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March 13, 2024

Tackling industry challenges with AI and the cloud at Cloud Expo Europe 2024

The event provided opportunities for tech leaders and exhibitors to share best practices in the cloud, from data security and navigating the rise of AI to creating better partnerships for a resilient future.

By Lauren Hurrell

“Everyone is talking about AI,” was Tikiri Wanduragala’s take on the overarching theme of conversation among delegates at Cloud Expo Europe 2024. The EMEA senior consultant from Lenovo Infrastructure Solutions was speaking to Tech Monitor on the morning of the event’s second day, held at ExCeL London on 6-7 March.

The conference centre was bustling with tech experts and C-suite decision makers attending Tech Show London, consisting of its five co-located events covering Cloud, DevOps, Big Data and AI, Data Centres and Security under one roof. The Cloud Expo Europe event facilitated sessions to discuss themes including cloud-enabled acceleration and innovation, achieving business sustainability with cloud and people-powered success. It also focused on building and optimising cloud architectures, resilience, regulation and risk management, and cloud-powered business transformation.

Tech Show London saw five events come together under one roof, for experts to share best practices and insights on the best strategies for digital transformation with AI and the cloud. (Photo by Cloud Expo Europe 2024)

“That idea sharing is a real strength of this event,” Wanduragala said.

All heads in the cloud

Discussions were held over the two days with speakers at leading tech firms, start-ups and innovators including Microsoft, IBM and Oracle, as well as governing bodies, regulators, academics and partner organisations such as the NHS. Establishing and rekindling business partnerships was a key activity across the two days of exhibiting.

The first day of the event saw peak attendance, with queues out the door for greatly anticipated keynote talks. Wednesday’s line-up included an eclectic variety of experts, from Vodafone and Wasabi Technologies to Liverpool FC. Katya Denike, chief product officer of Holland & Barrett also took a deep dive into the business’s impressive journey through digital transformation, its biggest wins and how it is gearing up to embrace AI with a strong focus on teamwork as a driver of success.

Andy Linham, principal strategy manager of Vodafone Business, and Ramesh Prabagaran, CEO of Prosimo, discussed the challenges of enterprise networking in the age of the cloud, highlighting challenges and practical insights to enhance cloud performance, reduce costs and automate connectivity. Etay Maor, senior director of security strategy at Cato Networks also spoke on debunking myths of AI in cybersecurity from both sides of the coin, from how it is used in organisations to increase defence, to how attackers utilise AI technologies to find weaknesses to attack.

Other talks involved delving into strategies to bridge the cloud skills gap, sharing best practices with cloud and implementing AI and smart cloud storage in sports media and entertainment. The afternoon included a panel on regulating cloud and a discussion on keeping control of the cloud journey amid unexpected change.

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Tackling the greatest challenges together

Ahead of his session on Thursday, ‘The Rise of AI from Cloud to Edge’ in partnership with Intel, Wanduragala shared expectations for what delegates were keen to find out.

“I see many parallels between cloud adoption and AI adoption. There are a lot of people here developing cloud systems. People are asking how we navigate this, and what they might have to consider or change their thinking about,” said Wanduragala. “Other people are practising that already and are running into other problems further down the line and are asking what we can help with.”

Thursday’s subject matter dug a little deeper into topics such as balancing innovation and responsibility with data and AI, scaling businesses for growth and unlocking opportunities with generative AI, creating cloud-first strategies, and navigating tech-driven business in a costly and uncertain world. From HM Court speakers and the BBC to Great Ormand Street Hospital Children’s Charity, the day boasted a huge range of expertise from the minutiae to the macro trends impacting the tech landscape.

Increasing innovation while mitigating risk with the cloud

Bill Unsworth, cloud director at IBM, delivered a talk on ‘Navigating Uncertain Times with Deeper Modernisation’, in which he explored how IBM is helping its customers to break through barriers with cloud, to speed up the end-to-end process and shorten sales cycles so that businesses can increase profitability through the cloud. He highlighted regulatory scrutiny, consumer expectations, sustainability, cyberthreats, high inflation and rising costs as the key headwinds impacting businesses today.

“The challenge is how do you accelerate innovation without increasing risk and while taking care of security and compliance needs? IBM is involved in looking at how we remove these friction points,” says Unsworth, who highlighted the benefits of different strategies to modernise an organisation’s environment. “As we navigate these uncertain times, using this deeper modernisation approach will help in that journey… Those problematic headwinds can be removed, reducing them through hybrid cloud architecture and implementing industry cloud solutions.”

Building partnerships through the cloud

Wendy Carstairs, senior partner technology manager at Microsoft, joined by Softcat’s technology director Dean Gardner and AI specialist Arran Speding, delivered a discussion on ‘Data & AI, Balancing Innovation and Responsibility.’ The session included a quickfire Q&A between the speakers on the rise of AI before digging deeper on the respective businesses’ role in cloud. There was mutual agreement that investing in AI contributed significantly to a business’s competitive edge. Carstairs provided an insightful overview of the power of mutual partnerships, exemplified by Microsoft’s relationship with OpenAI which began in 2017. The cloud platform Microsoft built for the start-up to train large language models has seen GPT models through OpenAI become “the fastest growing services on Azure that we’ve seen since Azure was brought to market,” Carstairs enthused. 

Almost all speakers across the two days reiterated the sentiment that while the future is uncertain, technology is advancing at an incredible pace to help businesses find solutions, no matter what the future holds. Investing in cloud technologies will be the ticket to a successful, competitive future.

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