The Next Big Thing
Posts about next generation technologies and their effect on business.

Will we need to update Moore’s law with the coming innovations...?

memory.jpgI was in an exchange with someone this week where we were talking about technology advances and some of the exponential ‘laws’ of IT. One of those is Moore’s law of transistor density. It is definitely useful, but maybe transistor density no longer has the meaning or breadth of relevance it used to?

 

For storage, it can take many transistors to store a one or a zero. But with Memristor or some of the other technologies that will someday compete with today’s memory circuits, they will not use transistors. Will we need to move to the density of 'holding either a zero or a one' instead?

 

Storage is just the start of the shift in computing circuits that are likely.

Data Center Futures - a look back and a look ahead

Computing factory.pngEarlier this month Baseline magazine came out with a set of Predictions on the 2025 Data Center.  It made me reflect on how data centers changed in the last 10 years.

 

It was about 10 years ago that I wrote a Data Center of the Future speech for the rededication for one of EDS’ (now HP’s) data center complexes.

 

One thing I found interesting in the speech is that the computer in my house is still running at 3.4GHz (even though I’ve replaced it twice since then), but data storage on the device has gone up significantly. The speech also talked about the advent of cloud computing and the kinds of automation that are common today, as well as big data applications and a hint about the Internet of Things. In fact I didn’t see anything in the speech that was totally off base with the issues of today.

 

This new analysis from Baseline is dominated by energy production and consumption. This energy infrastructure dominating the computing capabilities is an interesting shift on where data center innovation will be focused in the future – assuming they are right. That’s why HP has been focused on Moonshot as an alternative compute delivery platform. Energy consumption of data centers is a problem that is not going to go away without some significant innovation.

Facilitating a session on the Next Generation CIO

CIO.pngThis past week, I facilitated a session at a CIO conference in LA. The focus of the session I facilitate was The Next Generation CIO. Before we got started I had a brief introduction about the changes taking place from my view as a chief technologist perspective.  Here is a summary of my kick-off comments:

 

It seems today that you can’t pick up an IT magazine or listen to a conference keynote without someone lamenting the state of the relationship between the CIO and the business or IT’s capabilities to generate new value for corporations.

Let’s face it things have changed in recent years. For the past few decades we've been successful deploying and maintaining the systems of record that have been the backbone of decision-making for organizations. We’ve built up layer upon layer of successful projects to the point where we’re calcified by our own success. Unfortunately this means that it is common to hear people talk about having 80% of their budget consumed before the year even starts (just keeping the lights on) with little to nothing left over to add new business value. It may be as important what we stop doing as what we can start.

 

Having stated that we’ve had all this success, it is good to recognize that almost all the solutions in production today were built with a scarcity assumption. There was never enough data, storage, network or computing capacity.

In many cases, those limitations have been overcome and we live in a world of abundant IT capabilities. We now can take that abundance of data and computing capacity and use analytic techniques to perform complex tasks like context recognition and sentiment analysis – tasks that just a few years ago were the domain of human knowledge workers. We can now begin to recognize ‘normal’ situations and automate them, freeing up people to focus on the anomalies and turn them into opportunities.

 

 

Infrastructure as a Service is an example of a business process we're all familiar with. At its core it is the business process of instantiation and monitoring of virtual machines. Today, it has been automated to a large extent. What we can do today is just the tip of the iceberg of change headed our way as even greater IT capabilities allow us to take these techniques and apply them throughout the business. Instead of automating VM instantiation, we should be able to automate hiring personnel or even most of the middle management role in some organizations.

 

This abundance perspective can fundamentally shift how value is generated and the role of IT within organizations. If we don’t understand and capitalize on these technology shifts to address the business shifts underway, others will come in and eat our lunch.

 

With this as a starting point, we had a very active discussion covering a wide range of topics some of which were:

  •          Can is really be called Shadow IT if the CIO helps the business by applying their expertise to help steer, rather than running alongside and trying to slow it down?
  •          What can we do to help our people transition from traditional IT to a newer more flexible and business centric approach? Unfortunately, not all of them will be able to make the transition.
  •          What do CIOs need to do to sharpen the sword, for themselves and their people? One of the key points of this discussion was spending time with the business. Live it.
  •          Don’t strive for perfection – be flexible and enable the business to adjust as needed.

