously.

To this end, IBM has announced new services and solutions backed by a broad ecosystem of partners to help enterprises and telecommunications companies speed their transition to edge computing in the 5G era.

IBM’s new solutions for 5G and edge computing run on Red Hat OpenShift. This is the leading enterprise Kubernetes platform that runs everywhere–from the data center to multiple public clouds to the edge.

People and technology

“AI, cloud, 5G are amongst the most powerful core technologies all of you will use to transform how your business operates. To these, we can add blockchain and quantum, which will have a critical role to play in the digital platforms of the future.

“Of course, the future doesn’t depend on technology alone. It depends on people. And going forward, we’re all going to compete on trust, on values and our responsibility to the wider community of people whose lives we touch,” Krishna said.

The COVID-19 has forced people to adapt to sweeping changes, and companies to accelerate digital transformation. Now it is up to us to use this opportunity to work together to create a better post-pandemic world.