I am a long-time Futurist, and technologist. In my career, I have spanned the birth of personal computers, to the rise of Cloud Computing.
I am a futurist
One of my sidebar hobbies is being a futurist. Not a futurist the way the media portrays the role. The people who put forth ideas and thoughts on what's likely to change the consumer purchasing market, I look more for the possible art and what's coming. So what I thought I would do is share a few of the things that I think will be game-changers in the next few years. Some of them I've shared before in different ways I haven't always been right, but I do have a few what's possible. That ultimately is what futures do, presents a view of what is possible based on where we are now. First, let me throw out my bona fides; I guess to claim futurists, you have to have bona fides.
I have been in and around software architecture for nearly 30 years now. I've designed systems for small businesses, medium businesses, large businesses, and ultimately massive enterprises. I have worked insecure and insecure environments. I have worked in regulated industries and have worked in unregulated sectors. In those 30 years, I've learned three valuable lessons about what's coming.
The first rule is quite simple, no matter how good the technology is and how good the team deploying it is, there will be issues. The reality of the connected world we live in is that some got built before the days of connection. Most organizations still have networks designed in the 1990s. I know most of them of upgraded, and they have newer equipment, fair enough. But the reality is many networks today are using a 2000 era design. So as we moved in March 2020 to the work from home reaction to the pandemic, many companies found that their networks and infrastructure weren't as effective as work from home took over. The reality of technology is that you have to deploy it into existing technology when you deploy it. There are very few green fields left in the world today. A greenfield in the IT world means its complete and total design with absolutely no upgrades involved. Those happen, I've done a few there a lot of fun, but they are very rare now.
So as I said, my first rule was kind of there's going to be burps when you migrate. You're relocating to new technology, often side-by-side with old technology that reality makes it difficult sometimes to consider what's next. And that's why the other important thing that I've learned my second rule of the future is to plan today carefully. A CTO for the United States government said, plan for the future when you move today. That's not what he said, actually, but that's the gist of the argument. The more you plan, the better you plan, and ultimately what you plan critical; a good friend of mine who is a project manager extraordinaire always says the next line, and it makes me laugh. Planning is knowing there's a tunnel on the route ahead, and when you plan, you have someone on both sides of the tunnel that way, you know that the incoming light is not a train as you enter the tunnel. Or you call the person on the other side; they say it is a train and you stay out until the train is gone!
Where applications are used isn't always what they were designed for...
The last rule that brings the other two together is always to make sure you have a training plan. And I don't mean a training plan that says, okay, we are deploying XY and Z. And here's how you do acts, here's how you do why, and here's how you do see. That kind of training is really good for wrote processes but fails if the person comes up with a variable while using something. The thing that many companies miss is the training is the great equalizer. The better the training is, the better the solution moves from paper to production. Those are my three rules. They are pretty simple to understand that migrations always have pickups. It's best to plan everything. And finally, make sure you have an exceptional training plan.
So will we apply those rules in the future, we need to consider the fact that anytime we consider new technology, it can't impact the organization. The impact is a dangerous thing, so we always have to make sure we can get there safely as we consider the future. Over the next few weeks, all share technologies that I think are going to be game-changers. If you'd asked me five years ago, I would've said 3D printing. 3D printing has a niche, but it isn't going to be the game changer I thought it was. I suspect if you look at 3D printing right now, the specialty 3D printers are taking off. More and more industrial 3D printers are appearing. A concrete 3D printer prints a whole neighborhood in Switzerland. That is cool. That makes 3D printing a great future tool, but the reality of 3D printing concrete devices is very expensive, and very few people I have met home need to use them once. So as I said, 3D printing is a niche market.
The fifth-generation cellular network, or what is 5G, has a lot more potential. 5G has more potential because it's going to be more widespread more quickly. The advantage of 5G for most companies is that their employees likely will have a 5G device. Without the company doing anything, the providers will make sure that the 5G network is widespread. What's IT ultimately does is creates access to low latency networks. I worked for a software company for many years, and I met many developers in that period. I never met a developer that built latency into their application. They made the application operate at the fastest available speeds. Based on that, 5G reduces the latency within the network. It allows applications, devices, and so on to connect and maintain a connection and deliver services in real-time. Latency is not something application designers build!
