As data growth accelerates and data strategies are refined, organizations are under pressure to modernize their data infrastructure in a way that is cost-effective, secure, scalable, socially responsible, and compliant with regulations.
Organizations with legacy infrastructures often own hardware from multiple vendors, particularly if IoT and OT data is involved. Their challenge, then, is to create a seamless, unified system that takes advantage of automation to optimize routine processes and apply AI and machine learning to that data for further insights.
“That’s one of my focus areas at Hitachi Vantara,” says Patel. “How do we combine the power of the data coming in from OT and IoT? How can we provide insights to people in a heterogeneous environment if they don’t have time to go from one machine to another? That’s what it means to create a seamless data plane.”
Social responsibility includes taking a hard look at the organization’s carbon footprint and finding data infrastructure solutions that support emissions reduction goals. Hitachi Vantara estimates that emissions attributable to data storage infrastructure can be reduced as much as 96% via a combination of changing energy sources, upgrading infrastructure and hardware, adopting software to manage storage, and automating workflows—while also improving storage performance and cutting costs.
The hybrid cloud approach
While many organizations follow a “cloud-first” approach, a more nuanced strategy is gaining momentum among forward-thinking CEOs. It’s more of a “cloud where it makes sense” or “cloud smart” strategy.
In this scenario, organizations take a strategic approach to where they place applications, data, and workloads, based on security, financial and operational considerations. There are four basic building blocks of this hybrid approach: seamless management of workloads wherever they are located; a data plane that delivers suitable capacity, cost, performance, and data protection; a simplified, highly resilient infrastructure; and AIOps, which provides an intelligent automated control plane with observability across IT operations.
“I think hybrid is going to stay for enterprises for a long time,” says Patel. “It’s important to be able to do whatever you want with the data, irrespective of where it resides. It could be on-prem, in the cloud, or in a multi-cloud environment.”
Clearing up cloud confusion
The public cloud is often viewed as a location: a go-to place for organizations to unlock speed, agility, scalability, and innovation. That place is then contrasted with legacy on-premises infrastructure environments that don’t provide the same user-friendly, as-a-service features associated with cloud. Some IT leaders assume the public cloud is the only place they can reap the benefits of managed services and automation to reduce the burden of operating their own infrastructure.
The Download: China’s EV success in Europe, and ClimateTech is coming
This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.
Meet Europe’s surprising best-selling Chinese EV maker
China’s electric vehicle sector has been lavished with fame and attention. But its global ambitions hit a roadblock this month when the European Commission launched an investigation into whether Chinese-made EVs benefit from excessive government subsidies.
If the inquiry finds evidence for this claim, which experts say is very likely, it could result in increased import duties for Chinese-made EVs, which would likely make them less competitive in European markets.
Many of the Chinese brands that are causing concern are well-known names in China, like the established giant BYD and the promising startup Nio. But there’s one name in the mix you might not expect—former British luxury sports car maker MG. Read the full story.
Zeyi’s story is from China Report, MIT Technology Review’s weekly newsletter giving you the inside track on all things happening in tech in China. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Tuesday.
If you’re interested in reading more about China’s car sector, why not check out:
+ Europe is about to crack down on Chinese electric cars. The European Commission is set to launch an anti-subsidy investigation into Chinese automakers. Here’s what you need to know about the likely impact.
+ From generous government subsidies to support for lithium batteries, here’s how China managed to build a world-leading industry in electric vehicles.
+ China’s car companies are turning into tech companies. China has already won the race to electrify its vehicles. Now it’s pushing ahead and adding more features and services to attract new customers. Read the full story.
+ A race for autopilot dominance is giving China the edge in autonomous driving. Electric vehicle makers and AI companies are taking Tesla FSD-like systems to China, but it’s still out of reach for most consumers. Read the full story.
ClimateTech is coming
How can we build a sustainable, greener future? Next week, MIT Technology Review is holding our second annual ClimateTech conference to discuss the innovations accelerating the transition to a green economy.
ClimateTech is taking place at the MIT Media Lab on MIT’s campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on October 4-5. You can register for the event and either attend in-person or online, here—before it’s too late!
MIT Technology Review flash sale!
