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A Blue-Sky View of Our Cloud Computing Future

Intel Innovator: Raejeanne Skillern, Head of Intel's Cloud Business

Intel Vice President Raejeanne Skillern oversees Intel’s cloud business, which in the fourth quarter of 2017 grew 35 percent versus the same period a year earlier. (Photo caption: Walden Kirsch/Intel Corporation)

How she’d describe her job to a 10-year-old: “Computers are like Lego sets and the cloud is like having thousands or millions of Lego sets connected. Cloud service providers rent these ‘sets’ so people can process, transmit and store data through the internet. I help them decide upon the ‘best’ sets to build.”

More: Read about all Intel Innovators

From buzzword to big business: In 2009 — when Raejeanne Skillern first started in Intel’s cloud business, then as director of marketing — cloud computing was a hot new buzzword, and pundits were preaching caution and hand-wringing over trust issues. “When we began, we only worked with a few cloud service providers,” she says. “Today we’re working closely with roughly 250 companies worldwide and many more through our channels. CSPs are setting the pace of innovation more so than ever before. Cloud is no longer a buzzword—it’s an industry transformation.”

Supercharging new services: “I’m amazed by all of the new services and unique applications that the cloud is bringing ─ not to mention the positive impact for areas such as health care and small business growth,” says Raejeanne, who leads Intel’s Cloud Service Provider Group. Her team works with the “Super 7” — Alibaba, Amazon, Baidu, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Tencent. She also partners with rising companies like Digital Ocean and 1&1. And then there’s Meituan, a Chinese “super-app” that combines restaurant reviews, food ordering and delivery, digital coupons and payments, and even ride-hailing — it’s a perfect example of the increasing breadth of what’s become a cloud provider. “You sit down with these folks and it’s hard not to be excited about their business,” Raejeanne says.

Why it’s clouds, not one cloud: Though often referred to monolithically as “the cloud,” there’s nothing monolithic about it. Although cloud providers face similar challenges, the ways they solve them can differ greatly, Raejeanne says. Her job is to help match each customer with the right set of technologies — not just processors but also accelerators and FPGAs, storage and memory, networking, and, in some cases, new custom parts — to achieve maximum performance-per-dollar. “Our strength lies in the fact that we are one company that can do everything across the platform,” Raejeanne says.

Making AI accessible for all: Though the cloud isn’t often discussed alongside artificial intelligence, Raejeanne explains that a big part of what’s making AI possible is the performance, scale and cost-efficiency that cloud infrastructure provides. The cloud, she says, “is really extending the reach. Now our job is not just to provide leadership silicon, but also to enable the entire spectrum of artificial intelligence solutions, and help customers adopt AI so that they can utilize it from cloud to edge to transform their business.”

Where the clouds are billowing next: As Intel’s recent earnings results attest, Raejeanne sees continued cloud growth. She likens its rise to Jevons paradox, an observation that as advancements make use of a resource more efficient, its total use doesn’t decrease, but rather increases. “As cloud technology, public or private, makes compute easier and cheaper to consume, new use cases are being rapidly invented.” Looking ahead, Raejeanne says, “Artificial intelligence, 5G and network transformation, and immersive media are driving innovation across our entire industry.” She also expects that developments like function-as-a-service, which “changes the programming paradigm and really makes it easier and faster for developers,” could accelerate those trends and spur the next wave of innovation.

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