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Cisco 2020 Predictions: Infrastructure 3.0 - Predicting a New Era of Reimagining Applications

VMblog Predictions 2020 

Industry executives and experts share their predictions for 2020.  Read them in this 12th annual series exclusive.

By Vijoy Pandey, Vice President and CTO of Cisco's Cloud Platform and Solutions Group

Infrastructure 3.0 - Predicting a New Era of Reimagining Applications

The IT industry has been rapidly moving away from Infrastructure 1.0 (bare metal monolithic environments) and Infrastructure 2.0 (virtual, but still monolithic environments) to a new paradigm of Infrastructure 3.0, which requires a re-architecting of applications and infrastructure stacks into containers and microservices. 

As this shift towards Infrastructure 3.0 takes place, the way enterprises and businesses deploy and operate these technologies changes to align with the existing environments.  This transition is putting pressure on the processes, data flows and organizational structures to evolve dramatically as well.

Last year, I predicted that 2019 will be the year of stepping down from the hype cycles and figuring out what's deployable for real world customer deployments. Let's explore how my predictions did, and what's in store for 2020. 

  • Apps continue to be the key driver: Velocity, availability, efficiency and security of modern application design has been driving the re-architecture of the entire infrastructure space. One trend has solidly landed in 2019: more and more mission-critical workloads have become containerized. Anywhere between 35%-50% of an enterprise's application sprawl is now containerized based on various Gartner and IDC estimates. And it's not just the app front ends, or the dashboards, but mission critical workloads such as revenue generating data analytics pipelines, middleware, and core business logic.

Through 2020 and beyond, we are poised to see two significant new trends around applications:

First, the absolute number of apps within an enterprise will continue to rise. The typical IT portfolio is expanding quickly in support of new platforms and development models.  In fact, a recent study from IDC predicts a 50 percent increase in the number of applications over next two years. (Source: IDC CloudPulse Q119)   There are various drivers for this, but primarily, the "software eats the world" mentality means that everything is being solved (and should be solved) by software. This is Digital Transformation at work. 

Second, the percentage of modern containerized applications within an enterprise will only continue to grow, along with application interdependencies. Most of this growth will stem from newer applications taking over the old in performing similar capabilities with much better velocity, availability and efficiency KPIs.

  • AI Winter? Or Refocus? Through 2019, there has been quite a bit of talk on the imminence of an AI Winter. An AI Winter takes place when dramatic advances in the field slows down, resulting is slower funding and reduced interest.

As we discussed last year, because of the ubiquitous availability of AI toolchains - both on-premises and in the cloud via pipelines such as Kubeflow, new use cases for AI in infrastructure design, deployment and operations are only going to blossom. An MIT Review study looking at more than 16,000 papers on AI over the past 15 years already pointed to this trend. 

I see a refocusing of the interest in AI, research and funding towards ML-Ops and Systems Design. Cisco has joined forces with Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Stanford, MIT and others in forming the MLPerf ( effort to standardize on AI/ML performance and systems evaluation.

While it is true that the groundbreaking breakthroughs of basic AI research have slowed down compared to a few years ago, I believe in 2020 and beyond, we will witness a  maturation of the technology directed  towards real world use cases, systems design, performance improvements and  solving challenging  operational problems.

  • Quantum Supremacy is kind-of here. So, what's next? Whether you contest the Google claim of Quantum Supremacy or believe it, the fact remains that we are at the cusp of something big. The race for Quantum Computing is going to see the same level of interest, research and funding push as AI/ML witnessed about 5 years ago. Over the next 5 years, this is where the next set of computer science graduates will gravitate, where researchers will invest their energy, and where VCs (and large companies) will start pouring money into for the next decade of unicorns.Let the Quantum Hype Cycle begin.
  • Cloud-Enterprise Confluence: A few years ago, the predominant mantra of cloud companies was to make it easier to move every workload to the cloud. Their agility, the removal of operational burden, and the promise of scalable cloud-native architectures were the lures that were widely thrown around and logically and easily accepted.

As discussed for 2019, because of the need for data compliance, real-time insights, infrastructure costs at high utilization and volume, the race to hybrid and multicloud models has accelerated rapidly. Kubernetes is the engine powering this race, and the developer is in the driver's seat as a key influencer. With Google Anthos and Microsoft Arc, two of the big three are in the race, and AWS can't be far behind. It will be interesting to see how AWS Outpost morphs to compete in this space.

Over the course of 2020, we will see cloud providers and infrastructure vendors partner up even more tightly to provide well-integrated platforms. 

But the bigger takeaways are that on-premises infrastructures are here to stay. The heterogeneity problem is only going to get worse. And connecting and securing these heterogenous infrastructures across a brownfield of application architectures has emerged as a bigger challenge. 

Platforms and solutions addressing this challenge will win.

  • The action is still at the Edge: For the longest time there was a feeling that Edge Computing was the proverbial hammer looking for a nail. For 2019, we discussed that streaming gaming and hyper-local data insights and actions will drive the need for widespread Edge compute adoption. In addition, the offload of latency-sensitive network control for 5G would also benefit from Edge architectures.

Over the course of the past year, we have seen this prediction come true partially. Service Providers like Rakuten have begun deploying 1000s of Edge locations as part of their radical 5G architecture deployment in Japan, offloading both network control and latency-sensitive content. Hyper-scalers such as Microsoft and Google have started deploying new gaming services on their existing global Edge infrastructure (e.g., Google Stadia).

The rest of the industry is yet to dip their toes seriously, but the pressure from these front runners is on in 2020. In addition to Service Providers, even the hyper-scalers are using their Edge footprint to deploy network control (5G access) and provide invaluable insights around customer acquisition, retention and quality. Hyper-local insights, such as ad targeting, and hot-spot mediation are some of the other use cases that will see better definition and deployment over the course of 2020.

  • Vision 20-20: My last prediction is that everyone, and I mean everyone, will stop saying Vision 20-20 in the year 2020 :). Instead, we will pivot to Hindsight 20-20.

Unrefutably, customers will continue to invest in digital capabilities to transform their business, build new products and compete aggressively against new competition, while applications will have become the new currency.


About the Author

Vijoy Pandey 

Vijoy Pandey is Vice President and CTO of Cisco's Cloud Platform and Solutions Group. He is responsible for driving Cisco's design and production of new cloud technologies and architectures, which enable customers to create, consume, and compete in a multicloud, automated world. 
Vijoy has held CTO and software engineering leadership roles, and has over 20 years of expertise in cloud, virtualization, and automation which serve to complement his role as a technical visionary for a software-focused and disaggregated future for all infrastructure. He has led management and data analytics efforts for cloud-scale infrastructure and was instrumental in delivering many industry firsts - including the first declarative end-to-end automation framework at cloud scale, first open source SDN controller, first VM-aware switch, and the first low-latency HFT/HPC switch. 
Before joining Cisco, he served as Head of Engineering at Google for the company's cloud networks, where he was responsible for developing software systems for intent-driven automation, ML/AI-based data analytics, and application-level awareness. Vijoy has held the CTO role at various companies including Cloud Networking at IBM Cloud, Networking at IBM Systems and Software Group, and Blade Network Technologies. He has also led engineering teams at Blade Network Technologies, Nortel, and Alteon. 
Vijoy has a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of California, Davis. He currently holds over 50 patents in cloud, distributed systems, and networking.

Published Monday, November 18, 2019 7:23 AM by David Marshall
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