From big picture developments like the emergence of fully orchestrated capabilities to manage workloads across public clouds, to more focused things like the growth of Augmented Reality headsets in business, Dell Technologies takes a stab at projecting the near-term adoption of futuristic technologies.
Emerging technologies will do more than emerge in 2018. They will have an increasingly significant impact on our lives. That’s the view of Dell Technologies. In an extension of a report – the “Next Era of Human-Machine Partnership” – the company published last summer jointly with the Institute for the Future, Dell has made a series of projections about the impact of these technologies in the year ahead.
So where to begin? Dell notes that hybrid cloud has been moving towards multi-cloud, but that true multi-cloud federation hasn’t yet been realized. That will change this year, with the emergence of ‘mega-clouds’ that will integrate multiple public and private clouds into a holistic system.
“What we already have today is the ability to move workloads compatible with one on-prem platform to a compatible target off-prem – within an IaaS space,” said Matt Baker, SVP of Strategy and Planning at Dell EMC. “Many enterprises are well along in SaaS utilization. They still tend to struggle managing the totality of that environment, however. We have seen the emergence of data siloes in different clouds, and from one SaaS application to another, and customers still don’t have a seamless way to adapt that.”
Multiple players acre actively working to bring this about, to create multi-cloud innovations in networking, to move data between clouds, in storage, to place data in the right cloud, in compute, to optimize processing of the workloads), and in orchestration, to link networking, storage and compute together across clouds. It all involves artificial intelligence and machine learning to bring unprecedented amounts of automation.
“I think we are still on this journey,” Baker said. “We are beginning to see the emergence of new solutions in different elements of this, but we don’t yet have the broader orchestration that lets us manage workloads across all the solutions that are out there.”
That’s clearly coming, and we may yet see it this year, leaving this as one of the most likely predictions to see realized in 2018. Another is already being realized –or should be.
“Everyone needs to have their eyes wide open, and sweat the small stuff,” Baker said. “Everything these days is increasingly interconnected. In our rush to implement things, we have tended to neglect some security and key governance steps.”
The Target breach, for example, occurred when attackers used credentials to log into an improperly-secured third-party HVAC system.
“This is a reminder that the environment is getting more complicated, and not less complicated,” Baker stated. “This problem is not new, but it is getting harder. Organizations need to make sure that small failures do not lead to major crises. If they are ignored, they can create significant challenges for a business.”
Some of the other predictions are admittedly more futuristic. Dell projects – over the next few years, not immediately – that AI will be increasingly used to do thinking tasks, in the same way that the original Industrial Revolution replaced many of the tasks that skilled and semi-skilled workers did with their hands.
Baker said that this won’t mean that knowledge workers will be displaced in droves, and pointed to MathWorks’ MATLAB platform, which provides a numerical computing environment for engineers and scientists, as a very early example of this type of change.
“The original Industrial Revolution didn’t happen all at once,” Baker stated. “There wasn’t complete and utter dislocation immediately. What we will see here is increased use of machine learning approaches to better forecast. Like MATLAB, this will start in fairly simple ways, and will be able to do things much faster with far greater accuracy than we have now.”
Another prediction is an intensification in intelligence in the Internet of Things. AI in the IoT is of course here today. Dell, however, believes that 2018 will see great leaps in embedding near-instant intelligence in IoT-enhanced cities, organizations, homes, and vehicles. More immediate examples will be cars routinely booking themselves in for a service, informing the garage what needs to be done and scheduling their own software updates.
“Today, we have smart things, but not smart interconnected things in all cases,” Baker stated. “We can better combine them with Big Data analytics, and refine what the sensors are saying so we can both update and enhance the things at the edge. We are now able to better program things in the field to operate autonomously and in real time. That’s where the world is going.”
While Virtual Reality [VR] headsets have gotten most of the buzz, Dell predicts a significant jump in adoption of headsets for Augmented Reality [AR], not VR, whose growth for now is pretty much limited to gaming and entertainment. AR has much broader commercial application.
“AR headsets are interesting for environments where quick recall of instructions is very valuable,” Baker said. “Industries that will benefit from it include engineering, architecture and construction – really any industry which has procedures as part of work routines or requires regular training. AR – both in headsets and handsets – provides a way to overlay important facts. I don’t see a limit to where this could be of use. Think of how it would have practical applications for an airline mechanic, for example.”
Dell also believes 2018 will start to see organizations begin to leverage machine learning to really improving the customer experience, in which the present system where chatbots assume many low level customer service functions gives way to a system in which humans and automated intelligent virtual agents will work together, as one team. It’s an evolution from that first generation of automated customer interactions where the big appeal to organizations was saving money.
“I think a lot of folks have learned the lessons about taking just a cost approach to customer care,” Baker said. “If you just try and cut costs, and don’t look at customer satisfaction you can get in a lot of trouble.”
Other 2018 projections involve an increase in AI being applied to hiring and promotion procedures to screen for conscious and unconscious bias, and VR being used to facilitate large numbers of people being able to watch players play e-sports and video games. It’s hard to see the latter increasing much more than it already has in the last two years. With Las Vegas casinos festooned with banners advertising playoffs for video games like League of Legends, there already seems to be no shortage of people who prefer watching other people play games to playing them themselves.