UPDATED 14:00 EDT / JULY 29 2019


Innovation in overdrive: ‘Third Platform’ will shift tech into high gear

Although the past decade has seen innovation at a pace and scale without precedent, it’s time to fasten those seat belts. The world is about to enter a new phase that will be innovation in which emerging technologies will be invented at light speed not by a few bright minds in isolation, but collectively by thousands at any one time.

That’s the conclusion of Frank Gens (pictured), senior vice president and chief analyst of IDC Research Inc. It’s his job to examine technology trends over the next few years and assess the broader, long-term impact on commerce and society.

What Gens sees is the beginning of what IDC has labeled the “Third Platform,” an evolution from the second platform that began in the mid-1990s with the introduction of web browsing and the internet. In the Third Platform, an explosion of edge computing, cloud, and on-premises offerings along with microservices application architectures will shift the tech world into a whole new gear.

“We’re at the threshold of a major scale up of innovation in this Third Platform era that’s very different from the last 10 or 12 years,” Gens said. “Being able to build something interesting quickly, using a lot of innovation from a lot of other people, then adding your special sauce; that’s going to take the scale of innovation up a couple of orders of magnitude.”

Gens spoke with Dave Vellante, host of theCUBE, SiliconANGLE Media’s mobile livestreaming studio, during the Actifio Data Driven event in Boston. They discussed the impact of the open-source community on code development, cloud mobility in the enterprise, the transformation of all businesses into tech companies and potential government action to dismantle Big Tech (see the full interview with transcript here). (* Disclosure below.)

This week, theCUBE features Frank Gens as our Guest of the Week.

Smartest people work elsewhere

In the 1990s, as the internet was beginning to gather steam, Microsoft Corp. had already become an industry powerhouse. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates made statements that his company achieved its success through a monopoly on acquiring people with the best talent and intelligence to work for it.

Sun Microsystems Inc. co-founder Bill Joy responded in the press with what became known as “Bill Joy’s Law.” He famously stated that, “No matter who you are, most of the smartest people in the world work for someone else.”

What if the smartest people in the world could work for any company without ever needing to be on a payroll? That’s the new era that Gens says is upon us, embodied by sites such as GitHub and the open-source ecosystem where communities of bright minds turn out new advances in technology at an astounding rate for the benefit of all.

“People might have deployed new code four times a year,” Gens said. “They’re now deploying it four times a minute. Now you’re part of a cloud-connected community of innovators.”

500 million apps in five years

Microservices architectures, such as Amazon Web Services Inc.’s Lambda, and the growth of application programming interface tools are enabling developers to move production apps more fully into the cloud. At the annual IDC Directions conference in March, Gens indicated that 500 million new apps will be created from 2018 to 2023. This equals the total amount generated over the past 40 years.

Of even greater significance is that innovative technology has gone mobile. Cloud mobility solutions, such as those offered by data recovery provider Actifio Inc. and others, have made it easier for businesses to move workloads between on-premises and cloud environments.

This trend was underscored most recently by the news that AT&T Corp. would be moving most of its 250,000 employees to Microsoft’s 365 package of productivity apps and services on the Azure cloud platform in a multi-billion-dollar deal.

“The public cloud stacks, where all of the innovation is basically happening in the industry, is jailbreaking that out through AWS Outposts or Azure Stack or Google Anthos,” Gens said. “Take me out to the edge. This movement of the cloud guys is to say we’ll take innovation out to wherever you need it.”

Cloud transforms all business

Enterprise cloud adoption has also led to a transformation of business into a world that is technology dependent. Whether a firm sells dog food, pool supplies, or soap, the mantra now is that all companies are tech companies.

This can be seen in moves by automobile companies, such as Ford Motor Co., which invested in Argo AI in 2017 and announced plans to roll out a fleet of autonomous cars by 2021. Or in statements by top banking executives including Lloyd Blankfein who once declared that a quarter of the workforce at The Goldman Sachs Group Inc. consisted of computer engineers.

And the common denominator for non-tech companies to become tech businesses remains the cloud where 84% of enterprises today have a multicloud strategy and more than 91% are in the public cloud.

“One of the first things we observed in 2007 and 2008 was that clouds weren’t just about S3 storage or Salesforce’s software as a service,” Gens noted. “It’s a model that can be applied to any industry, any company, any offering. This is the biggest revolution in the economy for many decades or you might say centuries even.”

Move to breakup Big Tech

The economy’s biggest revolution has led to another outcome: Big Tech. This has led to calls for increased regulatory oversight and potentially breaking up four of the largest technology companies in the world.

Google LLC., Apple Inc., Facebook Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. are now under investigation by the Department of Justice for potential antitrust violations. Earlier this month, the Federal Trade Commission levied a record $5 billion fine on Facebook for privacy violations.

Moves by the federal government against large technology businesses have been initiated before. The 1980s saw the breakup of telecom giant AT&T into the “Baby Bells,” and the government sued and won a case against Microsoft in the late 1990s, which opened the browser market. It would not be a stretch to say that both companies managed to do quite well afterwards.

“This has been a recurring pattern,” Gens said. “I don’t think it’s fair to say that theoretically it could be abused; that’s like going after a crime before it’s been committed. To me, the bigger issue is more around privacy.”

Gens’ current analysis of the tech world today and where it is headed provides a glimpse into a future that is equal parts promise and peril. Faster innovation could lead to major advances in healthcare and a better quality of life for many people around the globe. Yet, there is also the potential that moving fast could end up breaking important things that will be hard to replace.

As Bill Joy also once said, “We have to encourage the future we want rather than trying to prevent the future we fear.”

Here’s the complete video interview, part of SiliconANGLE’s and theCUBE’s coverage of the Actifio Data Driven event. (* Disclosure: TheCUBE is a paid media partner for the Actifio Data Driven event. Neither Actifio Inc., the sponsor for theCUBE’s event coverage, nor other sponsors have editorial control over content on theCUBE or SiliconANGLE.)

Photo: SiliconANGLE

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