Technology Predictions for 2018: The End of the Beginning

This article is a cross-post from the Radius blog, view the article here.

Many in the industry agree that we are in the midst of a new industrial revolution, but to reach a time when automation, augmented reality, and analytics driven by artificial intelligence becomes mainstream, a convergence of technologies is required.

As we enter 2018, the required convergence is happening. Cloud services are not constrained to cloud data centers and have the freedom to run nearly anywhere. What we will see in the next year will set the stage for the decade to come. 2018 marks the end of the beginning of a new industrial revolution. The parts are in place to innovate incredible new solutions that will significantly alter how we live and work.

While many changes have arrived or are coming, let’s examine a few predictions and perspectives.

The Trillion Dollar Snowflake Industry Faces Disruption
Several market analysts and observers have valued IT Services as a nearly trillion-dollar industry. Services are not going away; in fact, services are becoming more critical than ever. However, the expectations for the value services provide are changing significantly.

Organizations today increasingly look to invest in services that provide business value and differentiation. There is little debate that infrastructure-as-code is a fundamental requirement for business agility, scalability, dynamic security, and rapid recovery today. That said, infrastructure-as-code can be consumed as a cloud service or deployed on-premises via modular, hyper-converged solutions such as VMware Cloud Foundation. To that end, organizations are increasingly realizing that there is little business value in working with a provider to mix and match a custom hardware set to arrive at an infrastructure snowflake. Instead, many organizations will opt to buy infrastructure like they buy servers—based on cost, SLA, and support, so long as the integrations to the solution are open so as not to create lock-in. This is a fundamental principle in our approach to globally consistent infrastructure-as-code.

As the services industry evolves, there will be inevitable winners and losers. The winners will still create snowflakes to a degree, but the uniqueness they create will differentiate a business, instead of simply creating a unique solution to a problem that every business must solve (such as IT infrastructure). Services value could come from interconnecting sensors, analytics, and automation to create rich customer experiences. For example, this might include issuing a notification to a branch manager that a high-value customer has just walked in. It could include bringing services closer to the point of data creation or application consumption in order to provide a faster response to data-driven events or to offer a superior consumer experience.

As we enter 2018, traditional IT services organizations will need to ask themselves, “Which side of history do I want to be on?” Innovators and differentiators will shape the future, while the laggards will remind us of the outdated and costly practices of the past.

Cloud Services Grow Up and Move Out
Prior to 2018, public cloud services were born and nurtured in the nests that are the public cloud data centers distributed around the world. For all of the agility and velocity that public clouds provide, restricting public cloud services to the constraints of the locations of public cloud data centers is still a limiting factor.

In many cases, data analytics need to live at the physical locations where data is created (e.g., factories, airplanes, distribution centers, branch offices) because it is not possible to move what can be as much as a petabyte of data to a cloud for processing and analytics. Decisions often need to be made in real time, or regulatory or privacy constraints on data limit its portability. Furthermore, the rise of augmented reality applications requires data and application services to be extremely close to the point of application consumption.

The bottom line is that organizations want the speed and flexibility of cloud services but need them to come out to the edge—where the digital and physical worlds intersect—to meet business requirements. VMware was early to address this concern in 2017 in announcing our AWS Greengrass on VMware vSphere preview. The cloud will no longer be constrained to hyperscale data centers. Cloud services are leaving their nest and migrating to anywhere there is sufficient compute capacity to allow them to operate near data, devices, machines, and people. This move of cloud services to the edge will create the capability for disruption by delivering a superior user experience to competitors, and it will fuel a new generation of cloud innovators.

From a strategic perspective, the emergence of cloud and microservices at the edge opens doors for accelerated innovation. You have more tools and services at your disposal at the point where data is created and applications are consumed. We no longer think about the cloud as a place where applications need to run, but rather as an operational mindset that can be applied practically anywhere.

Security Must be Agile and Dynamic to Protect Apps, Data and Services—No Matter Where They Run
As companies move applications closer to the edge, and thus closer to the consumer, this will create opportunities and challenges.

For application developers, moving their application closer to the consumer than a competitor’s application provides advantages such as a more responsive user experience (critical for augmented reality). Real-time data analytics and associated automation at the edge will change everything from how we board planes to how doctors perform surgery. This is a tremendous opportunity, and in the next five-plus years it will yield the next generation of disruptive innovators.

This shift also gives rise to a new set of security challenges. With applications, services, and data everywhere running on a multitude of platforms and being consumed from a myriad of devices, our approach to security must fundamentally change. Let’s face it—the threats ahead of us are increasingly sophisticated and dynamic. The only way to combat those threats is with an approach to security that is more agile and dynamic than the threats we face. That must include software-defined security that has no hardware constraints to scale, end-to-end encryption, and fundamentally new ways to find malware, even before a known signature is created.

This approach to security is a key focus we’ll see the entire industry ecosystem rally around in the near future, including our own innovations with solutions such as VMware AppDefense™ and VMware NSX-T Distributed Network Encryption.

Remember When We Used to Have to Do It That Way?
The emergence of the cloud continues to change the competitive landscape. Where once you needed people with coding skills to build compelling solutions, now business users can build these technology solutions themselves. For example, my 14-year-old son can easily customize automation from his Amazon Echo with little coding skills and basic knowledge of AWS Lambda Functions.

As the technology evolution continues to rapidly accelerate, so will our need to almost redefine ourselves as IT professionals. Gone are the days when a few skills could last your entire career. Like the innovations we provide, we too must continue to redefine what it is that makes us important. All technologists are builders at heart. We will never stop building, and with the larger building blocks we now have at the start of 2018, we are ready to build more and build faster than ever before.

Hang on tight. Our ride through 2018 is going to be fun.

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