July 1, 2018
By Paul Barker
Las Vegas, Nev. – The future is either clear or murky for 3,800 business leaders when it comes to the adoption of emerging technologies, results of a joint survey conducted by Dell Technologies and the Institute for the Future reveal.
Speaking here in late April at Dell Technologies World 2018, Alison Dew (pictured), the company’s chief marketing officer, outlined details of the study entitled Realizing 2030 that revealed just how much impact advances such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things are having on corporate planning initiatives.
Findings, said Dew, showed that half of those surveyed did not know what business they would be in five years. The other half could not predict what their industry would look during that same time period.
“While there is an incredible opportunity with digital transformation and while we see more than 80% of customers say that within five years they want to be a software-driven organization, we also want to acknowledge that there are a lot of unknowns in this space as well.”
What is known, according to a Realizing 2030 executive summary, is that society is “on the cusp of the next era of human-machine partnerships.
“These machines, fueled by increases in data, processing power and connectivity will open up new possibilities beyond our grasp today.
“The leaders we surveyed agree we’re on the verge of immense change. More than eight in 10 (82%) leaders expect humans and machines will work as integrated teams within their organization inside of five years. However, they’re divided by what this shift will mean for them, their business and even the world at large.”
Dew noted that humans and machines have been working together for a long time so that by itself is not “new news.
“What is new news is that paradigm is going to dramatically change,” she said. “Our interactions with machines are about to get a whole lot deeper with potentially life-changing consequences.”
An example of how dramatic it can and will be took place during an opening day keynote presentation by company founder and CEO Michael Dell, who brought Dew on stage midway through his speech.
Dell played a video clip about Newark, N.J.-based AeroFarms, a company he said is “showing us a new way to change the world.” Formed in 2004, it is currently building what it calls the world’s largest indoor farming facility and CEO and co-founder David Rosenberg, said it can grow anything.
“We’re doing it not only on an experimental level we are doing it on a commercial level. Our vision is to build farms in cities all over the world to allow everyone to have access to fresh, great-tasting food all year round.
“The fact we can grow plants using 95% less water and zero pesticides and as much as 390 times productivity per square foot as a field farmer, shows what technology can do. We are able to understand plants better than anyone ever in the history of farming and it is because of the data.”
It is, said Dell, an example of a changing transformation trend that “only we in the technology world saw coming – the convergence of data, connectivity and computing power all increasing exponentially and we began to envision a bold, new future that would come much sooner than most people imagined. Fast forward a few years and the secret of digital transformation has burst onto the public consciousness.
“Every customer I meet is reimagining how they use technology in every aspect of their operation to drive growth, new business models, customer relationships and new products and services. Technology is now at the very top of the agenda for business leaders everywhere.
“Today, technology strategy is business strategy and all of us – the nerds, the engineers, the techies – we’re at the centre of the conversation.”
Dell added that digitally-driven businesses are not just the new normal, they are the new mandatory: “IT transformation comes down to modernizing your infrastructure to support highly automated processes. The result is that IT transforms from being a cost centre to a profit centre.”
Infrastructure and network announcements included VMware Inc. outlining what it called its “vision for the future of networking,” with the launch of the Virtual Cloud Network.
The company said the new offering, which consists of the VMware NSX networking and security portfolio, will “enable organizations to create a digital business fabric for connecting and securing applications, data, and users across the entire network in a hyper-distributed world.”
The NSX portfolio includes:
“As enterprises choose to run more applications in public clouds, the parameters of the data centre are being redrawn,” said Brad Casemore, IDC’s research vice president of data centre networks.
“In practical terms, the data centre — where applications and data reside — is no longer exclusively an on-premises entity. It’s now inherently distributed, and that means the networks that support and deliver increasingly critical applications must be similarly transformed.
VMware said in a release that “organizations are embarking on digital transformation to create better experiences for customers, clients, and employees, and drive better business outcomes. These efforts introduce a new level of networking and security complexity as organizations move from centralized data centres, to hyper distributed applications and centers of data at the edge.”
Pat Gelsinger, CEO of VMware said that in terms of the physical architecture, networking designs from the past are totally inadequate for the networking future.
“We need to change that in a fundamental and dramatic way,” he said. “This is the picture that we see: It’s across geographies, it’s across a range of services and multiple providers including private cloud data centres, hosted environments and many of our cloud partners and native cloud services.
“It is a very different world from the past. There are no physical edges to grasp hold of anymore so it has to be architected in. It has to be agile and flexible and be done in software. If you think about the simple world of the past it was bound by physical edges. We had physical boundaries to where you put firewalls and data centres and how you get traffic in and out of that world. Well, frankly that has been blown out.
As for AI, in his keynote Dell noted that if it is the rocket ship then, data is the fuel.
In an interview with Connections+, Kash Shaikh, vice president of cloud and solutions at Dell EMC, said the two are intrinsically related.
“The more data you have is a good thing, but then you need a way to intelligently process it in order to drive meaningful insights,” he said. The two are related because AI generates a lot of data. It’s a combination of having the data and having the processing power that is now available. AI has been around for 50 years. It’s a combination of these two or three storms of IoT, data availability as well as processing power, which is much more cost-effective. Combined, they are creating this perfect storm for AI, IoT and data.”
Jay Boisseau, AI and HPC technology strategist with Dell EMC, defined Machine Learning as a subset of AI and the approach that has “gotten by far the most traction in terms of real results. Deep learning is the subset of machine learning uses deep neural networks.”
He said that while companies are in the early days of determining how they can use AI within their organization, there is no doubt it is here to stay and continue to get better.
“Historically, we have had these AI summers and AI winters, but it was really more interesting academically than it was for enterprises and real-world application when there really wasn’t enough data to truly train a deep neural network to do something practical and useful.”
The turning point, said Boisseau, came in 2012 for DL in particular when Jeffery Hinton (of the University of Toronto) in the ImageNet competition “showed that a Cuda-optimized GPU-powered AI/Deep Learning system could recognize objects with remarkable accuracy and up to that point, people did not know when we were going to hit that threshold.
“The fact there is enough data and computing power now is why “we are not going to have an AI winter.
The amount of data in the past was such that the summers were just due to people doing research that was considered cool. The amount of data is not going to decrease.”