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Amido Tech Trends 2018: What’s all the FaaS about?


News Facts:

  • Cloud – Digital Innovation in the form of FaaS/Serverless Event Driven Computing , Cloud to Edge, and Industrial IoT
  • Focus on Automation and Machine Learning as business benefits of Artificial Intelligence is speculative at best
  • The Demise of the CIO and The Rise of DevOps

London, U.K., 14th December 2017 – Amido, a vendor-agnostic technical consultancy specialising in cloud-first transformation, shares its expertise on the technology trends that will impact business across all sectors for the next 18 months. With trends from the last five years taking hold, the trend evolution cycles are becoming shorter, increasing the demand for specialised IT skills that can cater to digital transformation.

Amido offers practical advice that is matched with its software engineering expertise and delivery capability to tackle business objectives with agility. This gives Amido the ultimate perspective of how the combining of people, devices, content and services will advance across any industry – meshing together the physical and the digital, intelligently.

Cloud computing, the Internet of Things, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence and the demise of the CIO are integral trends over the next 18 months.

Listed are the top four trends that Amido believes will continue to impact businesses over the coming years:

Trend 1 – Commoditisation through the Cloud

Cloud is here – and with the immense growth in the cloud market comes the much-needed commoditisation of services, which is a good thing for everyone. Imagine trying to build something with a combination of lego and stickle bricks; it results in hand-cranked products that don’t work well together and are expensive to build. Commoditisation brings standardisation, which allows inexpensive products to be delivered at scale that work with other products in the ecosystem and opens the door to technologies, such as blockchain, to enable distributed trust. Listed is what Amido sees as significant cloud growth areas:

Event Driven Computing – FaaS/Serverless
The commoditisation of IT started with the cloud. Cloud computing enabled the creation of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), IaaS enabled the creation of Platform as a Service (PaaS) and PaaS enabled the creation of Software as a Service (SaaS) and the emerging Functions as a Service (FaaS) or Backend as a Service (BaaS) – most commonly referred to as Serverless computing. Serverless is a hot topic in the world of software architecture, but the first usage of the term can be spotted back in 2012 in the context of continuous integration, and with the launch of AWS Lambda in 2014, the term started to attract more attention from outside the developer community.

The significance of FaaS for businesses could be huge. Businesses will no longer have to pay for the redundant use of servers, but just for how much computing power that application consumes per millisecond, much like the per-second billing approach that containers are moving towards. Instead of having an application on a server, the business can run it directly from the cloud allowing it to choose when to use it and pay for it, per task – thus making it event driven1. According to Gartner, by 2020, event-sourced, real-time situational awareness will be a required characteristic for 80% of digital business solutions, and 80% of new business ecosystems will require support for event processing.

FaaS is a commoditised function of cloud computing and one that takes away wasted compute associated with idle server storage and infrastructure. “Not every business is going to be right for FaaS or serverless, but there is a real appetite in the industry to reduce the cost of adopting the cloud – so this is a great way to help drive these costs down,” adds Richard Slater, Principal Consultant at Amido. “The thing is, if you’re considering this as an option you are signing up to the ultimate in vendor lock-in as it’s not easy to move these services from one cloud to another; each cloud provider approaches FaaS in a different way and at present you can’t take a function and move it between vendors. As the appetite for serverless technologies grow, the nature of DevOps will subsequently change; it will still be relevant, although how we go about doing it will be very different. We could say that we are moving into a world of NoOps where applications run themselves in the cloud with no infrastructure and little human involvement. Indeed, humans will need to be there to help automate those services, but won’t be required to do as much coding or testing as they do now. With the advent of AI, the IoT, and other technologies, business events can be detected more quickly and analysed in greater detail; enterprises should embrace ‘event thinking’ and Lambda Architectures as part of a digital landscape.”

Not every business is going to be right for FaaS or serverless, but there is a real appetite in the industry to reduce the cost of adopting the cloud – so this is a great way to help drive these costs down.

Richard Slater, Principal Consultant, Amido.

AWS Lambda is an event-driven, serverless computing platform that has doubled its size from 12% in 2016, to 23% this year (Netflix runs on this). This, together with the increasing adoption of Containers (Docker container adoption in AWS grew from 18% to 25% in nine months this year proving that businesses rely on it (and microservices) to build apps), shows that whilst these approaches to enterprise software delivery are early in their adoption curve, they are becoming a viable solution as companies want to adopt agile solutions and manage the cost of the cloud. AWS states that 1 in 4 respondents from its survey are actually using containers and Amido is already working with forward-thinking organisations to align business strategies with digital and IT transformation to enable growth.

