At the Gartner Symposium and ITxpo 2015 conference this week, algorithms that will fuel the rise of a new generation of intelligent machines were all the rage. While it might be easy to dismiss these prognostications as something akin to Skynet from the Terminator movies, the fact remains that the future of IT will be dominated by levels of automation previously thought unimaginable.
To hear Gartner analysts tell it, all these algorithms and smart machines will bring about another digital revolution that CIOs need to embrace sooner rather than later.
Gartner makes it clear that none of these events will come to pass within the next year, but it’s also more than apparent that machine learning algorithms will transform everything from e-commerce to IT operations.
For example, Gartner envisions that by 2020 there will be six billion things connected to the Internet that will need some form of support. In the meantime, we’re already seeing machine learning algorithms applied to IT operations as part of an effort to deploy IT at unprecedented levels of scale using a handful of administrators.
Opportunities and challenges for MSPs
For IT services providers, the rise of these algorithms represents a double-edged sword. Organizations will be looking to IT services providers to help them identify the algorithms that can truly make a difference to their business. In fact, there’s something of an algorithms arms race already underway. But at the same time, IT services firms would be well advised to identify the specific services they provide today that might soon be made obsolete tomorrow.
The customers of IT services firms are going to be just as concerned about how all this automation might affect their own jobs. There’s no doubt that companies will invest in algorithms and smart machines to optimize a process. In fact, Dell today unveiled a major new Robotics Process Automation initiative that uses machine learning algorithms to automate a wide variety of forms-based processes.
Obviously, when it comes to eliminating a process all together the conversation is going to be significantly more challenging to have than when IT services firms are just talking about augmenting them. In fact, IBM, which this week launched a consulting organization specifically dedicated to building cognitive computing applications that use machine learning algorithms running on the IBM Watson platform, is already finding itself forced to address the economic impact those applications might have on the job market.
It’s possible that too many jobs will get eliminated too rapidly by initiatives like this, resulting in less potential income for people to spend. The cascading effect that could have on every industry there is would be considerable, to put it mildly.
Regardless, the IT industry as a whole is about to make the next great leap forward. The challenge facing IT service providers is to make sure that leap forward is to someplace that they and their customers actually want to wind up instead of into the proverbial void.