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RIP to Business Legends Leila Janah and Clayton Christensen

On January 23, 2020, the business world lost two of its biggest stars: Leila Janah and Clayton Christensen. Both of them were personal inspirations to me both in their ability to execute on big ideas and to make a real difference in the world by living up to the cliche of “doing well by doing good.”

Leila Janah passed away on January 23rd, 2020 at the age of 37. She was an unstoppable force in fighting global poverty through her organizations of Samasource, LXMI, and Samaschool. From our Amalgam Insights’ perspective, the work that Samasource did in training AI data for many of the world’s biggest enterprises made Samasource an important company to watch.

But even more importantly was how Samasource conducted this AI data training. Samasource has employed people across India, Kenya, Uganda, Haiti, Pakistan, Ghana, and South Africa through what is now called impact sourcing where workers are trained to a job and paid a living wage with the goal of rising above poverty. The company has hired and trained thousands of people since its founding in 2008 and has a global staff of 2,900.

In running Samasource, Janah both lifted up thousands of people and created an organization that was seen as a legitimate growth business. In November 2019, Samasource raised a $14.8 million A round to increase growth at a time when trusted AI data is more important than ever. Janah was a pioneer in simultaneously evolving the concept of managing AI data while creating a massively successful growth company and creating change in emerging markets.

RIP Leila Janah. Thank you for making a difference.

Clayton Christensen passed away on January 23rd, 2020 at the age of 67. He obviously needs no introduction in the business world as he has been a guiding light in the business world for decades. His 1997 book The Innovator’s Dilemma is the most important business book of recent times and Christensen is in the pantheon of great business authors along with the likes of Benjamin Graham, Dale Carnegie, W. Edwards Deming, Peter Drucker, and Michael Porter.

Christensen coined the term of “Disruptive Innovation,” which described how products and services that could be seen as inferior, tangential, and more accessible than their dominant status quo market equivalents could eventually usurp leading market positions over time. Although Christensen could have sat on his laurels and simply used his Innovator’s Dilemma work for the next 20+ years, Christensen was always seeking to improve and perfect his work on “disruptive innovation” and to push back against the breathless hype of the phrase he was associated with.

Christensen’s ability to translate his theories and work into tangible action that helped transform the likes of Apple, Intel, Netflix, and practically every company that has successfully evolved or fended off new competitors. Christensen’s work made every company more aware of its need to serve customer needs, disrupt as needed to match customer preferences, and identify “jobs to be done.”

RIP Clayton Christensen. Thank you for being a brilliant thinker and an even better person.

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5 MegaThemes for the 2020s That Will Transform IT

As we get ready for 2020, Amalgam Insights is here to prepare companies for the future.  In the past few weeks, we’ve been posting insights on what to look for in 2020 with posts including:
and our four-part series on Ethical AI for the future:
Over this decade, we have learned how to work with technology at massive scale and with unprecedented power as the following technology trends surfaced in the 2010s:
  • The birth and death of Big Data in supporting massive scale as the terabyte shifted from an intimidating amount of data to a standard unit of measurement
  • The evolution of cloud computing from niche tool to a rapidly growing market that is roughly $150 billion a year now and will likely be well over a trillion dollars a year by the end of the 2020s
  • The Internet of Things, which will enable a future of distributed and specialized computing based on billions of processors and build on this decade’s massive progress in creating mobile and wireless smart devices.
  • The democratization of artificial intelligence tools including machine learning, deep learning, and data science services and platforms that have opened up the world of AI to developers and data analysts
  • The use of CRISPR Cas9 to programmatically edit genes, which has changed the biological world just as AI has changed the world of technology
  • Brain biofeedback and Brain-Computer Interfaces, which provide direct neural interfaces to control and affect a physical environment.
  • Extended Reality, through the development of augmented and virtual reality which are starting to provide realistic sensory simulations available on demand
2010s Tech Drivers
2010s Tech Drivers
These bullet points describe where we already are today as of the end of 2019. So, how will all of these technologies affect the way we work in the 2020s? From our perspective, these trends fit into 5 MegaThemes of Personalization, Ubiquity, Computational Augmentation, Biologically Influenced Computing, and Renewability.
We believe the following five themes have both significantly evolved during the 2010s and will create the opportunity for ongoing transformative change that will fundamentally affect enterprise technology. Each of these MegaThemes has three key trends that will affect the ways that businesses use technology in the 2020s. This piece provides an introduction to these trends that will be contextualized from an IT, data, and finance perspective in future work, including blogs, webinars, vendor landscapes, and other analyst insights.
2020s Tech MegaTrends
2020s Tech MegaTrends
Over the rest of the year, we’ll explore each of these five MegaThemes in greater detail, as these primary themes will end up driving innovation, change, and transformation within our tactical coverage areas including AI, analytics, Business Planning, DevOps, Finance and Accounting, Technology Expense Management, and Extended Reality.
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Looking at Microservices, Containers, and Kubernetes with 2020 Vision

