It is becoming rather cloudy out there

I remember in the early 1980's working as a programmer for a Fisheries & Oceans research station writing code on VAX 11780 mini-computers and being amazed that people could use my programs on their terminals anywhere in the building and get this, at the same time!  Those were the days where we would plan and prepare for a couple of months prior to executing a Fortran compiler upgrade.  New VMS operating system upgrades might occur every couple years.  We’re talking slooow innovation cycles.

Fast forward to 2019 and it’s a whole different world.  I was watching a recorded session recently about Microsoft’s Azure Cognitive services.  I’ll share one example.  Let’s say someone, maybe your boss who has privileged access to important systems, accidentally deletes a core database containing 100’s of thousands of invoice records and it turns out the backup has never worked.  Seriously, this happens.  Fortunately, there was a practice of saving PDF copies of invoices in a folder, with a subfolder for each year.  Perfect, now you can hand enter all the data for the past 15 years and that might take you the rest of your working days!  There has to be a better way.  Enter Cognitive Services.  With this collection of cloud based machine learning (ML) tools, you can create a workflow that reads the PDF files, determines from the text, tables, etc. the data structure, create the database, and read the 100’s of thousands of invoices extracting their data and storing it in the newly auto-constructed database in an hour perhaps!  This is amazing.  And, every month it just gets smarter.

As we store more and more of our documents, emails, calendars, tasks, and other data in the cloud, in this case Microsoft’s, more capabilities are possible by mining the connections and relationships of people to content and to each other.  For instance, Microsoft’s Cortana now has the ability, using cloud artificial intelligence (AI) services, to schedule and coordinate meetings for you, with others.  We all know how challenging this is when we do it ourselves or we ask our assistants to do it for us.  Cortana, not us nor our assistants need to spend our time in this way.  Cortana communicates with your colleagues to negotiate optimal meeting times.  You will be presented with the best outcome when Cortana finishes the task.

Back to my earlier comment about the slow pace of change.  When you adopt a platform in 2019 such as Microsoft Office 365 which provides online Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, among other tools, stuff just automatically updates and improves every month.  O356 also learns what you work on, who you share and communicate with, building a rich graph of interactions.  You spend less time looking for content and people and more time just getting the work done and communicating.  The cloud is working tirelessly on your behalf.

These are obviously just a few of the many examples I could share.  I could write about car share services, Tesla car updating, maps, social media, and the list goes on.

I remember a school superintendent in the early 1990s talking about the importance of becoming a life long learner because things were continuously changing.  I don’t think even he could have anticipated the cloud computing phenomenon we are now experiencing.

Maybe you have a cloud computing story you could share in a comment.


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