“We are going to see an increasingly rapid move to commoditised services enabling business and customer value to be delivered at pace to those who are willing to invest in these technologies.  Experimentation and learning are pivotal to being able to understand these technologies. Consider giving over 10 to 20% of the time of your engineering teams to focus on experimental products – this does wonders for staff morale and skills. In addition, it can even deliver some tangible business value over time,” says Richard.

Alex Hilton, CEO of The Cloud Industry Forum concludes: “The cloud industry is evolving at a pace and over the past year we’ve seen some really interesting examples of how cloud can fuel digital disruption and intersect with other next generation technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Big Data and IoT. This will continue into 2018, though we expect the industry to start focusing more closely on cloud outcomes. This will offer businesses a better understanding of how the trailblazers and disruptors are really innovating in the market.”

Trend 2 – IoT is on the Edge

“We can’t talk about IoT without sharing my favourite quote from Twitter: ‘In a relatively short time we’ve taken a system built to resist destruction by nuclear weapons and made it vulnerable to toasters’ and he’s dead right!” shares Richard Slater.

The proliferation of things connected to the internet has meant that Edge Computing is hugely important for all industries. Research firm IHS predicts that IoT will grow to reach a staggering 75 billion devices by 2025.

IoT has contributed to a serious rise in the types and amount of datasets generated and there needs to be a way to aggregate, analyse and distribute that data from the ‘things’ and send it back to the ‘things,’ quicker. Currently, Edge computing technology such as AWS Greengrass collects data and processes it from nearby items to send it back to the cloud where analytics and ML can take place in order to make decisions – or make sense of the data – before sending the data back to the edge and then to the things – to make them more intelligent. The next wave will be for the compute to move from the cloud towards the edge giving the objects the ability to make intelligent real-time decisions; a car needs to make a split-second decision on whether it should apply the brakes to avoid an accident, for example. Edge computing holds data analysed from the cloud that is immediately passed to the object for instantaneous updates and responses, and Amido highlights that Cloud to the Edge data distribution is essential to improve customer experience in industries like manufacturing, health and retail.

IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) – “As Phillip Hammond mentioned in this year’s Budget, we are on the verge of a technical revolution and this 4th Industrial Revolution or ‘Industry 4.0’ is hotter than hell right now,” said Steve Jones, Principal Consultant at Amido. This was reflected in the Chancellor’s 2017 Autumn Budget which saw a further £2.3bn allocated for investment in research and development, the formation of a new national centre for computing, and a national retraining scheme to boost digital skills and to support the expansion of the construction industry.

The UK Government has also recently (October 2017) published a consultation paper “Made Smarter Review” which references the World Economic Forum’s prediction that Digital Industry Transformation represents a USD $100 trillion opportunity. Coupled with the well documented and pressing need for the UK Government to address the weak productivity of the UK economy, we can expect to see a lot of focus in this area over the next few years.

There are roughly 6.4 billion data-communicating objects in the world right now and this number is forecast to triple by 2020 (Accenture). The overwhelming majority of these objects will be “things” – whether cars, white goods or industrial assets: smart machines. These smart machines – featuring a multitude of sensors, automation proficiency and machine to machine communication capability – constitute the IIoT. IIoT will enable data-driven manufacturing, where process and floor-wide monitoring are able to optimise efficiency and quality (through the application of machine learning to big data). This is being heralded as the revolution that will introduce huge productivity boosts to industry.

As AMRC Sheffield launches its Factory 2050 to facilitate the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0), the potential for Edge Computing within Industrial IoT is accelerating. It is the UK’s first state of the art factory entirely dedicated to conducting collaborative research into reconfigurable robotic, digitally assisted assembly and machining technologies. Amido sees the rising need for high variation and mass customisation of manufacturing throughout a diverse range of engineering sectors to shorten lead times and optimise costs accumulated throughout the supply chain, and that can rapidly ramp production up or down to meet demand. Big data technology processes large volumes of information, collected by sensors on each machine, cell and the building itself to enable automation – without forsaking the need for humans. Yet, humans will benefit from sensors within a factory or at a hospital, for instance. Look at how Fujitsu with its UBIQUITOUSWARE takes in an immersed reality with its products that enable humans to do a better job with the use of real-time analytics and data collected from other scenarios. If you fell in the factory or if there’s a potential danger, edge technology and sensors can feed and receive this information directly to and from the worker. “Machines can cause harm – robots that know when humans are close and slow down to protect them are an important part of the Industry 4.0 or IIoT revolution,” concludes Richard Slater.

