The State of Enterprise Compute

During the holiday break, and as we enter into a new year, I always like to reflect on the world of technology–where we have been and where we are heading. Not sure my wife Julie, 25 years on Jan 8th, I might add, shares the same enthusiasm on the technology front. However, I figured I could give her a shout out in a blog for a 25th anniversary; I’ll let you know how that goes.

Thinking about compute on the enterprise side, there is so much going on I thought it best to write them down and share a few thoughts. These are the things I’m thinking about as we end the year—a moment in time as our CTO team and I are continually looking to the future.

Right now, we are in the midst of a 50-year perfect storm on both the technology and business front. Businesses must transform and embrace the digital world or get run over by a new and more agile competitor with a new business model benefiting from advanced technologies like data analytics, AI, ML and DL. No business is safe from the wave of digital disruption. In this case, disruption is a GOOD thing. Options for mining data are opening new opportunities that are making businesses smarter and bringing customers and businesses closer together.

It is all about the data – “computing on” and the “science of.” Those that harness the power of data will win; there is no doubt. On the technology front, we are in a silicon renaissance due to many factors – impact of Moore’s low slowing, parity on silicon fabrication processes, new and real competition on the CPU front, shared wafer economics, etc. Seems like all of the laws are against us – Moore, Amdahl, Wirth, Gustafson, Brooke – couple that with the fact we are moving from an era where we used compute to create data (“compute centric” era) to the new era where we use compute to consume data (“memory centric” era). We are finding our systems and architectures can be better optimized for this new era of data consumption.

Hence, you see the rise of all these “Domain Specific Architectures” – GPUs, IPUs, FPGA, ASICs… Businesses that fail to embrace or choose poorly can be disrupted by a rival they were not even tracking, a poor technology choice could lead to 100, 1000, 50k performance disadvantage vs. the competition. The stakes could not be any higher. We are seeing some of our beloved software abstractions starting to fail – not surprising when you consider we have spent last 30+ years trying to get out of the weeds – but at what cost?  I never have had more discussion in my life or seen the interest in bare metal and performance optimization with Domain Specific Architectures.

To top it all off, the data we care about is not conveniently located in the same spot or has real-time aspects. And, as we have done since the dawn of computing, the compute follows the data, leading to the rise of edge computing. We have seen this before; terminal-mainframe gave way to client-server to mobile-cloud and now IoT-Edge. Every swing of the pendulum has simply created a new and even bigger market. Finally, we have a new exponential; security threats and data growth are the new exponentials and these may be the exponentials that do indeed last forever.

Given the state of business and technology disruption, what should businesses do to take advantage of innovation available to them to remain competitive? What do they need to do keep pace with the rapid change of IT?  Move fast and pick the right tool for the job, focus on being the disruptor to avoid becoming the disruptee – leading is easier from the front. Along the way, pick a trusted partner for the journey – everyone needs a friend.

About the Author: Robert Hormuth

Robert Hormuth is Vice President/Fellow and CTO of Dell EMC Server Solutions Group. Robert has 29 years in the computer industry. Robert joined Dell in 2007 after 8 years with Intel and 11 years at National Instruments. Robert and his team focus on future server architectures and technology driving future technology intercepts onto the server portfolio. Robert’s past design/architecture activities include IO peripheral designs, x86 (386, 486, Pentium, Pentium Pro, Pentium II/III) system design, BIOS, firmware, Application Software, and FPGA/ASIC design. Robert has participated in creation of multiple industry standards - VME, VXI, PCI, PXI, PCIe, NVMe, RedFish, SSDFF. Robert has a B.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin and currently holds 16 patents.