Bill Pfeifer: Hello and welcome to The Next Horizon, a Dell Technologies podcast. I’m Bill Pfeifer, and together we’ll be talking about emerging technologies, their potential to impact society and what you need to know today.
Bill Pfeifer: In this episode I’ll be having a conversation with David Frattura. David is the Senior Director of Technology Strategy for the Dell Technologies Office of the CTO. He and his team are focused on understanding the future trends that will be driving what you, our customers will need and helping set frameworks in place so the rest of Dell Technologies can focus its R&D efforts on meeting those future demands.
Bill Pfeifer: He’s one of the main owners of a roadmap of topics that the OCTO team is working on. So he’s tracking what output we need, what the team’s working on, and when it’s ready for release, what’s going on in the technology space, and trying to keep a regular release cadence of great material from his team into the world of Dell Technologies to keep that engine running as smoothly as possible.
Bill Pfeifer: In this episode, I’ll talk to David a bit about the drivers of digital transformation and some of the key areas to watch for to make sure you’re on track for what’s coming next. We’ll cover all of these areas in more depth in future episodes.
Bill Pfeifer: As we dig into those topics, we’ll mostly focus on the why of the technology. Why is it a focus for Dell Technologies, why are our customers going to care about it and why is it going to help drive human progress? Okay, that last one is more of a how, but that didn’t sound as good as sticking with a list of whys, so please just work with me a bit.
Bill Pfeifer: Now, let’s switch over to David and jump into our first conversation. So, David, let’s talk a little bit about the methodology. A key role of the office of the CTO is to prepare for the future and identify and assess critical themes and emerging technologies over let’s say a two to five-year horizon. Can you take us through how the Dell CTO team goes about doing that and what that means to the company?
David Frattura: Sure. Identifying the key trends is not an exact science. My team and I focus on understanding actually the key overarching themes that represent the various new emerging technologies that the industry is taking as a direction. Some of these technologies can come as soon as two years, some of them may be out as long as five years.
David Frattura: We actively seek out the opinions and viewpoints of a large community, both internal and external. We have a community of senior technologists inside of Dell, our fellow’s community. We have innovation teams in our various offices of the CTO. And we also work with our business unit partners who are developing our products to get their direct take on what’s happening in the industry and what technologies are emerging.
David Frattura: We also connect with customers from across the various markets that we serve. They’re implementing and realizing technology daily and they’re thinking about where they need to go, so we want to really understand where they’re seeing things. And then we also of course talk to industry analysts. They’re very good at collecting data from a wide set of sources. And so, we pull all that data together to create viewpoints by identifying the themes across these various communities and thought leaders.
David Frattura: These themes really represent, again, an aggregate of trends. And these themes can then be applied internally within Dell for us to focus our innovation programs, our R&D, how we focus our products, and then in general just to understand how our business is going to map to the future needs of our customers.
Bill Pfeifer: Digital transformation continues to be a big focus for enterprise spending and an increasing spend as well over time. So how does that translate into IT infrastructure architectures, specifically where that impacts customers and what’s that going to mean for the industry, the business, the customers?
David Frattura: Okay. Well, digital transformation is the key industry driver at this time. For enterprises, for government, the entire IT buyer landscape is looking at transitioning into a full digital entity. The key thing to understand about digital transformation is it’s primarily about data and analyzing that data.
David Frattura: So, IT organizations are grappling with how they develop systems to store what could potentially be massive amounts of data; we’re entering the Zettabyte Era, and then analyzing it. Analyzing and being able to surface insights that can help them drive their business, how they service their citizens and how do they work with their partners and employees.
David Frattura: To address these needs, we are focusing on developing new system optimizing technologies. AI is the big buzz word in the industry. Well, AI is really just a data science method to analyze data. Now, AI puts certain demands on systems more so than ever before, and this is causing the industry to adapt by inserting new sorts of processing technologies or accelerators.
David Frattura: We’ve already seen the wide-scale use of GPUs in the marketplace to accelerate data science algorithms, but we’re also going to see new types of processors that’ll come out to support the x86 infrastructure we have today in our servers. These accelerators will include AI specific enablement, maybe even algorithm specific and implementations to greatly improve performance in a learning algorithm to understand a set of data.
David Frattura: We’ll also see the advent of new types of media and memory that are there to persist this ever-growing set of data, both bulk data, but then also memories in media that’ll allow us to process data at very high bandwidth levels with very low latency, giving us the ability to understand massive amounts of data in a very quick period of time.
