By KT Ong, country manager – Malaysia, Dell EMC
Over the course of the year, we would have heard endless discussions within organisations and with our customers about technology innovations, with AI and machine learning, 5G, cloud, augmented and virtual reality, and blockchain leading the way. What a time to be in business as we prepare to enter the next era of human-machine partnerships! But what does this mean for us and our customers and how do we prepare to be able to take advantage of this? The short answer – digital transformation is critical to take advantage of all the data capital available during the Data Era.
The next 12 months promises to be an exciting time as we plan for what’s to come even farther in the future – think 2030 – but let’s start with the year ahead, looking at the implications of the latest technology innovations we predict will dominate in 2019.
1. The data forecast is calling for a multi-tiered approach to cloud, changing the face of the modern data center.
With data growing at the edge and the need for real-time powerful compute at scale to support AI and machine learning workloads, the data center is officially becoming distributed. Multi and hybrid cloud adoption models will further evolve and place cloud computing capabilities at every layer of the data journey to address the unique needs inherent at each layer. This shift closer to the edge will support analytics and data management outside of the core as an extension of on-premise cloud. Look for a combination of public, private and hybrid to become the new norm that will make multi-tier clouds a reality but now being distributed widely – from huge public data centers to dedicated optimised enterprise data centers, to real-time edge clouds, all the way to more intelligent end devices integrated into this multi-tier multi-cloud IT model.
2. AI and ML will lead to the largest productivity gains we’ve seen in years, not just for people, but for machines.
User experience will no doubt be enhanced and transformed by the advent of AI and ML applications. The line between human and machine tasks will continue to shift as more and more of the thinking tasks of every business and system will be driven by machine intelligence. If data – and ever-increasing amounts of it – used to overwhelm IT systems, AI and ML will instead be able to drive greater efficiencies and insights that will optimise both the apps and devices we use every day. PCs will be able to predict power consumption needs based on usage patterns while apps will continue to learn from user preferences and behaviours to deliver more personalised experiences. Even large-scale enterprise systems will use AI and ML to drive greater automation and intelligence, making it easier for humans to gather insights or make strategic decisions based on data as we move from peta-scale to exa-scale to zeta-scale. Gartner estimates that in 2021, AI augmentation will generate US$2.9 trillion in business value and recover 6.2 billion hours of worker productivity.
3. 5G will speed up data, web apps and the shift to software-defined IT
It won’t be the first time we’re hearing the term 5G, but what may not be obvious is how it’s driving the need for software-defined IT strategies more than ever before. 5G requires a software-defined network and new distributed compute models. These will ultimately need to be supported by a full software-defined data center stack to ensure all that data can move at speed and scale, while being managed, analysed, stored and protected. Organisations will need the ability to manage 5G infrastructures with ease and with the dexterity to quickly apply new software code and APIs as needed. Automation and intelligence will be critical, and this is where software-defined shines with scalable NVMe fabrics and SD-WAN.
Further, 5G’s low-latency, high-bandwidth data will bring more powerful visual experiences to bear across AR, VR, gaming and mobile apps for IoT…driving an increased demand for content at the edge. We’ll see a migration to progressive web apps that are OS- and device-agnostic to bring all those high-def experiences to more people in more places.
For Malaysia, we may not see the first real implementations of the technology any time soon. That said, we are already seeing various stakeholders exploring opportunities with this next-generation network. The Government will be leading 5G trials in Cyberjaya and Putrajaya, while local telecommunications providers have or are looking to roll out trials over the coming months, with 5G expected to go commercial, realistically, in 2020.
4. AR/VR will bring more onsite learning and creativity to the workplace
2018 saw rapid progress in augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) to create more immersive, enhanced visual experiences – and as a result, we’ll see increased adoption in the workplace during 2019. Onsite training opportunities and the ability to access data in real-time at the edge will not only fill a skills gap across certain trades and industries, but also give the workforce even more freedom to do their best work free from the confines of a physical workplace. Collaboration will become borderless as AR/VR will enable employees in different locations to seamlessly come together on the virtual plane as if they’re all physically working together.
The biggest enabling trend for AR/VR will not be the user interface, but the advances in data center and cloud infrastructures to provide the data fuel, processing capacity and performance needed to make AR/VR a fully immersive experience. This will be the catalyst for a shift in mindset when we think about the potential of AR/VR – from being a standalone experience to a presentation interface of the advanced capabilities of the modern data center’s AI-driven insights and expanding data pools.
While we may not see large-scale and pervasive use of AR and VR in Malaysia in the immediate term just yet, there are already pilot projects we can look to as case studies. Wariscan, a local startup which aims to preserve Malaysia’s cultural heritage through the use of AR/VR, has collaborated with art institutions across the country to digitise their content towards providing a richer experience for visitors. Elaborate – not to mention expensive – property showrooms may soon be a thing of the past. VR Labs’ VR solution offers a whole new immersive property viewing experience that makes it more convenient for both buyers and property developers. UEM Sunrise is the company’s first property client, trailblazing the future of property selling in the country.
5. Blockchain will create a chain-reaction
Blockchain continues to create buzz across the technology sector, and we will see 2019 become a formative year for practical implementations of blockchain as organisations work to understand if it’s right for them right now, and if they have the right infrastructure, systems and services to support it. Other sectors have already taken the first step into blockchain – Malaysia’s Education Ministry has launched an e-Scroll system, powered by blockchain, to combat the issue of counterfeit degrees and diplomas being sold on the black market. The International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) was the first to implement the system for its graduating PhD students in November 2018. Further, the Government has outlined in the 2019 National Budget the need for a regulatory framework to govern the implementations of blockchain.
We are maturing to understand that distributed ledgers are a useful tool where issues of distributed trust and data immutability are critical, and this will drive more targeted and useful applications of this new technology in the future.