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BLOG: Coping in a world where technology is smarter than us

Bernard Golden | Dec. 22, 2011
The dynamic of a new technology arriving, competing against human capabilities, being found wanting (or barely successful), and, in a short period of time, improving far past human capabilities is, perhaps, the story of our time.

What does this have to do with cloud computing? Here are some things for you to consider:

Plan for scale. The amount (and types) of data is going to explode. You may think your storage requirements have gone up a lot with your Hadoop analysis of your website's clickstream analysis, but you haven't seen anything yet. The number of applications you manage is also going to explode. When I speak I often predict application portfolio growth of at least an order of magnitude, and I often see disbelieving smiles on audience member's faces. They're judging the future by the past. With the reduced friction and lower cost of cloud computing, historic barriers to application development and deployment will fall dramatically, leading to huge jumps in every company's application portfolio.

Plan for a much more dynamic environment. With unpredictable interaction with input devices and floods of data, application load variability will be at least one--if not two--standard deviations larger. The capability to design highly elastic and efficient application architectures will be crucial to support the operating environment of the near future.

Plan for a different class of devices. Up to now, the "app revolution" has mostly been about a new way for humans to interact with a remote application. So most mobile apps have just been cut-down interfaces put onto a cellphone. Soon the device will have significant memory and processing capability in and of itself and will perform processing locally, while interacting with remote applications.

For an insight into this, see the profoundly futuristic novel Daemon. It offers a good look into a world in which devices react and respond to the environment. Instead of just typing into devices, we'll speak (Siri) and gesture (Kinect). For many interactions, people won't do anything - the device will automatically obtain information from the environment and execute an action While the past has been devices controlled by humans, the future will be devices responding to humans - and other devices.

Plan for new application architectures. The Silk browser shipped on the Kindle Fire is an example of the new application architecture--the application is split between device and cloud backend. This architecture lets the device perform its role - interaction with the environment and local processing--unhindered with heavy processing; likewise, the cloud end can perform its role--processor-intensive code execution--unburdened by needing to send all bits back and forth across the network.

I know that Silk is controversial, with many people proclaiming it slower than a regular browser, but I believe Amazon will get this tuned and Silk will perform better. In any case, the design pattern is what is important, and it's an obvious one. What this means for you is that you will need very sharp application and network architects, comfortable with distributed architectures and performance optimization, not to mention familiarity with application construction with code, new storage mechanisms and services accessed via APIs.


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