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The future of cloud computing: Highly distributed with heterogeneous hardware

With a vastly distributed system (the telco network) already in place, the telecom industry has a significant advantage in the transition toward distributed cloud computing. To deliver best-in-class application performance, however, operators must also have the ability to fully leverage heterogeneous compute and storage capabilities.

Ericsson CTO Erik Ekudden’s view on the future of cloud computing

The growing interest in cloud computing scenarios that incorporate both distributed computing capabilities and heterogeneous hardware presents a significant opportunity for network operators. With a vast distributed system (the telco network) already in place, the telecom industry has a significant advantage in the transition toward distributed cloud computing.

This Ericsson Technology Review article explores the future of cloud computing from the perspective of network operators, examining how they can best manage the complexity of future cloud deployments and overcome the technical challenges. Redefining cloud to expose and optimize the use of heterogeneous resources is not straightforward, but we are confident that our use cases and proof points validate our approach and will gain traction both in the telecommunications community and beyond.

Figure 1: Impact of the four key challenges on the stack (top) and heterogeneity of HW infrastructure (bottom)

The cloud is transforming, both in terms of the extent of distribution and in the diversity of compute and storage capabilities. On-premises and edge data centers (DCs) are emerging, and hardware (HW) accelerators are becoming integral components of formerly software-only services.

One of One of the main drivers into the age of virtualization and cloud was the promise of reducing costs by running all types of workloads on homogeneous, generic, commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) HW hosted in dedicated, centralized DCs. Over the years, however, as use cases have matured and new ones have continued to emerge, requirements on latency, energy efficiency, privacy and resiliency have become more stringent, while demand for massive data storage has increased.

To meet performance, cost and/or legal requirements, cloud resources are moving toward the edge of the network to bridge the gap between resource-constrained devices and distant but powerful cloud DCs. Meanwhile, traditional COTS HW is being augmented by specialized programmable HW resources to satisfy the strict performance requirements of certain applications and limited energy budgets of remote sites.

The result is that cloud computing resources are becoming increasingly heterogeneous, while simultaneously being widely distributed across smaller DCs at multiple locations. Cloud deployments must be rethought to address the complexity and technical challenges that result from this profound transformation.

In the context of telecommunication networks, the key challenges are in the following areas:

  1. Virtualization of specialized HW resources
  2. Exposure of heterogeneous HW capabilities
  3. HW-aware workload placement
  4. Managing increased complexity.

Getting all these pieces right will enable the future network platform to deliver optimal application performance by leveraging emerging HW innovation that is intelligently distributed throughout the network, while continuing to harvest the operational and business benefits of cloud computing models.

Figure 1 positions the four key challenges in relation to the orchestration/operations support systems (OSS) layer, the application layer, run-time and the operating system/hypervisor. The lower part of the figure provides some examples of specialized HW in a telco environment, which includes domain-specific accelerators, next-generation memory and storage, and novel interconnect technologies.

More: Magazine #ericssontechnologyreview

Authors: Wolfgang John, Chandramouli Sargor, Robert Szabo, Ahsan Javed Awan, Chakri Padala, Edvard Drake, Martin Julien, Miljenko Opsenica

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Is Your Technology Ready for the New Digital Reality?

For today’s businesses, the only thing that is certain is uncertainty. COVID-19 has cast a clear and somber spotlight on the urgent need for resilience and digital capabilities. More than ever, businesses must be able to react to sudden and dramatic changes—in their supply chains, in their customer interactions, in how and where their employees work. But many companies simply aren’t there yet.

That’s a problem not only for immediate responses to COVID-19 but also for the longer-term future. Expectations for businesses, employees, and consumers have shifted with remarkable speed. Although the situation is evolving very differently across geographies and industries, one common theme recurs: the need to sense and shape the new reality. What will it take to compete going forward? Three elements are key: a relentless focus on the outcomes that matter; new ways of working; and savvy use of digital and technology.

This isn’t a secret recipe. Digitally mature companies embrace all of these principles, and our research shows that they significantly outperform digital laggards. They’re what we call bionic companies, blending human and technological capabilities to achieve superior outcomes. These companies spark innovation, efficiency, and growth. They have better visibility into their businesses and can more quickly make the radical changes that crises demand. Fundamentally, they are more resilient.

