The pace of change in IT is so rapid that the digital transformation that nearly every business is undergoing is already being superseded by the next wave of technologies: artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, and the cloud native paradigm. This digital transformation 2.0 was in evidence at IBM InterConnect 2017 – the all-embracing technology event that covers a range of IBM solutions. For IBM, the Watson AI platform represents its cognitive technology solution, injecting intelligent analysis, augmentation, and decision-making into a range of applications that run on the cloud and feed on data – often big data. Also in evidence was IBM’s stake in Hyperledger Fabric, the open source and open community blockchain technology that is taking off beyond proof of concept in many organizations. IBM has shrewdly positioned its future around these new technologies – for example, the formation of Cognitive Business Solutions.
The application of IBM Watson Cognitive services across the broad range of IBM products and services is a major initiative for IBM and users of its Bluemix cloud who can integrate the cognitive services in their applications. Naturally, Watson works well where there is plenty of data to analyze. For example, application developers generate a lot of data, and the code they write is a rich field for mining, such as for measuring quality of code, test coverage, and other indicators that can help project managers assess progress. IBM is currently running proof-of-concept trials using Watson AI to help improve code quality and predict issues early in an AI meets DevOps initiative.
IBM has elected to support the permission-based blockchain technology Hyperledger Fabric. This choice does away with the unnecessary energy-consuming variety of blockchain technology that performs mining (i.e. solving some crypto-puzzle work). This technology is ideally suited to run business networks where identity is not hidden: quite the contrary, members on a business network look to establish a high reputation of trust and reliability. Hyperledger’s openness and support from a broad range of players in the market allows it to evolve and progress. The latest improvements incorporated in Hyperledger Fabric v1.0 now allow networks to scale to thousands of transactions per second, depending on the actual workload.
Hot on the heels of DevOps becoming mainstream, DevOps itself is helping drive the next wave of innovation to supplant monolithic software architectures with microservices, often deployed in containers such as Docker, and leading to the cloud native paradigm. While still an emerging major headline for IBM (the exception was Bruce Ross, Group Head, Technology & Operations at Royal Bank of Canada talking about microservices with IBM CEO Ginni Rometty at her keynote), the event breakout sessions had many cloud native themes. In the security keynote, Andy Ross of the London Stock Exchange talked about “cloud naïve” versus “cloud native.” He meant that simply using IaaS and PaaS without changing the mindset and continuing to build long-lived applications was to miss the point: cloud native is about event-driven models where applications spring up and run for seconds before disappearing, with many implications for security, performance monitoring, and – not least – the challenge to support consistent data models. It is early days for cloud native but it’s the path of the future.
Michael Azoff, Principal Analyst, IT Infrastructure Solutions
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