Monday, November 1, 2010

Future Enterprise- Cyber-Infrastructure for World 2.0

Our future World 2.0 will face enormous challenges from now into the foreseeable future, including global warming, globalisation and social and business hyper-change.

Global Warming will create shortages of food and water and loss of critical ecosystems and species. It will require massive prioritisation and re-allocation of resources on a global scale.

Globalisation will require humans to live and work together cooperatively as one species on one planet- essential for our survival and finally eliminating the enormous destruction and loss of life that wars and conflict inevitably bring.

Social and usiness change will present myriad challenges relating to building and maintaining a cohesive social fabric to provide democracy and justice, adequate levels of health and education, solutions to urban expansion, crime prevention, transport congestion and food and water security, in a fast changing global environment. This will require adaptation on a vast scale.

It is apparent that in order to meet these challenges, humans must harness the enormous advances in computing and communications technologies to achieve a complete makeover of the world’s Cyber-Infrastructure.

The infrastructure of the new cyber reality now affects every aspect of our civilisation. In tomorrow’s globalised world a dense mesh of super-networks will be required to service society’s needs- the ability to conduct government, business, education, health, research and development at the highest quality standard.

This infrastructure will be co-joined with the intelligent Internet/web, but will require additional innovation to facilitate its operation; a transparent and adaptable heterogeneous network of networks, interoperable at all levels of society.

In the last two decades tremendous progress has been made in the application of high-performance and distributed computer systems including complex software to manage and apply super-clusters, large scale grids, computational clouds and sensor-driven self-organising mobile systems. This will continue unabated, making the goal of providing ubiquitous and efficient computing on a worldwide scale possible.

But there’s a long road ahead. It is still difficult to combine multiple disparate systems to perform a single distributed application. Each cluster, grid and cloud provides its own set of access protocols, programming interfaces, security mechanisms and middleware to facilitate access to its resources. Attempting to combine multiple homogeneous software and hardware configurations in a seamless heterogeneous distributed system is still largely beyond our capability.

At the same time tomorrow’s World 2.0 enabling infrastructure, must also be designed to cope with sustainability and security issues.
It is estimated that The ICT industry contributes 2-3% of total Greenhouse Gas emissions, growing 6% per year compounded. If this trend continues, total emissions could triple by 2020. The next generation cyber-architecture therefore needs to be more power-adaptive. Coupled with machine learning this could achieve savings of up to 70 % of total ICT Greenhouse emissions by 2020.

But the world is also grappling with the possibility of cyber-warfare as well as increasingly sophisticated criminal hacking, with an estimated 100 foreign intelligence organisations trying to break into US networks. A global protocol safeguarding cyber privacy rights between nations, combined with greater predictive warning of rogue attacks, is critically needed. The next generation of cyber-infrastructure will therefore have to incorporate autonomous intelligence and resilience in the face of both these challenges.

To meet these targets a lot will ride on future advances in the field of Self-Aware Networks- SANs. Previous blogs have emphasised the emergence of the networked enterprise as the next stage in advanced decision-making. SANs are a key evolutionary step on the path to this goal. Self-aware networks can be wired, wireless or peer-to-peer, allowing individual nodes to discover the presence of other nodes and links as required- largely autonomously. Packets of information can be forwarded to any node without traditional network routing tables, based on reinforcement learning and smart routing algorithms, resulting in reduced response times, traffic densities, noise and energy consumption.

Another major shift towards a networked world has been the rise of Social Networks. These have attracted billions of users for networking applications such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc. These are providing the early social glue for World 2.0, offering pervasive connectivity by processing and sharing multi-media content. Together with smart portable devices, they cater to the user’s every desire, through hundreds of thousands of web applications covering all aspects of social experience– entertainment, lifestyle, finance, health, news, reference and utility management etc.

With increased user mobility, location sharing and a desire to always be connected, there is a growing trend towards personalized networks where body, home, urban and vehicle sensory inputs will be linked in densely connected meshes to intermediate specialised networks supporting healthcare, shopping, banking etc.

The explosion of social networked communities is triggering new interest in collaborative systems in general. Recent research in network science has made a significant contribution to a more profound understanding of collaborative behaviour in business ecosystems. As discussed in previous posts, networked ‘swarm’ behaviour can demonstrate an increase in collective intelligence. Such collective synergy in complex self-organising systems allows ‘smarter’ problem solving as well as greater decision agility. By linking together in strategic and operational networks, enterprises can therefore achieve superior performance than was previously possible.

The key characteristics of the smart business network of the future will be its ability to react rapidly to emerging opportunities or threats, by selecting and linking appropriate business processes. Such networks will be capable of quickly and opportunistically connecting and disconnecting relationship nodes, establishing business rules for participating members on the basis of risk and reward.
This ‘on the fly’ capacity to reconfigure operational rules, will be a crucial dynamic governing the success of tomorrow’s enterprise. CIOs must also learn to span the architectural boundaries between their own networked organisation and the increasingly complex social and economic networked ecosystems in which their organisations are embedded.

In fact the business community is now struggling to keep up with the continuous rate of innovation demanded by its users. Social network solutions have the potential to help meet this demand by shaping the design of future architectures to provide better ways to secure distributed systems.

So what is the future of this new collaborative, densely configured networked world? What we are witnessing is the inter-weaving of a vast number of evolving and increasingly autonomous networks, binding our civilisation in a web of computational nodes and relational connections, spanning personal to global interactions.

By 2050 the new World 2.0 cyber-infrastructure will link most individuals, enterprises and communities on the planet. Each will have a role to play in our networked future, as the cells of our brain do- but it will be a future in which the sum of the connected whole will also be an active player.

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