Day 2, Empower MSP Scottsdale, General Session—Dave Sobel, senior director, MSP Evangelism at SolarWinds MSP. Empower MSP Scottsdale took place at JW Marriott Camelback Inn Resort & Spa, on September 18 and 19, 2018.
In what’s becoming something of an Empower MSP tradition, Dave Sobel closed out the Scottsdale conference with his vision for the future.
As Dave pointed out, these are simply his musings about the future and in no way reflect the actual company roadmap. He opened with a quote from Charles F. Kettering, VP and director of research at General Motors (1920 to 1947), “My interest is in the future because I’m going to spend the rest of my life in it.”
As usual, Dave went on to set out what he says are the “table stakes”—the things we all know we have to do, namely security, cloud management, and network management. “These are areas where there has been investment—or hard trends—and we will continue to see investment as they’re big areas,” he explained. He then turned his attention to looking at ideas that fall outside of this but are still going to have a big effect on the industry.
The first thing Dave was particularly excited about was the fact that he discovered a perfect story to highlight the real power of machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI).
“AI is helping find lead pipes in flint, Michigan. They're using records on pipe failures and dates and using that to find which houses are likely affected by corroded pipes,” he explained. “They use 71 different pieces of information and have developed this algorithm to predict whether or not a house was connected to lead pipes. Before they implemented the software, only 20% of the pipes dug up needed replacement. Since they put the software in place, they now have a 97% success rate.”
He also highlighted another example. “For those who don’t know, former US Vice President Joe Biden’s son died of cancer toward the end of his term. This was one of the reasons Joe decided not to run for president. Instead, he spends his time focused heavily on the Biden Foundation, which aims to help companies get involved in cancer research.”
Dave explained how in an interview, Biden talked specifically about how these technologies are proving really powerful for cancer research. Biden tells the story of how he got a call from the chairman of the board of IBM, asking him if he’d like Watson. Watson is the IBM AI platform, and it has “read” every single book on cancer that has ever been written. Biden tells of how they can input the genome data for a person’s cancer, and Watson will tell them every treatment that has been used and the percentages of which worked best for which protein and on which form of cancer.
Dave also opined the rise of usable AI will have huge implications for MSP toolkits. “If you're not investing in AI, then there's a problem,” he said.
Turning his attention to an old favorite—the Internet of Things (IoT)—Dave cited the example of Microsoft’s work with Dancing Crow Farm. The challenge Microsoft cited was the need to raise yield to keep pace with the growing population. It showed how to accomplish this by linking up a huge number of sensors and devices around the farm, giving real-time data on growing conditions and feeding that into predictions for future seasons. This lets the farmers know what to plant and when, and enables them to increase productivity and yield.
“The story here writes itself,” said Dave. “This is just one example of how IoT is changing things around us. All these devices need to be installed, managed, checked, and secured. And who’s going to be doing this? You are!”
Dave also highlighted 5G as something that could be a game changer. “With predicted speeds of up 10GB per second, 5G could have a huge impact on company networks,” he said. “And with the first 5G cities likely to go online in 2020, this is really just round the corner.”
Finally, Dave closed his presentation with a look at something he believes will have the biggest impact on computing in the coming years—voice.
Dave explained he didn’t think voice will actually replace the keyboard or the touchscreen, but will augment them. “Some things we’ll ask for, some things we’ll touch, some things we’ll type. It’s about whatever makes the most sense at the time,” he said.
He even showed a video from a SolarWinds MSP lab where the company built an Amazon integration for the RMM platform. “This is something we developed in-house just because we wanted to experiment to see if we could do it,” he said.
“I’m not saying that every MSP now has to go off and get involved in voice right this second,” Dave concluded. “What I’m saying is we need to start thinking about this new UI and understand it’s another part of the way people will be interacting with devices.”
Finally Dave turned his attention to augmented reality (AR). “I want to differentiate upfront between virtual reality and augmented reality,” he said. “I’m not all that intrigued by virtual reality right now; I think it's an interesting gaming medium and I think there are some specific uses of it. I'm much more interested in the idea of AR where the computer can add additional data to real-world displays to help you be more effective.”
Dave explained that while Google Glass failed because nobody figured out how to make it cool, there are some powerful uses for AR, and we all have an AR device in our pocket—our phones. “The ability for us to hold a phone up to a piece of hardware and get diagnostic information could be really powerful,” he said.
Dave concluded by re-iterating these are all ideas worth thinking about and closed out his session with a quote: “There are a lot of crazy ideas that turned out to be good ones,” he said. “Remember, somebody once said, let's make a film with a tornado full of sharks.”
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