That brings me to the evolution that 5G is going to dry. The market change is going to impact how organizations, people, and governments operate in the future. First off, let me share my theory about what's critical here. Remember my three rules. If I apply those to the process and the network that is 5G, I come up with three distinct components. I then address the three components now and then discuss them individually in this market. The three components quite simply are the device, the landscape, and ultimately the destination.
A future in your hand!
Let's talk about the device first; what 5G does is free you from laptops and tablets. When I was first traveling the world as a consultant, I carried a 12-pound laptop with me. I cannot tell you how many times I switched between backpacks that were more convenient going through security and rolling bags that were much easier on my back and shoulder. But the device is evolving. The cell phone's capability increased so much in the last 4 to 5 years. I will argue that what once was laptop territory now can often be done with a cell phone. My argument for my future statement is that 3 to 5 years from now, people won't carry tablets or laptops with them. They carry their cell phone. There are already docking stations for cell phones that you put your cell phone in. It charges your phone, but it also offers a graphics card and a coprocessor; while your cell phone likely of its newer has a 64-bit processor, it's still not as powerful as the ones that AMD and Intel release. So if the device in the future is the cell phone, that means things have to be different. We have a 5G network with lower latency, but we now have a device in our hand that is a much smaller screen. Screen real estate is the future and application development. I use Microsoft Word on my desktop at home and my cell phone. I accept the functionality of the cellphone-based version of the word is less than the desktop-based version of Microsoft Word. Much lessened by because on the cell phone it is a bite-size that I don't have the fancy editing features, but I don't often do fancy editing on my cell phone. So the device, in my formula device, the device, landscape, and destination is evolving to become the cell phone.
The next component of my equation is the landscape, and that's how you get there. I always tell customers you can build the greatest application ever; you can build an application so perfect it does everything your users needed to do. But if users can't ride the landscape to get to it, the application is useless. My old boss many years ago used to say on a clear disk; you can seek forever on a congested network, latency matters. Applications aren't always written for where they end up being used. No one ever wrote a connectivity solution for a cell phone to be used on top of Mount Everest. So another change in the future is the adoption of landscape management for developers. Understanding how a network operates in an organization will change how the organization considers applications. It should happen five or ten years ago, but with 5G, that's going to be the impetus again removing the more cell phones how the cell phone connects becomes critical.
The last piece of the equation is the destination, and there are multiple destinations you can use. You can purchase a SaaS application or spell out the words software as a service. Software as a service is run and managed by the provider. You have as many choices when you utilize software as a service as you do with an on-premise first of an application, but you also don't have to manage the servers, manage the user accounts data, and so on. You can also use cloud computing, and in that scenario, you connect to a cloud service provider that will provide you a virtual private cloud or a virtual data center. If you said in 2005 that many companies would truly consider the cloud, their data center probably would've been left out of the room. The last iteration of destination is the traditional data center or an on-premise solution. Now there are variations of data centers, and sometimes, you can utilize a partner-provided co-location service as your own data center. The location is very similar to the cloud, and the two make for a more modern destination.
Very briefly, in this article, I've introduced you to the concept of 5G is a game-changer. I've talked about the fact that the future is a cell phone. I've also talked about the concept of the device, the landscape, and funded the destination. Bringing all of that together into a conclusion makes for an interesting future. I am not a fan of the global pandemic that has cursed us for the last 16 or 17 months. I don't see many silver linings in that horrible dark cloud over the world. The only good thing after the pandemic is that companies are beginning to realize that more and more workers can work from home. The value proposition of a work that doesn't have to commute is high. The next evolution that the low latency 5G network will bring is something I'll talk about later, but I'll end with this, 5G will empower users to be more effective while carrying less with them.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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