If your goal is to be like them, your aspirations are now table stakes—and you need a better hand. The new reality, which pushes digital channels and remote working to the extreme, has demonstrated the limits of many digital transformations. For all their plans, many companies are still not as data-driven, customer-focused, and agile as they need to be. They haven’t yet fully embraced advanced analytics and AI as critical capabilities for adapting to new trends. They have long-term goals but must now deal with unforeseen and crucial near-term needs.

To help companies prepare for the new reality and develop the necessary resiliency, we have developed an approach that centers on four key imperatives: ensure business continuity, reset the investment portfolio, future-proof the tech function, and build adaptable data and digital platforms. The steps involved in this approach may not seem like transformation as usual—but as COVID-19 has made all too clear, it’s no longer business as usual, either.

Digital and AI Maturity Bring Greater Resilience

In a crisis, businesses must quickly answer and address some critical questions. What’s selling? How do we best interact with customers? Where are the trouble spots in our supply chain? How do we support employees who are working from home? In the COVID-19 crisis, many companies have struggled with their assessments and responses.

Already, we’ve seen that digitally mature companies can reap a performance dividend. In a BCG study of more than 200 companies, digital leaders achieved 1.8x higher earnings growth than digital laggards—and more than double the growth in total enterprise value. (See the exhibit.) We also found that digital leaders channel a larger share of investment to areas such as AI as well as to reskilling, upskilling, and new ways of working. Our findings suggest that these companies are best situated to realize a “resiliency dividend” as well, by leveraging technology and digital capabilities to steer their business in real (or near-real) time, thereby strengthening their position in the midst of a crisis.

More: https://www.bcg.com

By Karalee Close , Michael Grebe , Marc Schuuring , Benjamin Rehberg , and Matthew Leybold

COVID-19Contact the Rapid Response Team

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From thinking about the next normal to making it work: What to stop, start, and accelerate

What’s next? That is the question everyone is asking. The future is not what we thought it would be only a few short months ago.

In a previous article, we discussed seven broad ideas that we thought would shape the global economy as it struggled to define the next normal. In this one, we set out seven actions that have come up repeatedly in our discussions with business leaders around the world. In each case, we discuss which attitudes or practices businesses should stop, which they should start, and which they should accelerate.

1. From ‘sleeping at the office’ to effective remote working

Stop assuming that the old ways will come back

In fact, this isn’t much of a problem. Most executives we have spoken to have been pleased at how well the sudden increase in remote working has gone. At the same time, there is some nostalgia for the “good old days,” circa January 2020, when it was easy to bump into people at the coffee room. Those days are gone. There is also the risk, however, that companies will rely too much on remote working. In the United States, more than 70 percent of jobs can’t be done offsite. Remote work isn’t a panacea for today’s workplace challenges, such as training, unemployment, and productivity loss.

Start thinking through how to organize work for a distributed workforce

Remote working is about more than giving people a laptop. Some of the rhythms of office life can’t be recreated. But the norms associated with traditional work—for example, that once you left the office, the workday was basically done—are important. As one CEO told us, “It’s not so much working from home; rather, it’s really sleeping at the office.”

For working from home to be sustainable, companies need to help their staff create those boundaries: the kind of interaction that used to take place in the hallway can be taken care of with a quick phone call, not a videoconference. It may also help to set “office hours” for particular groups, share tips on how to track time, and announce that there is no expectation that emails will be answered after a certain hour.

Accelerate best practices around collaboration, flexibility, inclusion, and accountability

Collaboration, flexibility, inclusion, and accountability are things organizations have been thinking about for years, with some progress. But the massive change associated with the coronavirus could and should accelerate changes that foster these values.

Office life is well defined. The conference room is in use, or it isn’t. The boss sits here; the tech people have a burrow down the hall. And there are also useful informal actions. Networks can form spontaneously (albeit these can also comprise closed circuits, keeping people out), and there is on-the-spot accountability when supervisors can keep an eye from across the room. It’s worth trying to build similar informal interactions. TED Conferences, the conference organizer and webcaster, has established virtual spaces so that while people are separate, they aren’t alone. A software company, Zapier, sets up random video pairings so that people who can’t bump into each other in the hallway might nonetheless get to know each other.

