If you’ve been to a tech conference in the past five years, you’ve likely heard a keynote about digital disruption.
You probably know the lyrics well enough to sing along: mobility, cloud, data explosion, IoT, and “Holy sh*t, three ‘bros’ with an app are going to put you out of business.”
Thus it was refreshing to hear a different variant being sung at Juniper’s NXTWORK event. CEO Rami Rahim delivered a keynote that steered us past the FUD of disruption and toward a more constructive discussion of digital cohesion.
The idea behind digital cohesion is that disparate applications and point services will coalesce around what Rahim calls “mega-services.”
These mega-services will be built around deep and connected knowledge about consumers. They will know our preferences and habits, anticipate our needs, adapt to changing conditions, and provide seamless experiences that make our lives more simple and more pleasant.
He illustrated digital cohesion with an imaged service called “What’s for dinner?”
This service would draw on a variety of information sources (fitness goals from a fitness app, meals you have previously enjoyed, ingredients currently in your refrigerator, a delivery service to provide any missing ingredients from the nearby grocery store, and a recipe surfaced up on a mobile device).
In a world of digital cohesion, all these actions would be orchestrated and integrated into a single service that happens automatically, rather than discreet set of actions that you, the consumer, have to take.
Infrastructure Is The Glue
According to Rahim, the world of digital cohesion will be held together by infrastructure: compute, storage, and (you guessed it) networking.
This might be a self-serving conclusion from the CEO of a networking company, but it’s also true. An enormous amount of computing power and high-performance connectivity will be required to pull together and seamlessly integrate mega-services.
Rahim identified a couple of key requirements to make that infrastructure perform as it should, including automation and interoperability.
The networking industry is still finding its legs when it comes to automation—particularly the grand dreams of SDN, in which pools of resources are provisioned on demand, policies applied, and operations monitored with minimal keystrokes required from human operators.
Based on discussions I had with Juniper executives and employees, automation is a priority for the company, particularly around security and operations, but there’s still a long way to go.
That said, I’m pleased to hear a technology executive talk about ideas beyond digital disruption, and to move past the fear-mongering to formulate a vision of what comes after we’ve all been disrupted.
Whether you think digital cohesion is a useful framework, or whether mega-services are feasible, or even a good idea (to me, they sound like a disturbingly invasive form of corporate surveillance and monetization of personal information) it’s time to start talking about what comes next.