IT 2020 Forum Shows Promise of “Internet Plus” in China

We take the Internet for granted in the United States, as it’s already saturated much of the country. In China the Internet is big, but its potential to transform the world’s biggest economy is just getting started.

That was one of the key talking points at the IT 2020 Forum, a world-class, academic summit founded by the Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE), EMC, and VMware. The annual event was partly the brainchild of VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger, who came up with the name as a play on words, both looking ahead to the impact of technology advances in 2020 and “seeing” clearly with 20/20 vision.

The keynote at this year’s most recent IT 2020 Forum was given by Charles Fan, senior vice president and general manager of EMC and VMware’s Storage and Availability team. Fan grew up in China and so far has spent about half his life there, and the other half in the United States.

A key theme of Fan’s talk focused on “Internet Plus,” a countrywide initiative by the State government of China driven by the belief that the Internet is set to transform industries there. “The energy sector, automobiles, manufacturing, all these industries will need to transform to take advantage of Internet technologies,” said Fan. “The theme of my talk was how the Internet can be utilized to increase productivity and increase competitiveness.”

What’s significant here is that the audience at the IT 2020 Forum are key decision makers in China. “Attendees consist of about 300 high-profile Chinese leaders, Chief Information Officers, and Vice Presidents at large enterprises, both state-owned and privately held,” said Fan.

The Chinese speakers are mainly members or fellows of the Chinese Academy of Engineering that Fan says comprise local leading engineers and thought leaders.

While the consumer Internet is well-entrenched, Fan says an impending wave called the Business Internet is set to radically change the Chinese economy. He shared three foundational elements behind this change. At the base is mobility, the full range of mobile devices that connect people and things. Second is cloud computing, the new central brain or virtual data center these devices connect to. On top of these two elements rests a new generation of apps that leverage social media, big data, and analytics.

“That’s the technology foundation of a new Business Internet,” says Fan.

The Hybrid Cloud Is the Future

Fan compares the lifecycle of any technology to that of a living organism that goes through four phases of growth:

  1. Experimental
  2. Professional
  3. Mass Market
  4. Maturity

While cloud computing is highly touted and has great potential, Fan says it’s only just entering the second, “Professional,” stage of growth. “It’s still experimental; there are many problems with the way cloud computing currently operates,” says Fan. “You can use the public cloud for greater agility, but it lacks the compliance and security of the private cloud. It’s like two banks of a river that need a bridge.”

Fan notes VMware has invested heavily in just such a bridge, namely a single platform hybrid cloud solution that lets enterprises move data and apps securely across both private and public clouds.

In the case of China, VMware and EMC have partnered with several large firms to build a professional-grade hybrid cloud including China Telecom, China Mobile, China Electronics (CEC), Digital China, and GDS.

“Companies born in the cloud are redefining traditional consumer-facing industries like transportation and hospitality,” says Fan. “The case I’m making is that similar disruptions will happen with the Business Internet where VMware is a leader. We are building a bridge that lets enterprise IT leverage these technology disruptions to their advantage.”