Jerry's 2015 Top Technology Trends
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It’s time again for my reflection on the top tech trends. Each year I outline the major directions that I see driving our segment of the market. This year, one thing is abundantly clear. The influence of cloud, mobile and analytics are not just approaching – they are
Over the past few years, we have discussed the opportunity around the emergence of new Systems of Engagement (Mobile, IoT, Social) and Systems of Insight (Analytics, Cognitive Computing). We further discussed how, together with existing Systems of Record, a new class of engaging applications have surfaced. Hence if I were to summarize the direction of these 2015 trends in a single picture, I see trends aiming “in the middle”, integrating information across these 3 systems, making it easy to rapidly build new apps that can enable companies reach and delight users “in the now”.
I will blog more about these individual topics in the upcoming weeks. So, without further ado, here are this year’s top trends (in no particular order):
A summary of each trend follows:
Cloud of Clouds
With cloud adoption growing every day, there is a fundamental question our industry must answer. Will vendors adopt proprietary approaches to cloud? Or will they learn the lessons of previous eras of computing and embrace open technologies and standards? I like to think of some vendors’ proprietary clouds as a Roach Motel – you can enter, but you can never check out. Said another way, their proprietary APIs lock-in applications to their environment and forevermore you will be bound to that cloud vendors whims.
We’re taking a different approach. Our cloud is built on open standards like OpenStack, CloudFoundry and OpenDaylight. We support the best technologies the open source world has to offer, such as Docker, NodeJS, Hadoop, and CouchDB. We give you the freedom to choose the right technologies for your needs. You run your workloads in the best environment for you, whether it’s in a public cloud, public-dedicated cloud or in your local, on-premise cloud. If we let you down in any way, you have the freedom to move your workload to another cloud which supports these standards… and with each passing month more and more vendors are adopting the standards mentioned above, providing good choices.
The vision of a “Cloud of Clouds” is built on the notion of standards and implies speed and flexibility to develop and move workloads to the place that make most business sense, based business constraints including economics and security considerations. The notion of Cloud of Clouds also implies that your clouds can work together. They can share information, pushing that information to that cloud which is closest to your end-user, enabling applications to respond to users context (e.g., location) in real time.
Simply put, SoftLayer, with its support for OpenStack is our foundation for our Cloud of Clouds. Add Bluemix, which is based on CloudFoundry, supporting a rich set of services and APIs, and you have the platform that is “mission control” for your Cloud of Clouds.
To make this vision a reality, two things are very important – integration and portability. Which leads to our next two topics...
The cloud is also transforming the landscape for integration. In the past, Application Integration, Data Integration, and B2B Integration were considered separate disciplines that required custom technologies and skills. Today, a new pattern of integration has emerged that cuts across these disciplines. Using this pattern, a business can convert their APIs and Data into gold, by rapidly externalizing system of record data and enriching it with real-time contextual data from mobile and IoT applications. The resulting Data sets and APIs provide a source for new engaging applications. I like to think that these new apps behave more like Uber and AirBnB versus the insurance companies that say in 15 mins they can save you 15%. The following integration patterns let’s you create apps that act in the “now”.
To implement this pattern we are providing a set of services in Bluemix. For “Connect”, we have our cloud integration service, which includes a secure cloud gateway based on DataPower technology. We are also introducing a new Node.js-based framework for creating connectors for a variety of enterprise and cloud data sources. For “Shape and Sync” we have the DataWorks services that enable data to be cleansed and shuttled from your Systems of Record to cloud-centric databases like dashDB and Cloudant. For “Expose” we are adding API and Data cataloging and management features to Bluemix. You can try our API management service today. Let me know what you think. For “Compose” we are building around Node-Red as our rapid prototyping and composition tool, enabling application flow to be quickly assembled from APIs.
This is going to be a very exciting year in the integration space. Stay tuned!
SOA has been a successful approach to building IT systems for years. The principles are as sound as ever, but in the cloud era, the characteristics of a service are evolving. 2015 might be the year that SOA becomes μSOA.
