2019 and the Innovation Inflection Point

By Chris Wolf, CTO, Global Field and Industry at VMware

The new year is an ideal time to reflect on what’s possible—and make plans to transform possibility into reality. In 2018, innovations like automation and intelligence changed how we live and work. We are more connected to family, friends and coworkers than ever. If you step back and consider the one commonality in how our personal and work lives have dramatically changed, it’s software.

Don’t get me wrong. Manufacturers drive significant innovations in hardware. Bringing artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) toward the mainstream is one of many examples. That said, without software, we can never be truly dynamic. We will be forced to innovate, while adhering to a number of unnecessary constraints. With software, the fabrics on which our applications reside can be just as dynamic as the applications we build.

In 2019, we should look to leverage software and mature software-defined technologies to innovate for the expectation of change. Doing so makes us more agile and secure. It also removes many barriers that inhibit innovation. With that in mind, let’s explore some of the key technology trends that lead us toward a world of boundless innovation.

Cloud is No Longer Thought of as a Place, but an Operating Model

In my 2018 predictions, I discussed the notion of cloud services growing up and moving out. Decoupling cloud services from cloud data centers isn’t a matter of right or wrong. But it’s purely born out of pragmatism. There are a number of constraints that are driving the continued investment in applications and services in the data center or at the edge. Those include data volume, regulatory constraints, application dependencies and environmental constraints among others. When it comes to analytics, there are many use cases where the sheer volume of data created each day doesn’t lend itself to be shipped to a cloud data center.

In short, it’s easier to move an application or service to the data than vice versa. 2019 will allow us to continue to apply a cloud mindset to a broader set of use cases, inclusive of:

·         Data

·         Analytics

·         ML

·         Inferencing

·         Automation

These services can be consumed and managed as a cloud service, but run nearly anywhere.

Edge Innovation Moves Toward the Mainstream

I meet with many IT leaders who want to drive more innovation through intelligence and automation everywhere they operate. One key challenge for many has been answering the question: “So, where do I start?”

As enterprises learn more from the successes of their peers, that starting point will come into better focus. As innovations continue at the edge, we’ll see an expanded need for heterogeneous management and security of our edge infrastructure and things. In addition, organizations will face a number of strategic directions for edge computing.

One option is investing in vertical solutions from individual cloud providers. Another option is to invest in a flexible infrastructure supporting applications and services from multiple providers, as well as the open source projects and apps. Here at VMware, we’ll continue to focus on providing the flexibility and choice you require, while giving you a software-defined edge for:

1. Resiliency.

2. Security.

3. Management.

4. Operational consistency.

The Expectation of Change Becomes a Core Architectural Principal

Preparing edge sites to be more intelligent, efficient and automated requires a commitment to build systems that can easily ingest new solutions. With a fully virtualized edge, you can add new applications, cloud-enabled edge services and network and security services by deploying additional software or simply updating existing policies. To that end, software-defined wide area networks will continue to see mass scale adoption in 2019. In addition, hyperconverged infrastructure solutions—locally managed or delivered and managed as a cloud service—will continue to grow in popularity. Sure, people could rack and stack servers and certify custom solutions for every application. But in short, IT people have more important work to do than to build custom hardware solutions that solve the same problems as competitors.

Static Network and Security Models Are Coming to an End

It’s impossible to combat a highly dynamic and continually evolving security threat landscape with increased layers of static networks and security.

Our networks and security need to be more dynamic than the threats we face. We need the flexibility to quickly deploy software anywhere business needs require. Organizations want to steadily move away from legacy approaches to protecting their networks and data. Because of this, we expect to see greater adoption of adaptive microsegmentation technologies in 2019.

In 2019, network virtualization and SD-WAN will further reach the mainstream. Network function virtualization (NFV) will also begin to make serious inroads in the telco and service provider space. Without these technologies, your ability to quickly deploy applications anywhere and dynamically adjust your network and security defenses will remain extremely limited. Granted, it’s easy to read an article about the need to have a more dynamic network and security posture. In actuality, implementing such a significant change is a challenge. That’s why it’s necessary to start small.

Piloting network virtualization and adaptive microsegmentation technologies with greenfield applications gives you an easy way to get started and to build operational. You can also begin building your own knowledge and best practices for expanding these technologies more broadly by the end of the year.

Achieving the Balance Between Velocity and IP

Cloud computing showed us that many business benefits come from the sheer velocity and scale we can get from public cloud providers. At the same time, provider-specific cloud services tend to be very sticky, requiring an organization to essentially forge long-term strategic relationships with several cloud providers. That’s not a bad thing.

At VMware, we have a number of strategic cloud partners that run many of the apps and services that we consume internally. That said, like most organizations, we also build software solutions that are core to who we are. And it’s strategically imperative for us to maintain flexibility and control of that IP. To that end, we now see many organizations become far more strategic in how they govern the applications they build. For example, you may decide to build the core part of an application stack where you require ownership and control of the intellectual property should be built and managed using kubernetes.

Containers alone provide flexibility for applications. But, it’s also critical to have an infrastructure for those applications that can run practically anywhere in the world. Otherwise, you may find yourself with a number of disparate operational silos managing small sets of applications, leading to higher costs and complexity. Solving that problem continues to be a big part of what we do at VMware.

Striving to Move Closer to Boundless Innovation

We must always prioritize potential projects each year. As you evaluate new investments, it’s a perfect time to determine how those investments can make your organization more agile, efficient and secure. If they can’t, then it’s fair to question if the investment or project truly aligns with your business imperatives. Architecting with the expectation of change and striving to software-define your application infrastructure will make you a more innovative, secure and efficient enterprise. I look forward to partnering with you and working closely with many of you on our shared journey this year.

 

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