Some years are easy to predict than others. Stability in a market makes tracing the trend line much easier. 2020 looks to be that kind of year for the migration to microservices: stable with steady progression toward mainstream acceptance.

There is little doubt that IT organizations are moving toward microservices architectures. Microservices, which deconstruct applications into many small parts, removes much of the friction that is common in n-Tier applications when it comes to development velocity. The added resiliency and scalability of microservices in a distributed system are also highly desirable. These attributes promote better business agility, allowing IT to respond to business needs more quickly and with less disruption while helping to ensure that customers have the best experience possible.

Little in this upcoming year seems disruptive or radical; That big changes have already occurred. Instead, this is a year for building out and consolidating; Moving past the “what” and “why” and into the “how” and “do”.

Kubernetes will be top of mind to IT in the coming year. From its roots as a humble container orchestrator – one of many in the market – Kubernetes has evolved into a platform for deploying microservices into container clusters. There is more work to do with Kubernetes, especially to help autoscale clusters, but it is now a solid base on which to build modern applications.

No one should delude themselves into thinking that microservices, containers, and Kubernetes are mainstream yet. The vast majority of applications are still based on n-Tier design deployed to VMs. That’s fine for a lot of applications but businesses know that it’s not enough going forward. We’ve already seen more traditional companies begin to adopt microservices for at least some portion of their applications. This trend will accelerate in the upcoming year. At some point, microservices and containers will become the default architecture for enterprise applications. That’s a few years from now but we’ve already on the path.

From a vendor perspective, all the biggest companies are now in the Kubernetes market with at least a plain vanilla Kubernetes offering. This includes HPE and Cisco in addition to the companies that have been selling Kubernetes all along, especially IBM/Red Hat, Canonical, Google, AWS, VMWare/Pivotal, and Microsoft. The trick for these companies will be to add enough unique value that their offerings don’t appear generic. Leveraging traditional strengths, such as storage for HPE, networking for Cisco, and Java for Red Hat and VMWare/Pivotal, are the key to standing out in the market.

The entry of the giants in the Kubernetes space will pose challenges to the smaller vendors such as Mirantis and Rancher. With more than 30 Kubernetes vendors in the market, consolidation and loss is inevitable. There’s plenty of value in the smaller firms but it will be too easy for them to get trampled underfoot.

Expect M&A activity in the Kubernetes space as bigger companies acquihire or round out their portfolios. Kubernetes is now a big vendor market and the market dynamics favor them.

If there is a big danger sign on the horizon, it’s those traditional n-Tier applications that are still in production. At some point, IT will get around to thinking beyond the shiny new greenfield applications and want to migrate the older ones. Since these apps are based on radically different architectures, that won’t be easy. There just aren’t the tools to do this migration well. In short, it’s going to be a lot of work. It’s a hard sell to say that the only choices are either expensive migration projects (on top of all that digital transformation money that’s already been spent) or continuing to support and update applications that no longer meet business needs. Replatforming, or deploying the old parts to the new container platform, will provide less ROI and less value overall. The industry will need another solution.

This may be an opportunity to use all that fancy AI technology that vendors have been investing in to create software to break down an old app into a container cluster. In any event, the migration issue will be a drag on the market in 2020 as IT waits for solutions to a nearly intractable problem.

2020 is the year of the microservice architecture.

Even if that seems too dramatic, it’s not unreasonable to expect that there will be significant growth and acceleration in the deployment of Kubernetes-based microservices applications. The market has already begun the process of maturation as it adapts to the needs of larger, mainstream, corporations with more stringent requirements. The smart move is to follow that trend line.