If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to MIT Technology Review to read more of our incisive reporting. We’re holding a flash sale for just 48 hours, allowing you to subscribe from just $8 a month.
Even better, you’ll receive a free print copy of our 10 Breakthrough Technologies of 2023 issue as well. Sign up today and save 17% off the full price.
I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.
1 Amazon is being sued by the FTC in a landmark monopoly case
It’s accused of using illegal tactics to stifle online competition. (Wired $)
+ Head honcho Andy Jassy is facing an uphill climb. (NYT $)
+ The Federal Trade Commission avoided calling to break Amazon up. (Bloomberg $)
2 OpenAI is seeking a new valuation
To the tune of between $80 billion and $90 billion, to be exact. (WSJ $)
+ ChatGPT is about to revolutionize the economy. We need to decide what that looks like. (MIT Technology Review)
4 Linda Yaccarino’s first 100 days at X have been a wild ride
Forget pressure from advertisers: managing Elon Musk is her biggest challenge. (FT $)
+ X appears to have disabled an election misinformation reporting measure. (Reuters)
5 YouTube rewarded a creator who livestreamed attacks on Indian Muslims
Hindu nationalist Monu Manesar has been linked to multiple killings this year. (WP $)
6 Microsoft wants to use nuclear energy to power its AI data centers
It’s looking to nuclear fission to keep those expensive centers ticking over. (CNBC)
+ We were promised smaller nuclear reactors. Where are they? (MIT Technology Review)
7 Maybe we didn’t need to learn to code after all
Generative AI is making it easier than ever to write code, even if it’s far from perfect. (The Atlantic $)
+ Learning to code isn’t enough. (MIT Technology Review)
8 Inside China’s brave online feminist revolution
The country’s burgeoning women’s rights movement is fighting back against a conservative society. (Rest of World)
9 Attempting to reverse your age is the preserve of the ultra-rich
Now they’re competing to win the ‘Rejuvenation Olympics.’ (Vox)
+ Eating fewer calories could help. (Economist $)
+ I just met the founders of a would-be longevity state. (MIT Technology Review)
10 Japan’s female rickshaw pullers are online celebrities
Social media has helped to drive an influx of female recruits. (Reuters)
Quote of the day
“Sellers pay. Shoppers get lower-quality search results for higher-priced products. Only Amazon wins.”
—The US Federal Trade Commision spells out its case accusing the e-commerce giant of unfair shopping practices, 404 Media reports.
The big story
Novel lithium-metal batteries will drive the switch to electric cars
For all the hype and hope around electric vehicles, they still make up only about 2% of new car sales in the US, and just a little more globally.
For many buyers, they’re simply too expensive, their range is too limited, and charging them isn’t nearly as quick and convenient as refueling at the pump. All these limitations have to do with the lithium-ion batteries that power the vehicles.
But QuantumScape, a Silicon Valley startup is working on a new type of battery that could finally make electric cars as convenient and cheap as gas ones. Read the full story.
We can still have nice things
+ Are America’s distinctive accents really dying out? Better ask Dolly Parton.
+ Lenny Kravitz’s gigantic scarf is back!
+ Trying to find the perfect time for a bathroom break during a movie? There’s an app for that.
+ On this day in 1964, the Beach Boys appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show performing this absolute tune.
+ This particular kind of jellyfish may not have a brain, but that doesn’t stop it from learning.
An inside look at Congress’s first AI regulation forum
It was leaked that you had an exchange with Elon Musk regarding the risks posed by AI. [Ed note: Musk said he had told the Chinese government that AI might eventually be able to overtake it, and Raji responded by questioning the safety of today’s driverless cars, like the autopilot feature in a Tesla.] Can you tell me more about that?
You know, it wasn’t just Elon. That was the one that got out. There was another CEO that was talking about curing cancer with AI, saying we have to make sure that it’s Americans that do that, and just narratives like that.
But first of all, we have medical AI technology that is hurting people and not working well for Black and brown patients. It’s disproportionately underprioritizing them in terms of getting a bed at a hospital; it’s disproportionately misdiagnosing them, and misinterpreting lab tests for them.
I also hope that one day AI will lead to cancer cures, but we need to understand the limitations of the systems that we have today.
