COVID-19 : Emerging Technologies and Trends
The ongoing pandemic has accelerated the move to digital across geographies, businesses and income groups. Businesses are quickly realizing that their move to digital is in need for some speed. Not surprisingly, the reality for businesses today is to build software in a way that’s scalable, fast and secure.
The case for software is hardly a new one – in fact, it is on the back of software that smaller companies with a great idea have been able to take on, and in many cases, outpace global behemoths. They’ve been able to do so because they invested in building applications that are efficient, reliable, secure, scalable and therefore, can adapt fast to changing business demands. Start-ups like Slack, Airbnb and Uber have all been born out of a good idea and great software.
Open source is an enabler of innovation and has been recognised by organisations as the fastest way to build software that is reliable, scalable and secure. Open source software development benefits greatly from the fact that it is largely a community effort.
Instead of starting from scratch, developers can simply turn towards the community to look for code that is already available, build on it and accelerate the time to develop and deploy. By doing so, open source has revolutionized software development, and created an interconnected community of developers that is deeply collaborative and extends across the globe. In fact, today, 99% of software projects are developed using open source.
This culture of collaborative software development is birthing a new breed of innovative companies that give back to open source as much, if not more, than they consume it themselves, enabling any organisation to ‘stand on the shoulders of giants’ by building on leading edge software projects developed by the best.
One of the biggest challenges that business and technology leaders face is how they can make their IT agile enough to respond to a dynamic business environment. For most organizations today, the process of software development is still largely a traditional one – IT has to go through the painfully linear cycle of planning, provisioning, testing, deployment and maintenance before it can actually respond to the business need.
We all know that modern business has become a rapid-response environment. Never before have we had the number of IT resources at the tips of our fingers as we have today, and most of them are enabled by the cloud. When we refer to “the cloud”, we may be talking about several computing concepts, but typically the cloud consists of a set of remotely-hosted resources and services, from web pages to mobile apps or even traditional desktop applications.
The cloud continuously transforms our connectivity on a global scale. It can be found everywhere, from our vehicles to our phones and even to our watches. From what we are witnessing right now, the cloud may ultimately safely carry numerous organizations through a global crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a global remote workforce of millions of people, nearly overnight. The move has generated a sharp rise in the demand for cloud providers, forcing many of the digital productivity and collaboration tool providers to adjust their service offerings and, in many cases, strengthen their own safety and security infrastructure to manage the surging need.
What many people don’t realize is that the cloud is largely driven by open source technology. The actual infrastructure of the cloud consists of physical servers, but they’re situated in large clusters acting as one super computer. A super computer needs an operating system, just like any computer does, and the “operating system” of the global cloud is a collection of several significant open source projects.
The emerging trend of workplace virtualization is a by-product of the pandemic that has decimated the global economies. A change in behavior, rather forced, in how companies and its employees operate has turned attention to technologies that are going to be the backbone for remote working in the future. Cloud tops this list.
Cloud as a technology enabler has been around for years but widely regarded as vanity and for large-scale enterprises. This, however, is going to change in a post-Covid-19 world. There are two important factors behind this optimism – cloud computing has fast evolved and become more flexible and reliable. Second is the massive influx to the digital space by thousands of small-scale enterprises, which had largely remained unorganized and offline thus far.
Never would we have imagined that a sub-microscopic infectious organism would be the greatest catalyst for digital transformation. And in this era of COVID-19, a key enabler of digital transformation acceleration is cloud computing, not just as an operating model but also as a technological shift. In particular, there is increased focus amongst large and smaller organisations with the cloud native approach to software development. The use of microservices, containers and DevOps is fuelling the adoption of hybrid cloud architectures, infusing AI in enterprises, and exploiting the full potential of 5G and edge computing.
In order to appreciate the true value of the cloud native approach, it is important to step back and reflect on how it differs from previous approaches to building applications.
Cloud native also fundamentally boosts DevOps by enabling further automation of existing decision points between development teams and IT operations. By transforming decisions about provisioning, scaling and zero-downtime deployment into automated tasks, we move closer to applications and systems that respond better to market dynamics or volatility. At the same time, cloud native helps organisations move away from costly always-on infrastructure with elastic computing, metered billing and metered billing and pay-per-use models. Risk of massive system failures are also mitigated with cloud native applications that are based on loosely coupled microservices architecture.
With enterprise Kubernetes platforms like Red Hat OpenShift, cloud native is no longer confined to the public cloud. Distributed cloud native applications can be deployed across hybrid cloud architectures that include public cloud, private cloud and on-premise data centre. When there is a regulatory policy change or a change in security posture or when a cloud service provider changes their pricing, you now have the flexibility to freely move different components of the enterprise application to any infrastructure – on or off premise.
In the current pandemic, AI is helping organizations with everything from tackling increased security risks with a remote workforce to reducing overwhelming call volumes facing healthcare agencies. Here, cloud native’s dynamic architecture enables AI applications access to data regardless of location, processing power for distinct computational needs, and appropriate analytics or machine learning capabilities. The scalable nature of cloud native is also well suited to managing variability and fluctuations in data streams, while a composite AI application consisting of components with different dataset requirements can be deployed as distributed self-contained microservices.
Recently, global network traffic patterns indicate an increased shift to decentralized computing triggered by social distancing. This is not only because of remote work or learning, but also accelerated automation of processes in industries forced to rely on a reduced workforce, or intentionally trying to minimize human interaction. Agile DevOps, lightweight and portable containers leveraging an enterprise Kubernetes platform, and loosely coupled microservices are apt to address potential edge computing issues related to adequate processing power, connectivity, bandwidth and latency. With cloud native, you can deploy AI applications that make real-time decisions at the edge, while also performing big data analysis in the data centre.
The last quarter saw a meteoric rise of cloud-based platforms such as Zoom, Google Meets, Microsoft Teams,and more. Another silver lining for these companies is the expansion of use cases. For instance, online learning is booming and has led to the rise of platforms such as BYJU’s. We are likely to get a better picture of how the cloud space fared when the likes of Amazon (AWS), Microsoft (Azure), and others announce their earnings.
In India, industry pundits point to a similar trend. According to the IDC’s Covid-19 Impact on IT spending Survey May 2020, 64% of firms in India are going to increase demand for cloud computing. Nearly 56% of the firms are going to embrace the cloud platforms as new normal. Related technologies such as SaaS, collaboration suites, and other cloud tools will see a big uptake shortly, according to the report.
These are extraordinary times and it is important that we consciously and purposefully rethink architectural and technology choices, not just to survive this crisis but to come out better and stronger. Private and public sector alike are already experiencing first-hand the resiliency and agility the cloud native and hybrid cloud approach offers. This is by far, one of those rare pivotal technological shifts that will enable organizations to realize unmatched capabilities for growth and value creation for years to come.
References : Economic Times, COMCAST Business Community, IDG Report, zdnet.com and technologyreview.com