David Frattura: And then of course data centers are going to have to adapt; building new fabrics to connect data persistent systems with a server system. So you’ll see the advent of terabit Ethernet, but also new memory centric fabrics like Gen Z. This all comes together in support of these high-performance data crunching applications that we’re going to see proliferate over the next five years.
Bill Pfeifer: So besides digital transformation, I know the office of the CTO is tracking a lot of other major trends, major disruptors, major changes that are coming to the market. Can you talk about some of the things that are on your radar?
David Frattura: You’re right, digital transformation is the core business driver, but there’s a couple of other things that we see as proliferating in the industry and how customers are looking to consume technology.
David Frattura: First, there’s a greater influence of non-IT influencers. Historically IT system admins built an environment and made it available for application developers and the application developers took advantage of it. More and more we’re seeing the developers, data scientists and operations technology people exert even more influence than IT in terms of infrastructure system decisions. So, it may mean that a data scientist who wants to use a particular framework and has a certain expectation of performance, they will set the criteria for which IT then has to respond.
David Frattura: We also see in the world of IOT and edge computing, the operations technology teams having even greater control because they have very special needs that are sometimes beyond what IT has.
David Frattura: Beyond the influencers we also see this advent of the multi-cloud world. And really multi-cloud is not just about having multiple clouds. It’s really about right application on the right platform. These systems that enterprises will have at their disposal will allow for applications to run more efficiently with different financial characteristics, and so you will be able to more intelligently put your workloads where it makes the most sense to service the customers as close as possible to them at the right economic cost points.
David Frattura: And then lastly, we also see that financial concept continued to evolve. The software as a service inflection that started to happen 10 years ago, it’s become pretty mainstream. While the idea of being able to consume a service based on only what you need is going to start to proliferate all avenues or all aspects of IT, and that may even include how you start to consume infrastructure products.
David Frattura: We at Dell, have even just recently launched a product; a hardware system, a cloud platform that you pay for what you need. You don’t pay for the whole system. And this as a service model, this consumption-based model is going to proliferate across, again, all areas of IT.
Bill Pfeifer: Lots of stuff coming. So, you mentioned IOT and edge, but the big thing that there’s tons of hype out in the market right now is 5G. That’s how we’re going to connect to IOT. That’s how edge is going to push data and pull data and do all of this crazy stuff. Is that something that you’re tracking as well?
David Frattura: Sure. I mean 5G is a major advance in mobile technology. It will allow digital communications to happen to many orders matching more devices with greater performance, with increased security. It will proliferate the public space, but also make inroads inside the enterprise. 5G will transform traditional network connectivity potentially on the campus. It will bring mobile technology into the enterprise as an alternative to traditional environments. The benefit is the seamless connectivity for enterprises’ workers, and they can seamlessly connect with IT and public services on the same interface.
David Frattura: Of course, 5G will also facilitate the connectivity, the things, when you mentioned IOT as the edge of the enterprise network will continue to move further and further away from the core headquarters on campus.
David Frattura: Now, as you start to decentralize the need for security in highly available connections with high reliability will also be very important and 5G really is addressing these.
David Frattura: Edge is often focused on bridging the digital and non-digital worlds, the boundary of the enterprise network. These systems often need ubiquitous connectivity with very low latency and more often than not high-performance, and 5G will absolutely bring that performance and latency and advantage over existing mobile connectivity that will open up a whole new slew of applications and use cases that enterprises could never have even dreamed of deploying in the past.
Bill Pfeifer: So one other topic that we haven’t really touched on here, with all of the growth and these new services and all of these new as a service type things, the consumption model that you mentioned earlier, customers are getting many different as a service subscriptions and different clouds, data centers, data centers used as clouds or consumed as clouds, so we end up with even more silos that are physically discreet. It’s bad enough when you have silos inside your data center, it’s even worse when you have silos that don’t really have a location associated with them, but then customers need to start tying that stuff together. So, what do we do with that?
David Frattura: That’s a core challenge of this era of the multi-cloud. Multi-cloud strategies are becoming the norm for many enterprises. Some analysts are predicting that enterprise will have at least seven clouds, both private and public, and that inherently brings more complexity as you were pointing out. So the industry is adapting. The advent of management orchestration tools that are geared towards supporting a widely decentralized IT infrastructure, the multi-cloud world, those are going to become fundamental to enabling enterprises to take advantage of this right application, right location concept.
