ALL IN 2023 panel explores AI and need for sound infrastructure

All the necessary components are in place from an infrastructure perspective for Canadians to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to the multitude of AI advances headed their way, a panel at last week’s ALL IN 2023 Conference in Montreal, organized by Scale AI, concluded.

Moderator Jim Love, the CIO and chief content officer at IT World Canada, was joined by Denis Gaudreault, the country manager of Intel Canada, Mikael Laferriere, account executive with data cloud company Snowflake, and Rejean Bourgault, country leader and managing director of Canada Public Sector at AWS Canada.

Love launched the panel by referencing a recent meeting of the Digital Governance Council (formerly the CIO Strategy Council), which “works through its members across the public and private sectors to strengthen trust in Canada’s digital economy.”

In announcing the formation of the group in February, Jim Balsillie, council chair and the co-founder of Blackberry, said, “a coordinated national approach is a precondition to good digital governance. Safe and secure digital infrastructure will also help Canadian businesses attract and retain talent so they can compete and succeed in global markets.”

The feeling in the room at the time, said Love, “as we all looked at each other around the table, was that if we failed to build the type of infrastructure that we need, Canada could miss the opportunities to be in the next phase of that global digital economy. And I don’t think that’s alarmist, I think that’s serious.”

Among the three organizations represented on the panel, there is no shortage of muscle when it comes to defining and implementing the proper type of infrastructure.

In a sense, each came at it from a different perspective and based on the organization they represent. For Laferriere, it is clear that an organization simply can’t have an AI strategy without a proper data strategy. According to the company, “Snowflake enables every organization to mobilize their data with Snowflake’s Data Cloud. Customers use (it) to unite siloed data, discover and securely share data, power data applications, and execute diverse AI/ML and analytic workloads.”

Bourgault, while agreeing wholeheartedly with Laferriere’s theory, contended that without the cloud there is no AI. “We believe in the fullness of time that the workloads of the large enterprises and organizations we move to the cloud will accelerate the (AI) movement.

As for Gaudreault, there is neither without adequate horsepower in the form of silicon and AI advances. He referenced the arrival of Intel Core Ultra processors, code-named Meteor Lake, due to be released on Dec. 14 as an example of both.

Company CEO Pat Gelsinger last month said last month at the Intel Innovation conference in San Jose, Calif. that AI represents a “generational shift, giving rise to a new era of global expansion where computing is even more foundational to a better future for all.

“For developers, this creates massive societal and business opportunities to push the boundaries of what’s possible, to create solutions to the world’s biggest challenges and to improve the life of every person on the planet.”

Speaking from a regional perspective, Gaudreault said that it is imperative that, as Canada is perceived as a world leader in AI research, funding for academic research be continued and hopefully increased, sound immigration policies to promote talent living elsewhere to move here be in place, and last but not least, continue to invest in STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – fields and endeavors in order to develop home-made talent.

There is, said Bourgault, a huge skills gap, not only in Canada, but globally, which means that the need to “double down” on training as never been greater.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Paul Barker
Paul Barker
Paul Barker is the founder of PBC Communications, an independent writing firm that specializes in freelance journalism. He has extensive experience as a reporter, feature writer and editor and has been covering technology-related issues for more than 30 years.

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