The Third Industrial Revolution: 2017 and Beyond

Chris Wolf, Chief Technology Officer, Americas at VMware

Chris Wolf, Chief Technology Officer, Americas at VMware

The late nineteenth century marked a monumental period in our history, with the Second Industrial Revolution bringing massive innovation at a pace never before seen in our history. The internal combustion engine and petroleum powered new machines, interchangeable parts provided greater agility, and assembly lines created a pace of manufacturing speed previously unimaginable. Fast forward to today, and we are now facing a new revolution based on very similar themes. IoT and intelligent “things” are changing every aspect of our lives, and artificial intelligence, automation, and agility are fueling a pace of innovation that is once again revolutionary. Furthermore, cloud computing has democratized software innovation, allowing anyone, anywhere, to quickly bring new ideas and technologies to market.

Industrial revolutions are not just big bang flashes of technology breakthroughs, but rather the result of countless incremental advancements that ultimately culminate in what we look back upon as significant historical innovations. 2017 will bring many of those incremental but historically significant innovations into the mainstream. In this post, I will focus on mainstream innovations right around the corner—the Third Industrial Revolution—and in my next post, I’ll dive deeper into the revolutionary technologies hitting mainstream beyond 2017.

Hyper-Converged Goes Mainstream

Over the last several years, I have consistently asked the same question in meeting: “Do you see agile, programmatic infrastructure as a business differentiator, or something you just need to do to stay competitive?” Whether that infrastructure is managed in a private data center or consumed as part of a cloud service, IT leaders consistently see it as “table stakes” and not a differentiator. That said, it’s no wonder that hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) solutions have grown so rapidly—they allow IT organizations to take a simple, modular infrastructure approach, which frees more time for differentiation. 2016 was a huge growth year for HCI, with VMware vSAN™ (formerly Virtual SAN) customers now numbering greater than 6,000 and VxRail™ customer numbers in the hundreds.

Going forward, there is tremendous interest in VMware Cloud Foundation™. VMware Cloud Foundation provides true HCI in that it includes software-defined compute, networking, storage, and security in a form factor that is easy to deploy and maintain. Not only are deployments simple, but all infrastructure software upgrades are streamlined. VMware Cloud Foundation deployments can even scale to major VMware public cloud partners such as AWS, IBM, OVH and of course, VMware vCloud® Air™. The assortment of open source PaaS integrations such as Docker, Cloud Foundry, and Kubernetes allow enterprises to take a more modular approach to infrastructure without fear of lock-in. In 2016, investments in hyper-converged were seen as smart, pragmatic moves. In 2017, those investments will be considered no-brainers.

SDN Revolution Builds Momentum

To do software-defined networking (SDN) right, revolutionary approaches are required. New software delivery paradigms require new approaches applied in an evolutionary way—not with a full lift and shift, but by first breaking ground with a single application. Early this year, I noted how the ’90s called and wanted their DMZ back. We’re on the cusp of something very special in the history of networking and security—a major shift in how we interconnect and secure workloads. Workload security can now be managed by application name (like a globally unique identifier), instead of by an IP address: an arbitrary number that creates significant work for security teams each time an application is moved or redeployed somewhere else. Basing security on the application name allows the security context to simply follow the application, no matter where it goes.

Regarding network security, 10 years from now we’ll be looking back and asking ourselves, “Can you believe we ever used to do it that way?” 2017 marks a year when organizations will have to make a critical decision: Do you continue to evolve network and security using a hardware-based legacy architecture that is convenient for IT, or do you go with a software-based approach that offers greater agility and security?

True SDN, such as VMware NSX™, will be used by thousands of enterprises in 2017 to take their network and security operations a monumental leap forward. Complete network stacks, inclusive of load balancing and security, will be deployed in minutes and managed across multiple data centers and clouds. Through micro-segmentation, applications will realize security granularity equivalent to each application having a dedicated data center. This solution will also lay the groundwork for end-to-end network encryption, which has long been interesting but elusive.

