This syndicated post originally appeared at Network World Zeus Kerravala.

It’s Valentine’s Day, and we should take a moment to appreciate the ones
we love, as well as the innovative technologies that will change the world.

Today is Valentine’s Day, and that means showing appreciation to the people you love. I love my kids; my cats; my new puppy, Bodhi; and most of all my wonderful and amazing wife, Christine. She’s a kind, warm and loving person who has been fighting a rare illness called CVID for the past few years and still keeps a smile on her face and stops to smell the roses — something I’m not very good at.

I would also like to use this Valentine’s Day to show appreciation for cool infrastructure innovation because the new stuff is becoming super important.

5 innovative technologies that I love

Businesses are becoming increasingly digitized, and success with digital transformation is dependent on infrastructure modernization. It seems infrastructure has evolved by orders of magnitude over the past few years, and below are the technologies that I love most (in no particular order).

  • Intent-based networking. Networks have been around a long time and have seen small, incremental advancements over the past few decades, but nothing that was a huge leap forward. As an example, software-defined networking (SDN) made the network a bit easier to manage through automation, but it didn’t fundamentally change the way a network operates.

    Intent-based networking (IBN), however, is an entirely new paradigm in networking where over time, the network will learn to run and secure itself. It’s the stuff of science fiction, but we are oh so close to having it become a reality. If you’re a Cisco customer, their solution should be a no-brainer. (Note: Cisco is a client of ZK Research.) If you’re a non-Cisco customer, Apstra provides a solid, multivendor alternative.

  • Converged infrastructure (CI) and hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI). The popularity of public clouds has been well documented on Network World, Computerworld and other technology sites. However, as popular as public clouds are, the number of workloads in private clouds still outnumbers those in public clouds. And setting up private cloud infrastructure can be quite a challenge if you don’t have hundreds of IT people who can do the constant tweaking and tuning required.

    For companies that don’t have such staff, CI and HCI can provide as nice alternative, as they are turnkey solutions with integrated network, storage, compute and software. Dell-EMC has set a high bar in the area of CI, and its VxRack/VxRail products are challenging Nutanix for market leadership. Cisco’s latest release of HyperFlex has several new features that make multi-cloud environments simpler, and a dark horse to watch is a little company out of India called 8kpc that has very high performance numbers

  • GPU computing. This might be my favorite technology advancement over the past decade. CPUs were obviously critical in ushering the computer era, as they can be found embedded in almost everything. For the past 40 years, CPUs have advanced exponentially as predicted by Intel’s Gordon Moore. However, Moore’s Law is reaching physical limitations, and CPUs are not fast enough to do the things digital businesses require.

    GPUs were once thought to be a niche technology used to power graphics cards for video games, but they are now used in a number of advanced applications, such as self-driving cars, scientific analysis, machine learning-based healthcare and robotics.

    GPUs are coming down in price and available in new form factors, which enables them to be embedded in more devices. For example, Cisco’s more recent Spark Board is loaded with GPUs to do facial recognition and speech analytics. Nvidia is the runaway market leader in GPUs and will be important to the world over the next 30 years like Intel has been in the past 30. (Note: Nvidia is a client of ZK Research.)

  • Flash storage. Anyone who knows me knows that I like things that are fast. I drive a Porsche Cayenne, I speed far too often, and I have had to go to remedial driving school twice because of too many speeding tickets. When it comes to storage, traditional spinning disks are slow, far too slow for new applications such as machine learning, video analytics and big data. The solution is flash because it creates a new paradigm for storage where it can finally keep up with advancements in GPUs and 100 Gig-E networks.

    If you think flash is still too expensive to be used for anything but niche workloads, think again. In a recent interview, Charlie Giancarlo, CEO of market-leading Pure Storage, predicted that “we will see a 50 percent decline in flash pricing in about three years and a 75 percent decline in six years.” Businesses should be making plans for an all-flash data center because market leadership in the digital world is all about speed, and flash lets us access more data, faster.

  • 802.11ax Wi-Fi. Wireless LANs are critically important to the future of business. Companies are connecting more things to the network, with most of them connecting to Wi-Fi. Also, organizations are looking to capture usage information from the Wi-Fi network to understand what customers and employees are doing so they can offer better services to make consumers happy and workers more productive.

    The problem is, and forgive my language, the Wi-Fi experience sucks in many places. How can that be you may ask? The last release of Wi-Fi, 802.11ac Wave 2 promised Gigabit Wi-Fi, so we should have much more speed. But the problem isn’t about speed, it’s congestion. Consider you are sitting in the audience at your favorite conference, and there are 10 minutes before the keynote address begins. You’re emailing, tweeting, texting and Facebooking with no problem. Then the keynote starts, and nothing works. That isn’t speed; its congestion because too many people are trying to access the Wi-Fi network.

    None of the advancements in Wi-Fi have addressed the congestion issue, but 802.11ax does. The technology uses something called orthogonal frequency division multiple access (ODFMA), which is a technical way of saying it can multiplex channels. Traditional Wi-Fi enables one client device to connect to the AP per channel, and it stays connected until the session is finished even if no data is being passed. ODFMA chops each channel up into smaller subchannels so signals can be stacked on top of each other. This lets each channel handle 30 client devices instead of a single one. 802.11ax will lead to a significantly better user experience than we have today.

To date, Aerohive is the only Wi-Fi vendor that has announced 802.11ax products, but I expect by summer will see announcements from every major Wi-Fi vendor. (Note: Aerohive is a client of ZK Research.)

Happy Valentine’s Day to all, and make sure you take a moment to appreciate your loved ones!

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Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.
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