In 2017, the IT industry advanced deeper into the journey of creating a pervasive digital fabric that layers increasing technology enablers across nearly every facet of business. The surprising part is that this new landscape is just in the beginning stages. 2017 will be remembered as the year the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) edged closer to mainstream adoption across industry and society.
Valued collectively at more than $20 billion in 2017, IoT, AI and VR are projected to provide double-digit growth over the next five years, bringing a plethora of new capabilities to save labor costs, decrease time to market and spur the development of new products and services. Yet the promise of these technologies to manifest these benefits has marked the industry for many years. What’s different now?
Quite simply, the digital fabric is finally approaching readiness to enable these technologies to become truly useful. The key elements of the fabric are reliable, high performance computing, ubiquitous broadband networking and distributed cloud architectures that allow the delivery of the right amount of compute power wherever it’s needed. This means massive power when scaling a distributed IoT application across hundreds of manufacturing plants or the pinpoint accuracy of just enough compute power to drive a decision point in a smart city application.
The difference in 2017 is that chip rates, wireless and distributed cloud are already providing chip performance at 4 GHz, wireless downloads at 100 mbps and hyperscale cloud environments across the globe. Of course, these are only a shadow of the 2020 and beyond expectations for continued chip development, 100 Gbps 5G wireless and truly distributed cloud, where the features of hyperscale are available locally. Yet they are enough to begin to demonstrate what IoT, AI and VR can do. In 2020 and beyond, this digital fabric of compute, network and cloud will enable a powerful engine to truly make IoT, AI and VR part of the business case for many industries and consumer products.
So, the big surprise for 2017 is that each technology appears an end in itself while waiting for the next one to come along, when in fact we are building a digital fabric that will enable an array of new capabilities all maturing at a similar pace. In short, we are not at the end or even late in the digital evolution, we are only at the beginning.