Prediction: there won’t be 50B connected IoT devices by 2020

In 2010, telecommunications equipment maker Ericsson released a study estimating that there would be 50 billion connected devices by 2020. Last year, Cisco piggybacked on this prediction to make its own estimates on the number of devices set to be connected to the internet. Intel has been touting the 50 billion device estimates since 2014 as it tried to market its own skills in the connected device space.

But those building a business and tracking the internet of things should toss that number aside just like the industry is tossing the Z-wave standard. According to analyst Chetan Shama, that number looks unlikely. He estimates that there were roughly 16 billion connected devices last year, and says adding 34 billion new devices in under five years would be a “tall order.”

Devices such as this connected home hub from Silk Labs will be part of the internet of things. --Image courtesy of Silk Labs

Devices such as this connected home hub from Silk Labs will be part of the internet of things. –Image courtesy of Silk Labs

Ericsson revised its estimates down last November to 28 billion connected devices by 2021, while McKinsey believes that the internet of things will have between 20 billion and 30 billion devices by 2020. Gartner says we’ll have 21 billion connected devices by 2020. These numbers might be more realistic, but they are nothing to scoff at. As of 2015, there were a mere 3.4 billion smart phone subscriptions in the world, a number that is expected to almost double to hit 6.4 billion in 20121, according to Ericsson.

The growth of all those phones in the last few years has significantly changed how networks are built as well as the way software and services are delivered. When you add 3 billion more phones, plus what could be an additional 5 billion to 14 billion additional connected gadgets and sensors, the possibilities are endless.

The telecommunications industry is already adopting more agile network infrastructure using software-defined networks while cloud giants have built platforms that can handle terabytes of data and spread the workloads out across the world. New protocols such as Thread and revisions to existing ones such as Bluetooth are adding direct access to the internet with IPv6 capabilities while the cellular network standards put forth by the GSM are trying to lower their costs and power requirements to help keep cellular providers in the game. Even the Wi-Fi Alliance is horning its way into the internet of things with Halow, a standard that increases coverage options for Wi-Fi.

But there is still so much work to do when it comes to managing up to 30 million connected devices, securing them and even adding them to a network without breaking the bank. Maybe we should be glad that 50 billion number was overstated.

Tesla’s bug reporting feature shows the power of the internet of things

You can usually count on someone mentioning a few terms once they start talking about the internet of things in the enterprise. One is big data, another is predictive analytics. Security will certainly score a hit on your imaginary IoT bingo card, but if you want to show someone the immediate return on investment for the internet of things, take them for a ride in a Tesla. Not because the vehicle is essentially a computer on wheels, but because it has a feature that any manufacturer of a complicated product should have.

Tesla’s bug report feature lets a driver hit a button on the steering wheel to prompt the car to record their voice. When the car is ready, the driver says, “Bug report,” and all of the data being generated at that moment across the car is logged. This isn’t much different than the bug reports that are gathered from a software program crashing on your computer and then sent to Microsoft, Apple or whomever. But by virtue of this happening in your car, it’s a huge opportunity.

The Tesla Model X. Image courtesy of Tesla.

The Tesla Model X. Image courtesy of Tesla.

First, consider the traditional mechanism for tracking problems in your car. Your engine starts making a funny noise, so you drive your car to a mechanic and try to describe the problem. The mechanic may drive your car and hope the problem repeats itself. But sometimes it doesn’t; maybe that noise only happens during certain temperatures, or on certain inclines. The beauty of the bug report is that the drive can capture the data immediately during or after the problem. There’s no need to hope for the perfect environmental conditions to replicate the problem a day later with a mechanic by your side to diagnose the issue.

Putting connectivity and sensors into more complex devices, on the home front or in the office, helps companies solve the tricky and sometimes expensive issue of troubleshooting and customer support. For example, Pitney Bowes, which makes postage metering machines for small and giant businesses, has connected those machines to the internet with the hopes of diagnosing problems. The goal for Pitney, and with most companies that add connected sensors and data analytics, is to start anticipating problems before they even happen. This love affair with predictive analytics is promising, but it also can sometimes hide the benefits of just capturing the data at a moment in time in the first place.

Whirlpool is adding sensors and connectivity to kitchen appliances so it can diagnose breakdowns without ever sending a technician to the house or forcing a customer to deal with tech support. Yet, it has also signed a deal with IBM to send its fault codes and problems to the Watson service to analyze that data. The idea is that Watson might spot troubles in the manufacturing process or other trends.

