By Sean Rinas, Head of Network Operations, NEXTDC and Damminda Alahakoon, Professor of Business Analytics and AI and Director, Research Centre for Data Analytics and Cognition, Business School, La Trobe University
There is a somewhat famous quote by author James Redfield that says: “history is not just the evolution of technology; it is the evolution of thought”.
It’s an idea that seems intuitive for most of us. People create technology, not the other way around. While technology drives changes in society and human behaviour, ultimately the root causes of those changes reside in the mind of someone, somewhere.
However, for many of us working in technical professions, it’s easy to lose sight of this simple concept. We tend to get so bogged down in the wonders of technology – in the latest innovation, gadget or development – that we lose sight of the bigger picture.
That’s why the relationship between NEXTDC and La Trobe University (LTU) is so important to both organisations. Together, we are collaborating to introduce innovation and new ways of thinking such as the new models of possibility introduced by artificial intelligence (AI).
Why? Because we want to achieve what’s possible through simplicity and more effective use of resources for NEXTDC customers. We are also seeking to present education environments such as LTU with curricula and research project options that help to evolve thought leadership around the application of new technology such as large language models and other AI applications to solve real world organisational challenges.
AI is all the rage
We can see it happening at this very moment. News and discussion about artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) seems to be everywhere. The arrival of ChatGPT late last year has acted as the tipping point for developments that have been bubbling along for several years. Suddenly, every executive is asking their IT leaders the same question:
“How is AI going to work for our organisation in the short, medium and long term?”
There’s no question that AI, ML and related technologies must be factored into the strategic planning of most – if not all organisations. However, if your AI planning discussions begin and end in the IT department, you’re going to struggle to extract the full potential of the technology, as it applies to your business.
Why? Because in the current environment, business and technology are so closely linked that they are almost indistinguishable. Strategic thinking about strategy execution must incorporate strategic thinking about technology and digital transformation.
This is the core of innovation – when the right technology rises to help the right people solve the most critical challenges.
Blending technology, business and education
There’s one more critical area that needs to join business and technology in the innovation melting pot: the world of academia. Of course, academic think-tanks and innovation hubs are not a new concept, however some fall short when it comes to blending academic research with real-world applications in an industry setting.
La Trobe University is one of the leading educational institutions in Australia – if not the world – when it comes to creating the right balance of academic research and business application. La Trobe’s Research Centre for Data Analytics and Cognition (CDAC) based within the La Trobe Business School, was founded to advance business analytics, AI and data science through new technologies, focusing on the theoretical applications as well as the practical contributions to organisational objectives.
The CDAC team collaborate with multiple partners across industry to explore new ways to unlock the power of data, ranging from national security to healthcare, utilities and retail.
Data driven network improvement
NEXTDC is proud to be one of La Trobe CDAC’s partners. NEXTDC are currently sponsoring a number of PhD students who are working with AI and Machine Learning (ML) to explore systems that will improve the performance of the NEXTDC interconnection network in two ways.
The first of these is improving real-time visibility of the interconnectivity network topology for faster incident identification, root cause analysis and ultimately resolution. The step beyond this is predictive maintenance through machine learning – that is, using past data to recognise patterns, identify anomalies and predict incidents likely to happen in the future – and … stop them before they happen.
While data centre network performance may not be the most headline-grabbing application of AI, for NEXTDC it was a logical place to start and get results. For most of our customers, interconnection strategy is a top priority – the ability to seamlessly connect teams, locations and workloads to data centres, cloud providers and virtual services, without interruption, and with optimised costs and performance.
NEXTDC are very excited about this research because it’s going to improve the overall experience for our customers. The vision is to alert the ecosystem and customers about a potential disruption in their network before it even happens. The experience is to inform our customer community that they could have a problem rather than the other way around.
In a world where 100% uptime is a critical success factor for most, this is further evidence that where you choose to host your digital infrastructure today is going to be the difference between success and failure tomorrow.
AI for data centre sustainability
The other big AI opportunity for the data centre industry is aligned to sustainability. We’ve previously invested in PhD research that matches historical weather data to data centre plant and equipment settings that are optimised for energy efficiency.
Our new M3 Melbourne Data Centre is a great example of how we’re using new technologies to build and operate some of the most energy efficient data centre services in the world. More on that in the weeks ahead.
Thinking about AI? Think about your infrastructure first
If you are thinking about how AI and other emerging technologies might apply to your organisation over the next few years, now is the time to make critical decisions about the digital infrastructure that will support it.
Aligning to Redfield’s assertion about history, we’d love to show you some of the evolving thought patterns and network technologies that are going to ensure your digital platforms are unique to your strategic direction and future-readiness.
Reach out to NEXTDC if you would like to find out more about planning tomorrow’s critical digital infrastructure today.