What was it that you really wanted to achieve in the forum, and do you think you had the chance to do that?
I think we all had substantial opportunities to say what we needed to say. In terms of whether we were all equally heard or equally understood, I think that’s something that I’m still processing.
My main position coming in was to debunk a lot of the myths that were coming out of these companies around how well these systems are working, especially on marginalized folks. And then also to debunk some of the myths around solving bias and fairness.
Bias concerns and explainability concerns are just really difficult technical and social challenges. I came in being like, I don’t want people to underestimate the challenge.
So did I get that across? I’m not sure, because the senators loved saying that AI is gonna cure cancer.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the marketing terms and the sci-fi narratives and completely ignore what’s happening on the ground. I’m coming back from all of this more committed than ever to articulating and demonstrating the reality, because it just seems like there is this huge gap of knowledge between what’s actually happening and the stories that these senators are hearing from these companies.
What else I’m reading
- I just loved this story from Jessica Bennett at the New York Times about what it’s like to be a teen girl with a cell phone today. Bennett kept in touch with three 13-year-olds over the course of a year to learn about the ins and outs of their digital lives. Highly recommend!
- This social reflection on privacy by Charlie Warzel in the Atlantic has stuck with me for a few days. The story gets at the overwhelming questions we—certainly I—have about what we can do to preserve our privacy online.
- The United Nations General Assembly convened in New York this past week, and one big topic of discussion was, of course, AI. Will Henshall at Time did a deep dive into what we might expect from the body on AI regulation.
What I learned this week
A Disney director tried to use AI to create a soundtrack reminiscent of the work of symphonist Hans Zimmer—and came up disappointed. Gareth Edwards, director of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, told my colleague Melissa Heikkilä that he was hoping to use AI to create a soundtrack for his forthcoming movie about … AI, of course! Well, the soundtrack fell flat, and Edwards even shared it with the famous composer, who he says found it amusing.
Melissa wrote, “Edwards said AI systems lack a fundamentally crucial skill for creating good art: taste. They still don’t understand what humans deem good or bad.”
In the end, the real Zimmer wrote the melodies for Edwards’s upcoming movie, The Creator.
Europe is about to crack down on Chinese electric cars
In the long term, it could get to a point where BYD will be able to sell its cars profitably in Europe while still keeping the price lower than the cost of production for European auto companies, says John Lee, a Berlin-based researcher and director of the consultancy East West Futures. And that would spell doom for them, he adds: “If you can’t sell at a price [that’s] competitive with your rivals without actually losing money on production, then that’s a death spiral.”
The threat from Chinese competitors feels so urgent that observers say this could be a life-or-death moment for well-known European brands like Volkswagen, the world’s largest automaker.
“[The fall of Volkswagen] is an extreme scenario, but it’s not implausible, and then you have the cascading effects,” says Lee. “The auto sector in Europe is quite transnational. Parts are made in Eastern and Central Europe, with Germany as a hub. That means there’s a potential flow of effects to Poland, to Hungary, and other places that make components.”
Allegations of unfair competition
So far, the only official details known about the investigation are what von der Leyen said in her speech: “Global markets are now flooded with cheaper Chinese electric cars. And their price is kept artificially low by huge state subsidies.”
The burden will be on China to demonstrate that the price of Chinese EVs is not subsidized. That will be a hard lift, since it’s well known that continued state support has been a big factor in the success of China’s EV industry.
While the most explicit Chinese government subsidy—a one-time purchase credit for consumers—ended in 2022, there are many other implicit subsidies still in place in the country, says Mazzocco. Examples include below-market credit, below-market equity, negotiated rates on land leases, and ad hoc tax cuts given by local governments.
“A year ago, we tried to quantify [EV] industrial policy spending in several countries, and we found that below-market credit was the most significant instrument used in China, and it was massive relative to every other country,” she says. “So I think if they want to find subsidies, they will find subsidies.”
If the investigation does find that Chinese companies indeed have an unfair advantage, European officials could institute a higher import duty on Chinese EVs. A full investigation may last about a year, says Alicia Garcia-Herrero, chief economist for Asia Pacific at Natixis, an investment management firm, who has advised the European Commission in the past.