On our way to the future, simply having reliable data about a problem and giving the customer the ability to share that data easily with customer support reps is nothing to scoff at.

The industrial internet has a rip and replace problem

As we hype on about the internet of things, it’s easy to think about connecting the unconnected devices in the field. It’s even easier to look at the existing world of connected factories and buildings and have meaningful discussions about the challenges that must be addressed. There’s security; figuring out where to put your data; architecting a system that works, etc. But many buildings or manufacturing companies already have an industrial intranet.

Getting from an old-school automation system to the internet of things, or the “Industrial Internet” as GE likes to call it, is is no simple matter. When operations technology meets information technology, it’s akin to an adult trying to figure out Snapchat; it can be done, but there is a generational gap that must be overcome.

When old-school manufacturing gets an IT upgrade what happens? Photo Credit: rich701 via Compfight cc

When old-school manufacturing gets an IT upgrade what happens? Photo Credit: rich701 via Compfight cc

In 2013, Ton Steenman, a former Intel VP, told me that 85 percent of the information comprising the Industrial internet is already coming in via legacy infrastructure. To understand the implications of bringing legacy infrastructure online, I spoke with Tony Paine, president and CEO of Kepware, a middleware company that was recently purchased by PTC. Paine points out that for most of their life, these legacy systems have been physically isolated, which means security was ensured by access. But as systems start connecting to the public internet, especially in ways that may not be readily apparent, attackers can find their way in.

For example, the data breach at Target Corp. in 2013 was a result of hackers making their way to the point-of-sale systems via the HVAC system. That’s not an entry point that might be readily apparent as old-school infrastructure gets connected to IT systems, but companies need to keep these types of things in mind. Outside of understanding the security risks, companies that want to connect their old-line machines to the internet of things have to handle legacy protocols that are proprietary and myriad. Paine’s middleware supports 250 protocols from machines that are varied as you can imagine.

The industrial side is not going to ever get to a single standard for connected devices and sending data to the servers, which is one reason the Industrial Internet Consortium is trying to establish frameworks for how things should connect as opposed to a one-size-fits-all standard for connecting. Of course, this also means there is plenty of opportunity for middleware providers like Kepware, and even the large tech firms such as Dell, Cisco and Oracle. These companies all are banking on different products that help make sense of this mess of different protocols.

But even as they go up against their industrial counterparts — GE, Emerson, and Honeywell — they are having to change the way they think about their products. In October at Dell World, an executive discussing Dell’s new IoT gateway product discussed the challenge of meeting customer’s expectations with regard to product lifecycle.  Dell plans to sell its IoT gateways for five years and support them through software updates for five years beyond that.

But customers wanted more, because replacing their connected machines and systems after a decade or even less is anathema to the old-school style of building a factory.

“We have customers that are still running their industrial environments on Windows 95,” which causes security problems as well as simple maintenance issues for his team, Paine said. When his customers think about upgrades, they think about having to build an entirely new factory filled with more modern equipment that speaks new protocols. Once that is up and running (in Windows 10?) they move production to the new factory and decommission the old factory.

While covering the enterprise IT world for 15 years, I often came across the phrase “rip and replace.” The term was applied to new technology that required an organization to throw out its old gear and software to upgrade to the new technology. Unless it was ten times cheaper or faster, a product that required a company to rip out and replace their gear was almost always destined to fail.

There are huge benefits for companies that put their operations and buildings online, but if it requires a literal rip and replace of their existing automation systems, we’re going to be waiting a long time for those benefits.

Security woes slow the internet of things

Want to scare everyone from your favorite aunt to a chief security officer at a Fortune 500 corporation? Just tell them about your plans to install a connected device somewhere on the premise. Thanks to stray comments from the chief of the U.S. Intelligence service James Clapper, and last week’s reports about the ability to shut down two popular smart home security systems, people now associate the internet of things with spies and hackers.

But before everyone freaks out, it’s worth pointing out that PCs, smartphones and cloud computing all suffered through this same security challenge. But this time it’s bigger. The adoption of those older technologies required a change in how devices were made, how enterprises IT departments reacted, and even how consumers behaved. The challenge with the internet of things is that there are going to be so many more devices, so many more players involved and the entire world is adopting connected devices in industries that never before had to consider the implications of putting their products online.

The wave of reports detailing insecure routers that don’t update their firmware, wireless protocols that use publicly known keys and manufacturers that put costs and ease of use ahead of a secure product are already forcing a change in the industry. For example, Nick Weaver, the CEO of Eero, a maker of a new router, says that in building his product, he focused on making it with the cloud and automatic updates in mind.