There is some evidence that data-based, at-a-distance personnel assessments bear a closer relation to employees’ contributions than do traditional ones, which tend to favor visibility. Transitioning toward such systems could contribute to building a more diverse, more capable, and happier workforce. Remote working, for example, means no commuting, which can make work more accessible for people with disabilities; the flexibility associated with the practice can be particularly helpful for single parents and caregivers. Moreover, remote working means companies can draw on a much wider talent pool.

Remote working means no commuting, which can make work more accessible for people with disabilities; the flexibility can be particularly helpful for single parents and caregivers.

2. From lines and silos to networks and teamwork

3. From just-in-time to just-in-time and just-in-case supply chains

Stop optimizing supply chains based on individual component cost and depending on a single supply source for critical materials

4. From managing for the short term to capitalism for the long term

Stop quarterly earnings estimates

5. From making trade-offs to embedding sustainability

Stop thinking of environmental management as a compliance issue

More: https://www.mckinsey.com

About the authors: Kevin Sneader, the global managing partner of McKinsey, is based in McKinsey’s Hong Kong office; Shubham Singhal, the global leader of the Healthcare Systems & Services Practice, is a senior partner in the Detroit office.

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How Swarm Intelligence Blends Global and Local Insight

 A form of AI called swarm intelligence inspired by the insect kingdom can help businesses find new sources of growth and manage disruption.

Traders deciding on the next big market bet. A navigation app quickly mapping out a less-explored area. Fashion brands choosing the hottest color of the season. An airport managing flight delays. What do these scenarios have in common? In each one, swarm intelligence blends global and local insight to improve how businesses make decisions.

Swarm intelligence is a form of artificial intelligence (AI) inspired by the insect kingdom. In nature, it describes how honeybees migrate, how ants form perfect trails, and how birds flock. In the world of AI, swarm systems draw input from individual people or machine sensors and then use algorithms to optimize the overall performance of the group or system in real time.

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Consider Waze, the popular road navigation app that uses swarm intelligence to create and modify maps. Starting with limited digital maps, it began making tweaks based on its users’ GPS data along with manual map modifications by registered users. Entire cities have been mapped using this method, as was the case in Costa Rica’s capital, San José. And just as ants signal danger to their counterparts, so too do Waze users contribute live information from accident locations and traffic jams.

Swarm intelligence is now being used to predict everything from the outcome of the Super Bowl to fashion trends to major political events. Using swarm intelligence, investors can better predict market movements, and retailers can more accurately forecast sales.

While the swarm intelligence concept isn’t new, the advent of edge computing has renewed its impetus. This technology enables greater processing and data storage on local devices instead of big data centers or the cloud. Advances in internet of things (IoT) technologies, machine learning, and 5G also make swarm systems faster and more efficient.

In a world of increasing flux, scale, and complexity, swarm intelligence will help businesses in two main ways: finding new sources of growth, and anticipating and managing disruption.

Following the Ant Trail to Growth

Ants have a very particular approach to finding a trail to food: Constantly releasing pheromones, they signal their progress to the rest of the collective. Each ant learns from all the other ants’ experiences, and as a result, each gets closer to a food source. Eventually, the colony identifies the best trail based on the feedback of individual ants.

This approach presents a valuable lesson for businesses looking to identify new growth opportunities. Finance is one industry where spotting new growth opportunities ahead of the rest of the market is crucial. While algorithms can forecast market trends, investment decisions are made in boardrooms, where overpowering personalities and corporate hierarchies can preclude investors from identifying or pursuing the right opportunities.

About the Authors: Mark Purdy (@mpurdyaccenture) is a managing director with Accenture Research. Ray Eitel-Porter (@rayeitelporter) is applied intelligence strategy lead for Accenture U.K. and Ireland. Max Klymenko (@maxoklymenko) is an economics and technology researcher at Accenture Research.

