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Transformation vital for competitiveness

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Transformation vital for competitiveness

Kathy Gibson reports from My World of Tomorrow ~ The IT industry is changing fundamentally and we need to change with it.

That’s the word from Paul Maritz, CEO and executive chairman of Pivotal, addressing the My World of Tomorrow (MWOT) conference this morning on the subject of enterprise IT in the new era.

He says Pivotal was founded on the premise that the industry is changing, and we need to find new ways of engaging with people and things in the face of these changes.

Maritz reminds delegates that there have been three main eras of IT so far: The mainframe, which saw the automation of accounting; the PC/Web era, where paper-based processes were automated; and the current cloud/mobile/IoT era. In this latest era, paper will almost disappear, driven by consumer use cases into the business world.

In this era, consumer and social apps will drive new systems of engagement, and the IoT will take off.

All use cases are driven by certain technologies, he adds. In the new era, smart devices, connectivity and cloud computing are the technologies that will enable new ways of doing things.

Mobility is driven by the availability of almost unlimited smart devices and connectivity. Cloud computing, in turn, is enabled by an almost unlimited number of servers, in-memory processing and parallelisation.

“As a developer, the cloud lets you have an unlimited number of servers or processors when you need them,” Maritz says. “This is opening up new solutions in big data, machine learning and contextual intelligence. Developers of today will use processors in a prolific way.”

Putting all these elements together makes for some interesting outcomes, Maritz says.

There are new systems of engagement being developed. Instead of spending on broad media advertising, companies can spend their money on building compelling, differentiated, realtime services.

He cites as an example a Tesla car, which engages largely on the Internet and via the on-board app – rather than simply by driving the car. “There is almost a rising sense of panic in traditional enterprises as they realise they are going to have to use technology in different ways from what they are used to,” he warns.

“The idea is to catch someone in the act of doing something and affect the outcome – that is where the money comes in. This is what is driving the disruption – where the relationship resides is what’s driving business.”

Maritz points out that these business models are enabled by storing and analysing information on the back-end. This can only be done with a highly parallelised architecture that can ingest, analyse, learn and react at scale – and cost-effectively.

“The IoT is not just about catching someone in the act of doing something – but catching something in the act of doing something, and affecting the outcome,” he says.

Again, an intelligent and scalable back-end is needed, and this means adopting the cloud as a platform and an architecture.

Maritz concurs with Gartner’s philosophy of bimodal IT, where existing IT systems need to be maintained and developed, while new systems are built at the same time. “These new systems require a different approach to building and managing. And businesses are going to have to learn to live with both of these environments. “Companies are going to have support two tribes within their organisations.”

Mode one systems are about reducing cost and complexity, Maritz points out, and they won’t offer differentiation. “Where you can differentiate is in mode two,” he says. This involves building in a cloud-native approach, in an agile way, that leverages big data and machine learning. “And you are going to be technology-savvy in your company,” he adds.

In fact, all companies are going to have to become modern software companies, which means that the people have to be aligned and skilled to that. Companies have to think about the platform they use, because it must support cloud architecture and allow organisations to perform analytics and learning at speed, scale and lower cost.

“If you can’t do this, you will be at a fundamental competitive disadvantage.”

Software is at the heart of the experience, Maritz points out. But it has to be malleable; while connectivity and smart devices provide a rich, continuous flow of data to learn from.

“Organisations need to realise that this is not an IT problem; it’s a business problem,” Maritz says. This means companies need to have integrated teams of business and technology people. Development requires continuous code reviews, continuous building and testing, and continuous refactoring. “The key word is continuous. You are not building a single big system.”

In terms of the platform, this needs to be optimised for modern development, offering continuous delivery, micro-services and security/manageability – and in a native way. It must also be open, able to address any cloud whether private or public; and operate in a broad ecosystem.

To enable rich, realtime analytics, the system needs to be cloud-native and able to scale out in a cost-effective way. The open, broad ecosystem must support a choice of semantics, from SQL to deep learning.

“So how do you get going?” Maritz asks. Start with right-sized projects, he advises. These should be big enough that if they are successful, they matter and demonstrate business value – quickly. “Use that to start building credibility and momentum. You have to get off on the right footing,” he adds, which means the right development environment and platform.

“And find partners that can do this with you, not for you. This is going to be your differentiator – you can’t outsource that. Partners must help you to build it and transfer it.”