Is your router secure? Are any of your connected devices? -- Image courtesy of Linksys.

Is your router secure? Are any of your connected devices? — Image courtesy of Linksys.

In older versions of routers, if a company pushed a software update, it would erase the settings as it reset the entire box as part of installing the update. Products (and their firmware) designed for continual updates don’t have that problem, which means that consumers are less reluctant to update and that manufacturers can force an update without angering their customer base.

Another tactic that Eero employed was that after Weaver noticed many of its beta customers using password123 as the default password for the application associated with the router, he eliminated that as an option. Now, users enter their email or mobile number and get a verification code sent to them instead. Weaver isn’t the only executive thinking about security differently. Andreas Gal, the former CTO at Mozilla who is now the CEO of Silk Labs, is building a connected camera for the home. To prevent government surveillance and ensure privacy he’s using encryption on the device and in the cloud to make sure that the video files that the device takes are shielded from all eyes except for the user, who has the key on their smartphone.

But these are only two CEOs who are building consumer hardware that is admittedly expensive and may never reach the mainstream audience. For the rest of the world, the older generation of routers that are cheaper, yet less secure, and connected hardware designed with poorly thought out default settings or leftover code the effectively creates vulnerabilities for hackers to exploit could be the norm. At Structure Connect in June, we’ll talk about balancing security with costs and convenience with Nathan Smith, the founder and CTO of the Wink smart home platform. As the head of one of the most popular consumer devices out there — and one that has been hacked — it’s a topic he’s had to come to terms with.

Consumer products and designing for security are only a one segment of the problem. Creating a set of rules and best practices for connected devices whether they are cars or medical devices is another area where experts are trying to address the problems introduced by connected devices. A group called I am The Cavalry is working with the FDA and the medical device industry to create a framework for documenting, monitoring and preventing unauthorized access to connected medical devices. It has already created a similar framework for connected cars.

The challenge is that these efforts move slowly, while adoption of connected infrastructure is speeding up. How enterprises and consumers address that will be a topic of increasing conversation—and consternation as 2016 rolls on.

Why Intel and Qualcomm are getting in bed to build a single IoT standard

Finally conceding that fragmentation is hurting the development of the internet of things, a group of tech industry giants, including chip rivals Intel and Qualcomm, have joined forces to create a standards group called the Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF). The new consortium includes Intel, Microsoft, Samsung and Qualcomm and will push the Iotivity standard for device discovery and communication.

What’s so notable about the creation about this group is its composition. In 2014, Intel created a standards group called the Open Internet Consortium founded with Samsung, Broadcom, Atmel and Wind River (an Intel company at the time). At the time I called it a “Qualcomm-free standards organization,” because it appeared like a direct response to Qualcomm’s AllJoyn device discovery standard, which is overseen by the AllSeen Alliance. Microsoft, Electrolux and Qualcomm are all premier members of the AllSeen Alliance.

Windows 10 devices like these Lumia phones, will natively interoperate with the new OCF standard. --Image courtesy of Microsoft.

Windows 10 devices like these Lumia phones, will natively interoperate with the new OCF standard. –Image courtesy of Microsoft.

However, in reading between the lines it appears that Intel’s standard has won. When asked about the fate of Iotivity and AllJoyn, a spokeswoman for the newly created OFC said via email:

Yes, Iotivity will continue to be the open source implementation of the spec, although it will now be sponsored by OCF instead of OIC. And for the second question, OCF has nothing to do with AllSeen. If you have any further questions on AllSeen specifically feel free to reach out to them directly.

I have reached out to the AllSeen Alliance to ask about the fate of AllJoyn, but it hasn’t gotten back to me yet. It looks like whatever software was used for the AllJoyn effort may be subsumed into the new OFC code. In a Microsoft blog post about the new organization it says, “The OCF standards will also be fully compatible with the 200 million Windows 10 devices that are “designed for AllSeen” today.”

Qualcomm also appears to be saying goodbye, writing in its blog post:

Qualcomm remains a member of the AllSeen Alliance, and in that capacity we will work with both organizations to help establish a single open standard for IoT. And when this happens, those of us who believe in an open, robust IoT standard for connectivity and interaction among products and services, will have gone beyond saying we believe in it—we will have accomplished it.

If there is a way to unify the devices that currently have AllJoyn code with the new standard for the OFC, then this is a great move for the industry. The internet of things has long been held back by the need to build device-specific integrations just to enable a light bulb to talk to a motion sensor or a smart home hub. The idea behind a standard like Iotivity or AllJoyn was that the code running on a specific device such as a lock could let any other device know that the device in question was a lock and what sorts of capabilities the lock had.