Acknowledgments:  The authors would like to thank the following individuals for their contribution to this article: Xiao Chang, Thijs Deblaere, Shan He, David Light, Omaro Maseli, Armen Ovanessoff, and Matthew Robinson.

More: https://sloanreview.mit.edu

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A Long Time Until the Economic New Normal

Leaders must learn from the pandemic now to position their companies to thrive in the next crisis.

We are in the middle of a historic rupture in the economic fabric of our society. The COVID-19 pandemic has already had a pervasive impact on the United States, and economic and financial market experts are hotly debating how quickly the economy will recover once we get “on the other side” of the contagion and the enormous pressures it has placed on our health care system. Although it is too early to estimate the exact economic impact, it is likely that full recovery of economic activity, including GDP growth, jobs, and unemployment, will take at least a year, and likely much longer.

One group of economic commentators, including the president, argue that once we get to the point of health care stabilization, the economy will take off very rapidly, and we will be able to quickly recover the lost economic activity and growth rates.

But individuals and organizations must keep in mind that this view, as optimistic as it seems in the short term, is a potentially dangerous one when it comes to long-term planning, for four reasons. The first is that it overlooks the negative impacts on consumer sentiment and spending, which are likely to persist for many months, if not years. Second, the recent trend of governments trying to tilt the scales of the gig economy more toward worker rights is likely to continue in the coming months and years. Third, large segments of the economy are likely to be permanently disrupted as a result of the coronavirus’s impact on the travel, retail, and entertainment industries, among many others, requiring capital and labor to shift into new areas of economic activity on a massive scale. Finally, the industries that survive the downturn, including those that are vital to our economic system, will face a long period of adjustment to working and interacting virtually rather than face to face. In addition, industries and companies will have to prepare for future pandemics by building redundancies into their operations and supply chains — initiatives that will take years to develop and optimize.

Consumer Sentiment: Spending and Savings

It has been less than four months since the COVID-19 pandemic started in China, and only weeks since the virus began spreading rapidly in other countries across the globe. Although this has occurred in a much more compressed time frame than other historic events that have become major economic reference points, it’s likely that we will see changes in consumer spending and behaviors similar to those that resulted from the Great Depression of the 1930s and the Great Recession of the late 2000s.

Why? Currently, entire economies in the United States and Western Europe have already ground to a complete halt in ways that no one ever saw coming, especially government and corporate leaders. Epidemiologists had been warning about the risks of a pandemic, and there is certainly much more that could have been done to better prepare our health care systems, but no one anticipated this scale and breadth of economic disruption globally. What we see now is that both governments and businesses need to prepare for future pandemics like they never have before. The question now is not whether there will be another global pandemic; it’s whether the next one will be as severe as, less severe than, or — heaven forbid — even more severe than COVID-19. To properly prepare for the next pandemic, we need to better understand the impacts that are happening and likely to result from COVID-19.

Even before this crisis, there were a number of troubling trends in the labor, housing, and financial markets that had decreased economic security. The explosion in gig, temporary, and independent contracting work has created myriad opportunities for people to work in ways never before possible — but at the cost of job and income stability. That instability has been growing steadily over time as companies have perfected the substitution of employment on demand for regular, full-time hires. Additional instability has been introduced by companies adopting labor-on-demand models for shift work. Under these models, employees of businesses susceptible to rapid fluctuations in demand and activity — such as retailers, restaurants, call centers, and distribution centers — are given very little advance notice about when they need to show up for work.

Add in rising housing costs and growing levels of consumer debt, and a clear picture emerges: Most Americans were economically on the edge well before COVID-19. Now the virus has the potential to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. At best, I expect it will take a full year for COVID-19’s negative impacts on consumer behavior to fully fade — contrary to the rapid recovery that some have argued is inevitable. This puts me in the camp of the more pessimistic, but with each passing day, that unfortunate scenario is becoming more likely.

More: https://sloanreview.mit.edu/

Author: Alec Levenson (@alec_levenson) is senior research scientist at the USC Marshall Center for Effective Organizations. His research and consulting work optimizes organizational performance through work design, analytics, and strategic talent management.