Many of us in the business world perceive the announcement of innovation as a big splash, oftentimes presented on a huge screen during a major tradeshow.
Elon Musk announces a plan for colonies on Mars. Samsung executives announce a cell phone with a flexible screen. But real innovation, impacting the lives of individuals in a direct manner, is harder to immediately recognize. It actually sneaks up on you, in a way that is almost imperceptible, slowly leaking into our lives. Such is the case with edge computing.
Let me provide an example.
Two years ago, in my home office, I regularly used a desk phone. Today I still have that dedicated phone, but I haven’t used it in months. Instead, I am using Skype software over a Lenovo laptop using a USB based Jabra speaker with integrated video - on a Vizio screen. In essence, my dedicated phone has become obsolete, replaced by an integrated experience delivered not by one company but by four.
And, if I look back, my telecommunications experience is much richer and more multidimensional than ever before. These changes slowly filtered into my existence over a period of months. My dedicated telephone did not become obsolete in one day. Instead, I gradually migrated to a highly-integrated experience in such a way that the actual overall change was almost invisible.
This same phenomenon is now occurring on a macro level throughout the IT industry as the vendor community migrates from delivering dedicated system solutions, to delivering converged end-to-end experiences, driven by the collaboration and partnership of multiple vendors.
How the “integrated ecosystem” works
For lack of a better phrase, let’s call it an “integrated ecosystem.”
Let me further clarify how I define this emerging concept, breaking it down into its three fundamental pillars:
- Vendors - These players create value when they leverage their core competencies to furnish unique, function-specific technology hardware and software while partnering with other complementary vendors. The goal of the collaboration is to certify a desirable level of interoperability so that design and deployment time is reduced. This then allows for a broader solution that works and that can be brought to market.
- Partners - This group consists of Information Technology (IT) and Operations Technology (OT) service providers who work together to implement solutions that integrate elements as basic as simple sensors to full life cycle management architectures.
- Tools - These can be software programs or simple or complex methodologies (think Application Programming Interfaces) which act as facilitators enabling vendor and partner solution contributions to connect and to provide an integrated experience.
If asked a few years ago, I would have predicted the emergence of super vendors and integrators capable of furnishing end-to-end solutions which would then capture business value across a complex process or experience. Today, I hold a very different opinion. My current belief is that, for any given use case, the only way to deliver on a customer need is through a viable ecosystem of vendors, partners, and service providers - working together to deliver the innovative solution that customers are demanding.
Edge computing is a good example
These new alliances are not to be confused with old, traditional vendor alliances. These new collaborative relationships are being fueled by the digitization of end points at the edge of networks. In edge computing, for example, it is now possible to deliver a micro data center to a site where no one has any IT experience and have it run by itself.
A data center physical infrastructure solution provider, partnered with a converged IT supplier, partnered with an integrator, partnered with a distributor all work behind the scenes to remove all the levels of complexity. The micro data center arrives ready to go. It is pretested. All the many hardware and software parts work together very well, and any person working at the site simply pushes the “on” button.
The system then begins to monitor itself, links up with both the local and remote network and then immediately begins to execute tasks.
Customer expectations are high
As I engaged with customers this year, it became evident that this multi-vendor collaborative approach is the new normal. But vendors and partners have a long way to go in order to achieve harmonized integrated ecosystem optimization customers expect. Most of the customers I approached were clear that simplification of the management of these multi-vendor solutions has to evolve quickly.
Similar to my experience with the phone, I see a steady stream of incremental improvement steps by all of the parties in the value chain, including the customer, in order to enhance the ecosystem. I suspect new business models will emerge and enablers will be put in place that will further increase the speed in which new innovations move from concept to reality.
This is something we explore further in our white paper, Cost Benefit Analysis of Edge Micro Data Center Deployments, available here.