Martin Fowler provides a great definition for microservices:
Microservices are a modern way of designing services for composition at cloud scale. An application using this architecture might be composed of hundreds of microservices written by developers inside or outside the enterprise in programming languages of their choice. To the ears of traditional IT, this sounds like utter chaos. But that’s also the beauty of it. Instead of forcing the use of a programming language or environment for all of your services, use standards and good design to allow them to be built most effectively.
We are living this trend ourselves. Our cloud services are built on a foundation that we call Alchemy. It uses best-of-breed technology for building, scaling and operating microservices. And increasingly, an important part of that is the use of containers to make our services portable.
PaaS for Analytics
In 2014, Bluemix was launched with the tagline, “A platform where developers can act like kids in a sandbox.” As a developer myself, I love having a great place to play with code. But a sandbox is more fun with friends, so let’s invite Data Workers to the party.
Bluemix already has some powerful data capabilities for developers. We will widen the aperture of these technologies to make analytics available to a broader audience. An example of this is dashDB. With dashDB, a user can now deploy a data warehouse, populate it with information from a database or spreadsheet, and use built-in analytics on that data before their coffee is ready to drink. The best part is that a developer can execute SQL queries, a data scientist can execute R scripts, and a data analyst can create pivots and charts - all from the same instance.
For data workers to really get their hands dirty in this sandbox, they will also need to tools to operate on their data. With capabilities such as data loading, cleansing, validation, classification and masking, a developer and data worker can work more closely than ever before within a cloud PaaS. Imagine the castles they can build together in this new and improved sandbox.
Over the past year, I’ve noticed the concept of Systems of Engagement really resonates with clients. And the recipe that I often describe to build truly engaging systems is to use the Detect, Enrich, Perceive and Act steps. This model leads to apps that understand the context of the user. It’s not enough to know who the user is, but where they are and what is happening around them to bring the experience to the next level.
A great example of where innovation is happening in Context Computing is in the Internet of Things space. You might have seen my smart tie at Impact last year. We built an application that combined my biometric readings with twitter sentiment analysis and displayed the results on LEDs in my tie. We did all this with just a simple flows using one of my favorite tools – Node-RED.
But how can we extend far beyond a single user or device without exponentially introducing complexity? By using our Operational Decision Management capabilities, we can create domain specific models that bring insights to mere mortals. The power of these models is that describe a thing and the universe around it.
Here’s a table that shows an example of a domain model for automobiles:
With this dictionary of things and events, we can create simple rules that can operate on a single Car or gather insights from a fleet of vehicles to identify faults. This concept allows us to deliver more intelligent, contextually-aware capabilities easier than ever.
Mobilizing Business Processes
You probably noticed the IBM-Apple partnership that was announced in 2014. This was a huge milestone in the industry. As part of that partnership, we are producing iOS applications that deliver industry-specific capabilities in areas such as Banking, Retail, Travel, Insurance, Telecommunications and Government.
Let’s look at just one example from the first wave of applications – “Plan Flight.” This is an iOS app designed to help pilots with the key decisions they need to make before takeoff. For example, a pilot typically needs to estimate the fuel needed for a flight. Headwinds and air traffic have major impacts on the amount that will be needed and fuel expenses make up more than 30% of an airline’s operating expense. Plan Flight uses realtime weather information to make more accurate fuel estimates to increase safety and efficiency. That’s just one of many business processes that were built into well designed mobile apps that are a pleasure to use.
As we enable new mobile services, the need for omnichannel capabilities grows as well. A business needs to serve its customer effectively whether they are using a browser on a desktop, accessing the mobile app, or face to face with an employee. A content management system avoids duplication and provides the right information at the right time.
These are just some of the examples of how business processes are transforming to mobile-first designs. In addition to our collaboration with Apple, we are building deeper mobile capabilities into our Business Process Management and Portal offerings. The most effective business processes will be those that your customers and employees can accomplish wherever they are on the device of their choice.
Digital Payments and Currencies
Some people think of games as a low value distraction. While a great game may be a distraction, 9 of the top 10 grossing iOS apps of all time are games. That certainly sounds like high value to me. Games have also taught us lessons that apply equally well to other digital content.