As Phillip Hammond mentioned in this year’s Budget, we are on the verge of a technical revolution and this 4th Industrial Revolution or ‘Industry 4.0’ is hotter than hell right now.

Steve Jones, Principal Consultant, Amido.

Trend 3 – AI: Machine Learning

With the evolution of IoT and the vastly larger data sets that are streaming into the cloud, it would be impractical to try and process that quantity of data in real time. However you can use AI and event sourcing to summarise and generate actionable insights. Gartner wrote that 59% of organisations are still gathering information to build their AI strategies, while the remainder have already made progress in piloting or adopting AI solutions.

Machine Learning (ML) and its use within digital transformation programmes is also starting to mature. Whilst a survey by MIT Sloan showed that only 23 percent of businesses have adopted machine learning automation of any kind, and of those who have, only five percent are using it extensively. Amido sees the ML trend evolving within organisations and it is the pooling together of data married with deep analytics that will enable a specific task, such as understanding language or driving a vehicle in a controlled environment, with the algorithms chosen that are optimised for that task.

“We are starting to have different conversations with our clients. I remember talking to a leading online retailer some three years ago about how they could use ML – but it is only now starting to materialise and gain some traction,” adds Simon Evans, CTO of Amido. “We find ourselves having more conversations with our clients about building ML into what would traditionally be an ETL process (extract, transform and load), rather than it being something that tech teams aspire towards.”

For businesses wanting to make use of data – structured and unstructured – to stimulate intelligent decisions and spot trends across all departments, businesses should be looking at data engineering, data lakes and ML in a practical way, identifying data sets that would provide the most benefit from building a machine learning capability such as fraud or purchase recommendations and up/cross-sell. “We are helping businesses make use of these ML applications and exploit their benefits– in turn aiding the automation of processes received from the Data Driven Economy,” concludes Simon Evans, CTO of Amido.

We are helping businesses make use of these ML applications and exploit their benefits– in turn aiding the automation of processes received from the Data Driven Economy.

Simon Evans, CTO, Amido.

Trend 4 – No Vendor Agenda: The Demise of the CIO and The Rise of DevOps

There is a fundamental change happening with how technology is not only being purchased but how it’s delivered and operated.

With FaaS and serverless gaining momentum, we are seeing the responsibility of what to choose and how to deploy applications distributed back to the business. “This really leaves us with the question: with this new wave of computing, what role is the CIO to play now when there isn’t the same level of vendor negotiations?” suggests Richard Slater, Principal Consultant at Amido. “Cloud providers are basically the same price across the board so there’s not much to negotiate on, other than length of contract – signing up to long-term single-cloud contracts introduces the risk of having a spending commitment with a cloud that doesn’t offer the features that you need in the future to deliver business value. In this respect, the CIO is still necessary,” adds Richard Slater.

As business leaders, the need to let go of the ‘command and control’ approach and empower teams to be accountable for delivering against a market proposition is becoming ever more important. Creating the environment and securing the right skillsets to be able to develop, own and operate applications from within the same team is demanding for a new breed of IT engineering.

IT Skills for cross-platform, multi-functional engineering is born out of the growth of the cloud computing market. “DevOps is more than just development and operations,” continues Richard. “It’s really ‘DevQASecHRLegalRiskFinanceOps,’ and Gene Kim has put forward the concept of Systems Thinking as one of the three ways of DevOps. If we honestly look at the systems we use to deliver business value, then we will find that there is way more than Dev and Ops involved in success.”

One of the primary reasons that Agile and DevOps transformations fail is the lack of trust and thus accountability placed in the product development teams. Organisations wanting to adopt Agile, Cloud and DevOps must start to give trust to the individuals closest to the business and writing code on the ground. “To a certain extent this trust must be earned, but in many of today’s enterprises there is so much governance around technical delivery that it has the effect of slamming the brakes on any transformation,” concludes Richard Slater, Principal Consultant at Amido.

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