Monday, January 16, 2017

Future trends in Hardware for the Enterprise and the Consumer

When I wrote about the un-happenings for 2017 – technologies that will not live up to expectations, it triggered a chain of messages to create a list for hardware trends; many dig hardware, beautiful to look at, touch, feel, status symbol for some and necessity for many. Consumer hardware is evolving rapidly with quick replacements annually or at least every two years, a vicious cycle. On the enterprise front, the detachment from hardware has been slow and steady since the advent of Cloud Computing and literally Everything as a Service.

At the turn of the century what started as Application Service Providers (ASP) transformed and spawned multiple avatars: Infrastructure, Platform, Applications, and Storage as a Service followed by the Network. Not satisfied, then came Software Defined Storage, Network, Data Center and as a combo they became Software Defined Everything ! Enterprise Hardware has thus been disrupted time and again taking advantage of refresh cycles – a trend that started with desktop/laptop refresh with desktop virtualization, now creating an Infrastructure Identity crisis.

Every road warrior’s primary device has been shrinking from the laptop to the tablet to smartphone to phablets and now hybrid devices – the tablet and laptop rolled into one. The future may probably do away this need too with smartphones packing in increasing power rivalling mid-range portable computers; connect the phone to a large screen and keyboard/mouse combo via Bluetooth and you are ready to roll. Foldable keyboards have been around for a while, the advent of foldable screens will bring the next disruption.

Public WIFI services are expanding footprint globally almost to the extent of becoming ubiquitously present; security solutions are evolving to protect the nomads from being attacked as long as they follow some basic discipline. Virtual private networks across the public infrastructure and hotspots is not too far behind; some providers already offer the ability to create a segmented private secure network on their services. It is a matter of time that enterprises will no longer need to deploy WIFI solutions on campus.

Bigger trends can be seen in the immersive solutions with hardware in our lives enabled by startups and large enterprise offerings. VR is already getting embedded into smartphones, number of sensors increasing and making their presence felt on personal devices (apart from the phone the fitness band, shoes, clothing, personal accessories like rings and more to come) and surroundings – doors, restaurant tables, chairs, look around and you will find some more which are not top of the mind like air-conditioners.

Personal Digital Assistants are no longer quaint devices (remember Casio and HP ?), they are AI powered voice interactive devices and now taking the shape of Personal Robots. Notwithstanding they ordering the entire store for you based on your wishes or sending the data to the provider’s cloud, the good part is their use in healthcare to provide critical care to infants and the infirm. The combination of sensors, big data, and Artificial Intelligence is the next big wave that will bring new opportunities and threats.

From banned and restricted deployment on commercial scale, the drone has bounced back as a personal companion satiating narcissist behaviors with selfies to guarding cattle and services in open air restaurants. Use cases for enterprises are still sketchy with experiments to explore how they can be integrated into the mainstream. Can they evolve into transformer (like in the movies by the same name) like capabilities to improve upon industrial robots or replace policemen in sensitive areas for surveillance or defense ?

That 3D printing is changing manufacturing would be presumptuous at this time; the promise to change is definitely on the horizon. It is freeing up manufacturing capacity from small batches of spares or customized merchandise thus allowing for improved utilization of capacity. Automobile companies are already beginning to bring this technology to the workshop, the healthcare industry is experimenting aggressively with various appendages and parts with higher precision thus bringing better outcomes to patients.

To round it off, finally with or without physical data centers – owned or outsourced, every enterprise will require massive amounts of storage and compute power to leverage all the sensors, social media, and transactional data. Big data is getting bigger and so is the ability to process it with innovations in analytics, and this requires significantly higher scale in comparison to what enterprises have experienced; I believe that the Cloud will offer succor to the needy who recognize this and want to leverage this opportunity.

Visible or not, hardware will drive opportunity that will be leveraged using software to disrupt the conventional ! Be prepared.

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