David Frattura: Now, there’s also another key event that’s happening in the industry. It’s a shift to container-based application development or cloud native architectures. And along with that comes the industry really gravitating to and coalescing around a container management framework called Kubernetes. And Kubernetes itself is evolving to facilitate multi-cloud application deployment.
David Frattura: So again, the advantages of having lots of locales to deploy your infrastructure or I should say you deploy your applications is right cloud, right place or right application, right place, again, it’s about economics, satisfy your customer. The tools that then enable those applications to be deployed are going to have to be able to work across all of these locales and simplify the operational complexity that an IT operation staff is going to have to live with as well as the developer. The developer doesn’t care what cloud he’s working on. He just knows he has a set of constraints or requirements that the IT infrastructure should satisfy, whether it’s in his building or in a public cloud provider.
Bill Pfeifer: So, in the previous question, we talked some about multi-cloud and some of the complexity that we have in there. Do we have anything coming in terms of maybe some AI automation, things that are going to simplify the IT environment and make this more manageable?
David Frattura: Sure. Actually, automation’s been mainstream for quite a while now in the industry and most IT systems applications are very well automated. But what’s really happening now is the industry recognizes an opportunity to bring together artificial intelligence and analytics technologies and combine that with automation to give us the ability to really greatly reduce the complexity of running the IT estate, the application, the infrastructure.
David Frattura: So, AI with management orchestration technology start to give us the ability to take multiple infrastructure elements and applications, collectively operate them in such a manner as to self-optimize the environment, automatically restore services when failures may occur and overall greatly reduce the analysis burden on the operation staff to pinpoint issues in the environment. AI will help to surface what’s really important to understand in the infrastructure.
David Frattura: This same concept is going to apply itself or be found inside of networking and storage devices. Really IT systems themselves are going to start to embed artificial intelligence for the same purposes; for reducing the complexity of configuration, self-optimization, potentially even self-securing. All this is about if we start to decentralize our infrastructures, increase our IT footprint because of digital transformation, we’re going to have to in kind lower the complexity, the same orders of magnitude that would be burdens on the IT staff.
Bill Pfeifer: Fantastic. So, as we look forward at the future of the enterprise, what do you see coming in the next two to five years, three to five years? And what do you see as the main priorities for enterprises? How do they get ready for all this?
David Frattura: Well, again, digital transformation is that overarching priority for almost all of our customers. Digital transformation initiatives will continue to be the priority well on to the future. The industry’s only scratched the surface of what is possible. Data’s becoming the true asset of the enterprise and the analysis that data will lead to increasing innovation and new business models. The need to handle massive data and to process it will continue to push innovation in the industry. We’ll see advances in hardware or with new accelerators as I mentioned before, and new storage devices.
David Frattura: We’ll also see some groundbreaking new technology start to turn up in the market. We hear a lot of noise in the press about quantum computing. That’s going to start to become more real and real over time. We’ll also see rapid advances in application development models and data science technologies.
David Frattura: So again, this digital transformation imperative that our customers have will then permeate down into priority use cases and for us new technologies we have to develop an innovate in to support that.
Bill Pfeifer: This is great stuff David. Thanks for the time and the perspective. We definitely appreciate your insights and look forward to hearing more about what will be coming out of your team and the Office of the CTO as a whole over the next few episodes.
Bill Pfeifer: For those of you who enjoyed this podcast and want to know more about what’s driving digital transformation, we have a white paper that you can review that has more detail than we covered in our conversation. You can find it at www.delltechnologies.com/nexthorizon, along with future podcasts and some other great content from the smart folks at our Office of the CTO.
Bill Pfeifer: And to our listeners, thank you all for listening to the Next Horizon, a Dell Technologies podcast. We appreciate your time, interest, and attention. I hope you’re as excited as we are about the great innovations that are coming out of our Office of the CTO, and I hope you’ll join us for the next episode where we’ll be talking with Steven Davidson about ICVs or intelligent connected vehicles.
Bill Pfeifer: Be sure to subscribe to the podcast, either through your favorite podcast app or through the website at www.delltechnologies.com/nexthorizon so you don’t miss any great new content. I look forward to seeing you again for upcoming episodes. I’m Bill Pfeifer and this is The Next Horizon.