This would save time for developers trying to build scenarios for the internet of things because they could build generic interactions for locks and lights and have them work across a variety of different products. IT’s a similar idea to what Apple is trying to do with HomeKit and those device profiles, or what SmartThings is trying to do with its integrated development environment. Google is after something similar with Weave.

Of course, that means that even if the Open Connectivity Foundation is successful, in turning two standards into one, there are still several more out their to contend with. But it is still a start.

Don’t miss Structure Connect 2016: The enterprise strikes back

It’s kind of crazy: the internet of things feels both like a fad and part of the biggest shift in business to happen in a century.

When every aspect of your business is online–from your manufacturing lines to your customers–your organization can’t operate the way it always did. So while there is still plenty of hype around connected gadgets, much of the attention is shifting to the issues that must be solved before organizations can truly begin to change their businesses to take advantage of the value of the data connected devices, employees and consumers can offer.

This is why we made Structure Connect. Scheduled for June 22nd and 23rd at the UCSF Mission Bay conference center in San Francisco, Structure Connect will be a place where you can learn from everyone from CIOs to facilities managers who connected their products to the internet and suddenly realized that they had terabytes of data and no place to put it. Or business development executives who turned a product into a service while trying not to alienate their distribution channels. We’re also going to talk about the promise of new technologies like 5G, the blockchain and how the heck we’re going to secure these devices.

Structure Connect 2014/Jakub Mosur

Structure Connect 2014/Jakub Mosur

If your company hasn’t started planning for this shift, it’s time to get started. Twenty-six companies (including 14 in the U.S.) planned to spend $1 billion or more each on internet of things initiatives in 2015, according to research out from Tata Consultancy Services. That’s a lot of money, and there are plenty of connected oil rigs, mining operations, manufacturing plants and more already online. What’s turning out to be the larger challenge, however, is figuring out how to adjust to the data coming in and how to change internal cultures that must adapt to a world where information is no longer a closely guarded secret, but a commodity that is often more useful if shared.

To that end, large companies are employing a variety of tactics to open up. For example, Robert Locke, Tyco’s SVP Corporate Development, took Tyco’s executives on a tour of Silicon Valley in hopes of introducing them not just to new partners, but also to new ideas and ways of doing business a few years ago as he sought to help Tyco built a new strategy around open innovation. Roger Pilc, the chief innovation officer at Pitney Bowes, makes sure his firm signs up a few startups as clients just to make sure his company keeps abreast of the latest technology demands from customers. He figures startups’ tech demands are a year or two out from the mainstream needs and this way his firm can prepare.

These tactics may seem unrelated to the internet of things. However, they embody exactly the sort of cultural shift that helps prepare companies for the changes that connectivity will wreck on their business processes and org charts. The internet of things is about far more than sensors or turning your current product into a service. It requires companies to embrace openness and agility while also trying to understand and protect their core business.

Don’t worry, we’ll also discuss the smart home. Many of the business models that are working so far are inside the consumer home, and the breakthrough might resemble something like a Nest Protect subsidized by an insurance company or a connected washing machine that is tied to an electric utility.

There’s a lot more to the internet of things than just connecting a thing to the internet. Any company that manages to figure out the fickle needs of consumers could own this market. And they’ll change their own business too.

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 11.24.28 AM

Why Ellen Rubin and ClearSky Data are betting on the hybrid cloud

While the largest companies in the world are starting to figure out what Silicon Valley startups have known for years?—?it’s way easier and cheaper to use cloud computing services?—?cloud storage has required a bit more convincing. After all, it’s one thing to run a few apps on Amazon Web Services, but it’s quite another for conservative CIOs to warm up to the idea of storing their extremely sensitive corporate data outside of their control.

Fortunately for Ellen Rubin, co-founder and CEO of newly launched ClearSky Data, that’s starting to change. Rubin, who will be speaking at Structure 2015 in November, thinks that the combination of breakthroughs in storage caching technology (thanks to her co-founder, CTO Laz Vekiarides) and lots of spare Metro Ethernet capacity means the time is right for enterprises to consider a hybrid approach to cloud storage. But Rubin also sees a cultural shift in the way cloud services are being evaluated that’s making it easier for companies like ClearSky to emerge.

