Opinions aren’t exactly hard to come by in technology, especially in December when a veritable cottage industry arises around predictions for the coming year (including here on eWEEK!). That amps up a little further at a decade’s end, with pieces that look both fondly back and adventurously ahead. But the fact is that while opinions are (as usual) easy enough to find, insightful forecasts of longer-term trends tend to be pretty thin on the ground.
There are practical reasons for that: The tech industry doesn’t have much use for history; understanding context is hard and casting it forward is even harder; IT increasingly favors specialization which inhibits generalist viewpoints. Despite those issues, the industry is home to numerous deeply intelligent and experienced people whose opinions on current conditions and emerging trends are worthy of attention.
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One of those is Jeff Clarke, Dell Technologies’ chief operating officer and vice chairman who is responsible for the company’s global supply chain and product organizations: Infrastructure Solutions Group and Client Solutions Group. In that role, Clarke oversees global manufacturing, procurement and supply chain activities, and also leads the engineering, design and development of servers, storage, data protection and networking products, as well as the engineering, design, development and sales of computer desktops, notebooks, workstations, cloud client computing and end-user computing software solutions.
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Clarke has a 30+ year history at Dell, beginning in 1987 as a quality engineer and then moving into product development in 1989 where he served in various engineering and leadership roles. In 1997, Clarke founded and launched Dell’s Precision workstation product line and subsequently oversaw Dell’s OptiPlex, Latitude and Precision commercial PC lines of business. Under Clarke’s leadership, all three of those lines achieved No. 1 worldwide share positions.
Clarke recently posted a blog in which he discusses the trends and developments that he believes will drive technology evolution, applications and use cases beginning in 2020. Let’s take a look.
Paving the way for the 'Next Data Decade'
Clarke focused first on the increasing prevalence of digital tools and solutions in homes, workplaces and the world at large, including “connected and intelligent” devices systems and applications at “the edge” of computing infrastructures. Those technologies have enabled massive innovation and advancement but also require massive amounts of data and compute power to work effectively.
Clarke noted that “with the amount of data coming our way in the next 10 years – we can only imagine what the world around us will look like in 2030, with apps and services we haven’t even thought of yet.” As a result, 2020 marks the beginning of what Dell Technologies is calling the Next Data Decade, which company founder and chairman Michael Dell has called “a generational opportunity to unlock the power of data to solve our greatest challenges.”
In a literal sense, what happens next year will prepare the ground or pave the way to those larger, decade-spanning events. So, what 2020 breakthroughs and trends does Clarke believe will set the tone for the next 10 years? Here are brief summations of the six areas he believes will have a major impact.
- 2020 proves it’s time to keep IT simple. Organizations are already straining under the volumes of information they deal with today, let alone the massive surge of data that’s expected over the coming decade. To cope effectively, businesses are embracing digital transformation efforts that simplify and automate IT infrastructures, and consolidate systems and services, enabling greater control and clarity. Consistency in architectures, orchestration and SLAs will provide a solid foundation for AI and machine learning-fueled IT automation that will help organizations effectively manage increasing data volumes and process complexities.
- Cloud co-existence sees rolling thunder. Public and private clouds can and will co-exist if they are to provide the data management and visibility organizations require. At the same time, as edge deployments continue and 5G rolls out, real time data visibility, management and protection will be increasingly business critical. Rather than being associated with specific private and public IT infrastructures, hybrid cloud will extend to wherever data resides. Security clearly has a huge role in this vision but in order to succeed, security functions must be built into the fiber of data management from the edge to the core to the cloud.
- What you get is what you pay: SaaS and cloud consumption are increasing in adoption and popularity, offering organizations the opportunity to pay as they go for the compute and other services they use. In 2020, flexible IT consumption and as-a-Service offerings will help businesses escape the confines of CAPEX- and OPEX-driven purchasing models and choose the economic models that best suit their needs.
- “The Edge” rapidly expands into the enterprise: Once limited to the Internet of Things (IoT), computing at “the edge” of corporate networks is evolving and expanding quickly to embrace a wide range of systems, applications and services. That will ramp up even further with 5G rollouts that leverage robust SD-WAN and software-defined networking solutions. Open networking tech will become preferred and eventually prevail over proprietary offerings since they provide organizations the flexibility and agility necessary to manage and secure data over the long haul.
- Intelligent devices change the way you work and collaborate: What is running at the heart of notebook, desktop and 2-in-1 PCs is more transformational than ever. Those technologies—biometrics, and AI- and machine learning-driven applications and tools—are turning personal computers into powerful, personalized collaborative companions that will be more reliable and self-sufficient than traditional PCs. The result? Huge increases in satisfaction and productivity for both end users and support personnel.
- Innovating with integrity, sourcing sustainably: Dell has long invested in sustainable and recycled solutions, and recently upped its commitment with the new 2030 Progress Made Real initiative. Those goals include recycling an equivalent product for every product that customers buy, ensuring that over half of all Dell product content comes from recycled or renewable materials, and using 100% recycled or renewable material in all packaging. Among the results of these trends in 2020 and other Dell efforts will be new breakthroughs that Clarke believes everyone will experience in some way – whether with more powerful devices, faster medical treatments, more accessible education or less waste and cleaner air.
So, what are we to make of all this? How does Jeff Clarke’s vision of the future square with what has gone before, and where does the technology industry and its customers and end users stand today? I’ll touch on three points that I find particularly compelling.
First, I agree fully with Clarke about the critical need for actively embracing and implementing simpler, more automated and better secured IT infrastructures. Michael Dell’s vision of the generational opportunity inherent in the Next Data Decade is, if anything, an understatement. The massive increases in data volume and complexity are coming. Organizations should be actively preparing to meet those challenges or risk being overwhelmed. Fortunately, the robust investments that Dell has made in both organic product development and external acquisitions (the wisdom of its purchase of EMC and its substantial stake in VMware has never been clearer) have positioned the company to be a leader in these efforts.
Second, Clarke’s comments about the continuing evolution and enhancements of PC offerings is spot on. Just as importantly, the emerging features and functions he highlighted are a clear continuation of the rapid evolutionary changes we’ve seen in PCs during the past decade. It’s good to remember that when Apple introduced its iPad in 2010, the dawn of the last decade, many in the industry predicted it would mark the “death of the PC.” Instead, Dell and other vendors doubled down by creating ever thinner, lighter and better performing notebooks, more powerful and flexible desktops and new 2-in-1 solutions that incorporated the best aspects of traditional notebooks and emerging tablet designs. PC users are more productive, efficient and satisfied today than ever before. New biometric and AI-enabled technologies will further enhance those points, along with ushering in “personalized” computing.
Finally, Clarke and Dell’s emphasis on integrity and sustainability are notable. After years of improvements in areas such as water and air quality, many regions are experiencing significant declines or outright reversals, aggravated by increasing effects from climate change. Past environmental efforts fared best when individuals and organizations worked together toward common goals. Dell Technologies can’t succeed by itself, but the company has a significant and influential position in global business and industries. Taking an active leadership role in innovation integrity and sustainable sourcing couldn’t be coming at a more important time for Dell, its partners and customers, and the greater world.
As is obvious from my comments, Jeff Clarke’s blog about 2020 and the decade ahead gave me a lot to think about. I urge you to read his commentary and consider it yourself.
Charles King is a principal analyst at PUND-IT and a regular contributor to eWEEK. © 2019 Pund-IT, Inc. All rights reserved.