I had to draw the session to a close when time ran out but afterward there were a number of clusters that were still talking – and that discussion was likely more important than the discussion of the bigger group.

Grading my predictions for 2013

grading predictions.pngAt the end of every year that I’ve been making annual predictions, I grade my predications made in the previous December

(200620072008200920102011, 2012). It's time to look at 2013. 2013 has been the start of a turnaround for HP. We’re not out of it all yet, but we’re definitely making progress. In a way, the same thing could be said about the economy and the industry as a whole.

 

I said that 2013 would be a year of expectation -- changing the very foundation of how IT is judged. HP’s efforts around the new style of IT attests to that and many of the trends I talked about in 2012 (and earlier) began to generate business value.

 

I’ll grade myself with the following scale again this year:

A: Big changes during the year that are having wide effect.

B: Notable progress through the year and isolated areas of significant impact.

C: Progress with some impact

D: Little progress or impact – but work still taking place

F: No progress or the concept abandoned in any commercial sense.

 

Grade

Prediction

Rational

A

Organizations will have a higher expectations of security based on what everyone has experienced and learned. The battle over Internet censorship and control will reach new heights in 2013.

Thanks to the Snowden issue, this one definitely came out big, although in a way none of us may have expected.

C

Software defined networks will make communications as virtualized and flexible as the computing infrastructure. This versatility will become an expectation.

I facilitated a discussion on SDN back in September and throughout our talk it was clear that progress has been made, but we’re still only scratching the surface.

A

IT organizations will expand their definition of “customer” and their analytics to include suppliers, partners, consumers and anything/one that can make a difference

Although Big Data was not new in 2013, it definitely started to penetrate even the most slow to adopt organization’s thinking. There is definitely progress being made, although I still wonder about the bias issue.

B

We can expect to see bigger data and even bigger storage, with copious amounts of information coming from more sensors in more places. Organizations will no longer be satisfied with using only 3-5% of the data available. Beyond there being more data, the information collected will be of a wider variety (including video, sound…) so transforming the information from one format to another and back will be increasingly important.

This is a case of definite progress being made but I am not sure organizations are yet using double digit percentages of the information available to them.

B

The whole concept of ‘In Memory’ computing will be up for a shift in expectations for where and how it is used.

SAP Hana (probably the most notable of the large commercial applications in this space) is now being looked at seriously for a wide range of database applications. It is not too widespread but HP and SAP are definitely making inroads.

D

Widespread acceptance of new and improved NFC capabilities for payment and identity. The Internet of Things (IoT) will become just the Internet. Individuals will be able to add IoT capabilities independent of the original manufacturer, if desired. Although enterprises may still be crawling their way to the IoT, consumers will embrace IoT in 2013.

Although the Internet of Things is real, it has not made the progress I expected it to make in 2013. The consumer space has not really moved all that much more quickly than the Enterprise space. Sure there are devices and applications, but are they really having the impact they should.

D

The availability of different disruptive display technologies in 2013 to shift our thinking about where and when a display is needed (or even possible).

Although there are some new interface approaches and techniques, displays have not really shifted significantly in 2013.

D

One of the other core shifts in expectation will be around simplicity and the use of automation to focus attention and automate more business processes. The concept of human augmentation of automation will be significantly less foreign at the end of 2013 than it is today.

This is another case where there has been some progress, but not nearly as much as I’d hoped. Human augmented automation is about as foreign to strategic planning now as it was in 2012.

C

Enterprises will begin to address the issue that most of the apps in production can’t really unleash the power of the cloud. 2013 should see new tools and techniques to address this potential.

Application portfolio management is definitely part of a move to greater value in IT, but I’d say the adoption is only slightly more than 2012.

C

IT will begin to see ways to virtualize the mobile experience in new, secure and innovative ways.