End-to-end network encryption is only possible when you remove hardware dependencies, which have long been a network encryption scalability barrier. The NSX platform is extensible, allowing third-party network and security solutions to integrate wherever necessary. That provides the capability to scale solutions like network encryption in the future, while still maintaining any needed third-party network or security integrations. Note that these concepts are not some crazy VMware idea: major public cloud providers are on the same path. The difference with NSX, however, is that it’s multi-data center and multi-cloud by design. That gives you a consistent network and security operational plane, regardless of where a workload resides.

We will always need purpose-built network hardware, and there will continue to be significant hardware innovations. That said, 2017 will bring maturity to the space where organizations see through the fact that SDN with proprietary hardware requirements isn’t SDN—it’s clever marketing.

Globally Consistent Infrastructure as Code

Programmatic infrastructure has moved from nice-to-have to a core requirement in support of business agility because, increasingly, all applications require programmatic compute, network, storage, and security services. That notion holds true regardless of the application—whether it’s traditional, containerized, serverless, and so on.

In 2016, I saw significant maturity in the PaaS and container markets, in the sense that vendors in the ecosystem are becoming more comfortable with the roles they will play. No one vendor can do everything exceptionally well; I’ve seen vendors in the container and PaaS space more eager to partner with infrastructure vendors, and vice versa. VMware’s role has been to make all of the programmatic infrastructure services simple, scalable, and secure, while exposed through native container or PaaS APIs. That’s a model that works well for all parties involved. Going forward, our work in Cross-Cloud Services™, VMware Cloud on AWS, IBM Cloud for VMware Solutions, and strengthening our vCloud Air network will allow organizations to support any application, container, open PaaS solution, and whatever may come next, with a globally consistent infrastructure and operational layer. So no matter where an application runs, you will get consistent operations management and processes, inclusive of security, audit, networking, data management, performance management, SLA enforcement, backup, disaster recovery, and more. While containers and PaaS provide application delivery and runtime consistency, VMware is completing the stack with the same operational consistency, regardless of data center or cloud. Over time, the notion of “VMware Inside” will become synonymous with globally consistent infrastructure as code, and 2017 will represent a huge step toward that end goal.

End-User Computing Is Increasingly Strategic

Today, EUC isn’t just cool and exciting—it’s increasingly strategic. Take the Coca-Cola Freestyle machine, for example. Coca-Cola didn’t change soda, it changed the social experience of consuming soda. My son is a believer. He can make his own custom soda with the Coca-Cola mobile app, share the custom QR code with friends, and they can try his new soda at any Coca-Cola Freestyle machine.

Another great example is with the Home Depot mobile app. Home Depot is so vast that it could take as long to find what you’re looking for as it did to drive there in the first place. Now, a quick search on the mobile app will tell me exactly where to find anything in the store.

CVS Minute Clinic is one more great example. If I need quick healthcare, I can get myself a place in line using the CVS mobile app and head over to my nearest CVS once they are ready to see me. Minute Clinic has made quick healthcare super convenient, and is one more example of a business that sees mobile and EUC as something more than just supporting end users. EUC is also about building new customer intimacy and, for organizations like CVS, the cornerstone for the launch of a new business initiative.

EUC is one of the fastest and most exciting areas of IT, and I haven’t even touched on the Internet of Things (IoT) implications. More on that in my next post! To that end, enterprises are increasingly centralizing EUC decision-making because it crosses laptops, desktops, web, mobile, identity, smart devices, content, and user or consumer experience. Just as the maturation of cloud brought about new roles like the cloud architect, 2017 will usher in the increasingly strategic role of Digital Architect.

As we enter the Third Industrial Revolution, all of us in IT will see significant yet exciting changes in the coming years. 2017 will be a key turning point, as we realize massive adoption of the underlying technologies that empower agility, redefine our approach to security, and make data, flexibility, and customer intimacy even more strategic.

Throughout this week on Radius, VMware executives will provide their perspectives and predictions on key technology areas, including hyper-converged infrastructure, cloud-native applications, and security. Stay tuned next week for the second part of my post, where I look beyond 2017.

Read more from VMware executives on what’s to come for technology innovation in 2017 and beyond.