Rubin and Vekiarides raised the money for ClearSky Data last year, but kept quiet while working on their idea. Last month at VMworld, the company emerged from stealth mode with its take on a modern approach to storage needs: a hybrid combination of a storage appliance in the customer’s data center, cached storage within a metropolitan area, and cold storage on Amazon’s S3 service.

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Pinterest headquarters

How Pinterest is preparing for its future in the cloud – or on its own

Pinterest tends to fly under the radar of the tech industry, likely because the male-dominated tech sector doesn’t spend a whole lot of time pinning. But an awful lot of people – just over 76 million monthly users in July, according to Comscore – send roughly 120,000 requests per second to Pinterest’s infrastructure and have pinned over 50 billion things on the site, which even if you’re a unicorn is a pretty big undertaking.

Raj Patel is the man responsible for keeping Pinterest up and running, although he insists that’s really everybody’s job in the infrastructure engineering department at the five-year-old company. Patel, head of cloud engineering for Pinterest, is someone we’re really excited about having on stage at Structure 2015 this November in San Francisco.

Structure conference Speaker - Raj patel

I recently got a chance to sit down with him for a wide-ranging interview on how a modern consumer web startup plans, builds, and scales its computing needs. Patel has been through a few generations of infrastructure evolution while working for tech giants such as Yahoo and Cisco, and is now taking on a new challenge in the form of a consumer-facing social networking company run entirely on the public cloud. That experience provided some unique perspective on scale and engineering focus that, assuming Pinterest continues to grow, could mean a move into owning and operating its own infrastructure.

Here are a few topics we explored in our conversation, but expect to hear much more at Structure:

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structureconf derrick harris

I hope you’re ready for an amazing year of Structure shows

Helping plan the Structure series of conferences has been an integral part of my professional life, so I am beyond thrilled to be back doing it again with the new incarnation of Structure.

For those who don’t know me, I was a writer with Gigaom since 2009 and served as editorial chair for numerous Structure events. While I focused on Structure Data for the past few years, I also led the Structure and Structure Europe conferences in years past, and was always at least involved in planning them all. It was hard work, but it was always worth it.

It was worth it because Structure is such a unique brand in the world of tech conferences. I was an attendee at the first Structure show in 2008, and was blown away by the level and vision of the speakers there. While the rest of the tech world was questioning the viability of cloud computing, these folks were busy laying out its future.

Year after year, conference after conference, it was the same story for Hadoop, software-defined networks, NoSQL databases, the Internet of Things and the list goes on. Structure, Structure Data and Structure Connect were always on the cutting edge, looking to the future while so many other shows were focused on the past and the present.

So now Structure is back and, I believe, will be better than ever. We have a great team in place, a great new home and great speakers already lined up for the first show in November. Up next is Structure Data in March, so if you’re interested in speaking, please do fill out our online application or contact me directly: derrick@structureconf.com.

See you in November!

structure david clarke

New for Structure 2015: Workday’s David Clarke

At so many of our events over the years, one of the most persistent topics has involved the complications of scaling technology companies once it becomes clear your business has legs: how do I grow efficiently? How do I set things up from Day One to avoid problems in the future? How do I blow up the creaky architecture set up by that one hungover contract employee who was cousins with the founder and start over?

David Clarke, senior vice president of technology development at Workday, has a lot of experience dealing with these problems (except for that last one, probably). We’re pleased to announce that Clarke will be joining us at Structure 2015, coming in November to downtown San Francisco. One of the pioneering cloud software companies, Workday has grown substantially over the last several years providing business-management software over the internet to startups and big companies alike: it announced Wednesday that it has crossed “the 1,000-customer milestone” in a press release that also reported a 51 percent jump in revenue for its second quarter.

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Julia Morgan Ballroom

Structure 2015: Check out the schedule

Six weeks after we kicked off this little adventure, we’re three months away from Structure 2015, and it’s time to share the schedule for the two-day event in San Francisco.

We’ve already announced several speakers for our cloud-computing event, such as Urs Hölzle of Google and Diane Bryant of Intel. But we’ve now got the full roster available for you to check out what’s going to be happening November 18th and 19th in the Julia Morgan Ballroom at the Merchants Exchange Building in downtown San Francisco.

In addition to the speakers and themes we’ve already announced, I’m looking forward to hearing from Joseph Sirosh of Microsoft, who will be interviewed by Derrick Harris on the always-fascinating subject of machine learning. I’m going to be talking to Raj Patel of Pinterest later that day about the unique challenges that Pinterest faces in maintaining site reliability and its cloud strategy, which Pinterest doesn’t often discuss in public. Florian Leibert, CEO of red-hot startup Mesosphere, will also appear on Day 1.