Once again there has been progress, but it has primarily been incremental in nature. No radically new devices or approaches have come on the scene, although HP has services that understand virtualization in the mobile space, they are just not yet in demand.

B

The skills within the organization will be a constraint on value generation. Gamification, as an example, is a skill that will be recognized and move hand-in-hand with strategic change.

I do believe that gamification and its understanding by organizations shifted significantly in 2013, but that might just be because I kept talking with people about it.

C

Using the contextual information available from big data and the need for attention engineering, individuals and corporations will have greater expectation on how information is delivered to them.

Although to most businesses the expectations on information delivery is changing, I don’t think it has made significant change from the approach used in 2012.

B

There will also be a shift in how products are personalized as 3D printing moves out of limited use and becomes significantly more mainstream with some parts of the world having 3D printing capabilities as a local service. 

2013 was a good year for 3D printing. Most people have heard about it, even if they have not held something that has been through a 3D printing process. Commercial entities have begun to embrace the possibilities.

D

Implementation of IPV6 is going to be a focus in 2013.

Now there are those who are pushing back and saying they may never need to go to IPV6, the workaround are good enough.

D

Realization that automation is the new off-shore, specifically in development

I don’t believe this moved much in 2013. Very few organizations use significant automation techniques in the development space.

 

Based on these scores, my predictions for 2013 were not too conservative. My personal goal is to get close to a C+. If I get too high a grade, I am not trying to stretch my thinking (or yours for that matter) enough.

 

My view is the same as when I finished up my post in 2011:

 

“Having said all that, it is a great time to be in IT. Most of our concerns are currently driven by an overabundance of capabilities that most organizations have not tapped into effectively. Those who can have the vision will be in for quite a ride this year as they look to do more with more.”

 

I should have my predictions for 2014 out by the middle of December.

Data, the lifeblood of the enterprise

data lifeblood.jpgEven though object-oriented techniques and analytics have been around since the last century, today they are being applied and thought about in whole new ways. Technologies are enabling objects to interact with monitoring, analytics, and control systems over a diverse range of networks and on a plethora of devices. Computers are embedded in devices and rarely thought of as devices themselves, by most people.

 

This more connected and action-oriented approach will expand the reach and impact of information technology systems, impacting business value generation, applications expectations, and use cases where IT hasn’t really been focused effectively before.

 

One of the exciting aspects of this intelligent edge approach to the business use of IT is that the software will enable greater control of the physical world, not just the digital one. This means less latency and more efficient use of resources (including human attention). For many, this started in the consumer space, and is only now being embraced within business.

 

The importance of this information and its integration into the business means that the focus on security will need to increase, protecting the data as well as the control data streams. This flow will become like the blood flow of the human body, if it is interrupted or somehow contaminated – bad things happen.

 

With gamification techniques, this information flow can be used to adjust human behaviors as well as machines. How organizations think about and deal with data is already changing.

 

Everyone needs to get comfortable with:

  1. The data sets we’re working with today will look trivial within the relatively near future. Storage technology will continue to get larger and cheaper.
  2. We’ll keep the data longer and continue to generate new value from the data in use today. Data is a corporate asset and we need to treat it as such.
  3. Data scientists will be in high-demand and business schools will branch into this area in a big way, if they haven’t already.
  4. The conflict between real-time access to information and the security implications will continue to be a concern
  5. The use of cloud techniques will mean that organizations will need to start feeling comfortable with moving the computing to the data more often than the data to the computing. The pipes are big, but not that big.
  6. The diversity of devices used to access the information and the locations they are accessed from will continue to increase. BYOD is not about devices.
  7. Master data and metadata management are critical skills to get the most out of big data efforts. Even if they can’t be synchronized, they need to be understood.

 

We have the computing and bandwidth capabilities, it is just our imaginations on how to use it that limits us.

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About the Author(s)
  • Steve Simske is an HP Fellow and Director in the Printing and Content Delivery Lab in Hewlett-Packard Labs, and is the Director and Chief Technologist for the HP Labs Security Printing and Imaging program.
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