Gamification borrows concepts from games, such as levels, leaderboards, achievements and challenges, to make activities more rewarding. These rewards can be purely intangible, such as receiving a badge for answering a question. They could also be tangible rewards, such as tokens redeemable for additional services. We offer a gamification service within Bluemix that you can try today. In the near future, you might be earning badges for using Bluemix itself.
Games have also pioneered the movement towards freemium apps. The majority of the top grossing games today are free to play and charge only users that want an advantage in the game or premium content. The digital currencies in these apps may use silly sounding units like gold coins or donuts, but make no mistake, they are just as important as dollars or euros. If your entire business is based on digital transactions, they need to be as reliable and secure those of a bank.
2015 will also see an explosion of new digital payment methods. The upcoming Apple Watch, NFC devices, and chip & pin credit cards will deliver a new generation of payment offerings. This is the time to build new payment capabilities that are more efficient and secure than the systems of the past.
Security and Privacy as a Differentiator
Some of the most serious security breaches ever occurred in 2014. Massive attacks occurred in retail, finance, entertainment and government showed that no digital presence is immune to the risks of these attacks. A single attack cost a retailer $150M in 2014, but there may be even larger long-term consequences. Consumers are significantly less likely to purchase
Consumers are also becoming more discerning about their private data. Free services often make money by selling user information to third parties. As the axiom goes, “if you’re not paying, then you are the product.” Many companies are now differentiating by explicitly not tracking user data.
Security and privacy are not overhead, but a major feature that allows a company to differentiate from its peers. In a recent conversation with a CIO, I heard him describe that he thought his company was using about 60 SaaS applications. After using IBM XForce he discovered over 950 were in use and several were being used to transmit confidential documents. How certain are you that you know all the places where your data is leaving your enterprise before it’s too late?
Cognitive Computing Everywhere
It’s been a very busy year for Watson. Over the last few months, the Watson team moved into a new headquarters in Manhattan, delivered services on Bluemix, and launched a number of cognitive solutions areas. Watson is working on everything from cooking to cancer treatment. We are still only at the beginning of the revolution that cognitive computing will bring.
Exposing Watson services in Bluemix is a major step forward. One of my favorite services is Watson User Modeling. After examining some of my blog posts, Watson concludes that Openness to Change is my most prominent value and that I have strong needs for Challenge, Self-Expression and Liberty. Imagine how you can use the insights from these types of services to make your business more effective. Think about how much better you can reach your customers with a deeper understanding of them.
Over the next year, you should expect to see Watson cognitive capabilities appearing in many new places. From visiting a doctor to writing code, every interaction can be improved with deep cognition.
IBM has always been a trusted partner for clients. We have always been a full service company that supports our hardware and software to make customers successful, and we will continue to do that. It’s in our DNA. But there’s a transformation underway with how we engage with an entirely new set of customers that are looking for self-service, low touch models of sales and support. As you’ve already begun to see, there’s a wide range of IBM software that you can buy not only from a sales rep, but using a credit card or free trial.
I recently had a great conversation with Julien Barbier of Docker about how they grew a vibrant community around their technology. Julien’s assertion is that your product and brand is not what you say it is, but what the community says about it. A company can nurture a community, but it should not seek to control it. I think Julien is right on the mark. An experience for an individual or their trusted colleague will carry much more weight than a direct advertisement. Successful companies should think of their customers not only as a source of revenue, but a viral salesforce that can drive sales across their networks.
In that vein, I’d like to share a story about an experience a colleague recently had. He was evaluating a SaaS offering by writing code to the platform’s APIs. As he was experimenting, he ran into a problem and took a 30 minute break for a meeting. He returned to an email from a developer at the SaaS company. They had noticed that my colleague had run into a problem, deployed a fix, tested verify that it worked, and invited him to email if he ran into any other problems.
Think about how powerful an experience this was. There was no support call or even a search for a fix. This is the bar of service that SaaS offerings should meet. Effective cloud services know what actions are performed on their systems, where faults occur, and what conditions produced those errors. We don’t need to wait for a bug to be opened. We can begin solving problems before users even have a chance to search for them.
-- So, those are my top trends for 2015. Now I’d like to hear from you. The thing that gets me excited to come to work every morning is being on this voyage with passionate colleagues who love technology. This list is merely the start of a conversation I want to have with you throughout the year.