The reorganization of computing into larger, more demand-responsive cloud-based data centers run by Google, Amazon Web Services, Rackspace and others is part of a shift in business that replaces transaction systems with "systems of interactions," said Cisco Systems VP of cloud computing Lew Tucker on Wednesday in an address at the Cloud Connect 2013 conference, a UBM Tech event in Santa Clara, Calif.
The transaction systems were systems of record. The interaction systems are "systems of engagement" that will be key to business success in the future, Tucker said, crediting Geoffrey Moore, author of Crossing the Chasm, with coining the "systems of engagement" phrase.
Tucker gave one of the opening keynotes at the Cloud Connect 2013 show, and said there were deeper trends behind mammoth data centers like Facebook's Prineville, Ore., complex and consumers' love of smartphones, iPads and other handheld devices. The small computing device communicates from many locations with the big data center, using a small application to get a piece of work done, he noted.
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"I don't think we'll see any more big productivity suites, like Microsoft Office," he said. Instead, users will learn a constantly changing mix of small apps that do the things they're most interested in doing now. It's all part of corporations trying to become more responsive and interactive with their environment -- to behave "less like organizations, more like organisms," Tucker said.
"Analytics becomes business critical" because data is being generated by the Internet of things, the billions of devices about to be connected to the Internet and feed data into it, said Tucker. By 2020, there will be 50 billion connected devices, and businesses will rely on the information they provide to help them map what they should be doing next, he said.
The billions of connected devices drive a need for cloud storage and cloud analytics; the creation of big data drives business decision-making and businesses' need to keep employees in constant collaboration and communication, driving a need for a new style of internal networking: the software-defined network that responds more flexibly to changing conditions, he said.
The changes are not only driving cloud computing but changing the role of IT in business. The "systems of interaction" both hold the key to the future for a business and also contain the value of IT to the business, he said.
Cloud Definition Arguments End
The four-year-old Cloud Connect conference, sponsored by United Business Media, the parent company of InformationWeek, this year took a turn away from defining terms and debating methods of cloud computing and adopted more of a tone of how the cloud could be leveraged. As the show approached, Randy Bias, CTO of CloudScaling, tweeted that he didn't like the term "hybrid cloud" but he might as well give up protesting it. It was part of the language of this year's show, with hardly anyone questioning whether it existed or ought to exist. Rather, attendees wanted to know how to make use of it.
PayPal chief information security officer Michael Barrett took the stage to note that cloud computing had changed something else: the stakes involved in the security of computer systems. The rentable cloud can provide the computing power to run an attack to decipher passwords. "Password hacking is now the work for script kiddies," he warned, as opposed to a challenge for skilled hackers backed by massive compute resources.
Future security systems are likely to include some form of biometrics -- finger print reading or retina scans -- combined with a second form of authentication, such as a randomly generated password or other tough-to-steal identifier, he said. Implementing better identity management and security will spur even greater cloud adoption, he predicted. But right now, security is "a problem for the cloud and we have to fix it."
The show crowd also heard from William Ruh, VP and global technology director at General Electric. Business is moving from an analog way of operating to a digital one, and it will change nearly every aspect of business, he predicted. Civilization is moving from the industrial revolution through the Internet revolution and into what he called "the industrial Internet."
Machines will be connected to the Internet and become intelligent through the software they possess that analyzes the information they're generating. That will contrast with today's industrial operations where machines are not intelligent and most of the data they generate "isn't even stored," he observed.
The shift will "foundationally change the way machines are built and the way data is collected on them, petabytes of information," said Ruh. The information will be fed to the operations staffs at utility power plants and other large industrial installations, who will use it to look for efficiencies that we don't know about today, he said.
Ruh noted that the airline industry, which seems constantly on the verge of profitability, then failing to get there, "spends $2 billion a year on fuel." Better information, like that being collected by GE on its jet engines, might allow the industry to save 1% to 5% of that expense, which would shift it from unprofitable to profitable.
Wind turbines could easily be made 1% to 3% more efficient with machine-to-machine communications and controls that allowed them to better react to changing wind conditions in real time.
If a computer on a windmill is gathering all the information that the mill generates, the amount of data will grow into petabytes "moving quickly to exabytes," predicted Ruh. Whole industries will be collecting yottabytes of information, and it isn't clear that the data can be both worked with and stored on the scale that it will be generated, even with cloud computing, he warned.
Companies want more than they're getting today from big data analytics. But small and big vendors are working to solve the key problems. Also in the new, all-digital Analytics Wish List issue of InformationWeek: Jay Parikh, the Facebook's infrastructure VP, discusses the company's big data plans. (Free registration required.)