In the last couple of weeks, I finally put a couple of pieces together . . . the tech industry is pushing hard, down two parallel tracks, toward much more resource-efficient computing architectures.
Track 1: Integrated systems. Computer suppliers are putting hardware components (including compute, network, and storage) together with middleware and application software in pre-integrated packages. The manufacturers will do assembly and testing of these systems in their factories, rather than on the customer's site. And they will tailor the system — to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the system — to the characteristics of the workload(s) it will be running.
The idea is to use general-purpose components (microprocessors, memory, network buses, and the like) to create special-purpose systems on a mass-customization basis. This trend has been evident for a while in the Oracle Exadata and Cisco UCS systems; IBM's Pure systems introductions push it even further into pre-configured applications and systems management.
Track 2. Modular data centers. Now, zoom out from individual computing systems to aggregations of those systems into data centers. And again, assemble as much of the componentry as possible in the factory rather than on-site. Vendors like Schneider, Emerson, and the systems shops like IBM and HP are creating a design approach and infrastructure systems that will allow data centers to be designed in modular fashion, with much of the equipment like air handling and power trucked to the customer's site, set up in the parking lot, and quickly turned on.
Part of my role managing the Business Technology Futures team at Forrester is to keep an eye on "what's next" for CIOs and their business partners.
My team is chartered to create an early-warning radar screen of new technologies, new business models and new demands from customers that will change technology's role and impact on business.
That's where the VERGE conference comes in. I spent two very engaging days at this GreenBiz event earlier in March, soaking in the conVERGEnce of energy, transport, buildings and information.
And what a great event! I am an experienced consumer of industry conferences and this was one of the best I've attended. The mix of topics, speakers, and formats really clicked for me, because the event featured:
Multidisciplinary thinking. Not just across the four big domains, but across three dimensions of convergence taking place within them: technology (analytics meets network meets social), organizational (HR meets marketing meets facilities) and ecosystem (suppliers meet distributors meet customers). Holding this 4 X 3 Rubik's cube in one's head is daunting but also mind-expanding.