Day 2 should feature two very interesting talks from two very interesting founders: Mike Krieger, co-founder of Instagram, will talk about the engineering challenges of the five-year-old app (hard to believe it’s only been five years) and what he’s planning for over the next five years as part of Facebook. And Mark Shuttleworth, founder and chairman of Canonical, is scheduled to talk about how containers are changing the way companies think about cloud management, and the tools that can help make sense of it all.

The complete schedule is here. We’re really excited about how this is all coming together, and we can’t wait to see everybody back at Structure. You can find more information and purchase tickets here.

structureconf marianna tessel

A new addition for Structure 2015: Docker engineering head Marianna Tessel

In just a few years, Docker has gone from a little-known startup to one of the hottest companies on the planet, influencing the future of software development in a fashion that has made the big players sit up and pay attention. We’re proud to announce that Marianna Tessel, senior vice president of engineering, will be joining us at Structure 2015.

Tessel runs engineering for Docker, which has dominated much of the conversation over the last year around containers. It’s kind of hard to believe that Docker 1.0 was released only last June: since then, Amazon, Microsoft, Google, VMware (Tessel’s former employer), IBM, and a host of other companies have partnered with Docker, and it’s probably a safe bet that more than a few have thought long and hard about buying the company, which has raised $160 million and is said to be a member of the “unicorn” club.

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structure conference alex polvi

New at Structure 2015: Alex Polvi of CoreOS and Eric Brewer of Google

The rise of containers and associated need for container management strategies are among our top themes for Structure 2015. So we thought we’d tackle both of those topics in one session.

We’re pleased to announce that CoreOS CEO Alex Polvi (pictured above) and Eric Brewer, vice president of infrastructure for Google and a Kubernetes evangelist (pictured below), will join us at Structure 2015 this November. A moderator-to-be-named-later will host a session involving the two gentlemen that should be quite interesting after all the movement toward container standards in 2015.

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structure michelle mckenna

NFL CIO Michelle McKenna-Doyle will make her Structure debut this November

Just as training camps kick into full swing across the country, we’re pleased to announce that Michelle McKenna-Doyle, CIO for the National Football League, is coming to Structure this November.

McKenna-Doyle, a first-time Structure speaker, oversees the technology used by NFL teams on the sidelines as well as the league’s overall technology strategy. The NFL signed a high-profile deal with Microsoft a few years ago to allow (and encourage) coaches to use Surface tablets as one of their in-game tools instead of those huge floppy laminated poster things. And given football’s fetish for statistics and data, as well as the increased scrutiny around player health, the league is investing in modern IT infrastructure.

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Diane Bryant Intel

Intel’s Diane Bryant is back to talk datacenter chips at Structure 2015

The cloud revolution has upended the server market, but Intel is determined to remain the power behind the massive datacenters that enable the cloud. That means we’re looking forward to an update from Diane Bryant, senior vice president and general manager of Intel’s Datacenter Group, at Structure 2015.

Despite the fact that the rise of cloud computing means fewer companies are actually buying their own off-the-shelf servers, Bryant leads a division of Intel that’s growing at a healthy clip. Massive cloud providers like Amazon are building their own infrastructure designed around their own needs, which means Intel has had to get flexible in order to accommodate the new buyers of server processors.

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Jay Parikh, Facebook

Facebook’s Jay Parikh is coming back to Structure this November

In just over ten years, Facebook has become a powerhouse company in the tech industry. And that’s not just because it lets you see which of your former high school classmates have turned into weirdos; it has unique infrastructure needs and has developed pioneering strategies to deal with those challenges. The man responsible for keeping Facebook going, Jay Parikh, is coming back to Structure 2015.

Last year at Structure Parikh unveiled Facebook’s top-of-rack Wedge switch, the latest installment in the Open Compute Project it kicked off years ago. And after it unveiled the modular “6-pack” switch in Februrary, it’s definitely time for an update on how Facebook’s networking strategy has evolved to make sure those baby pictures load quickly.

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Structure 2015

Five hot topics you can expect to hear about at Structure 2015

Acquiring the computing power you need to run your business has probably never been easier in the history of the information technology industry, yet it remains quite complicated in practice to make everything flow smoothly. Cloud computing has allowed thousands of companies big and small to get off the ground without having to put together their own infrastructure, but there are many ways to slice (and price) the cloud.

These are some of the things we’re thinking about as everything starts coming together for Structure 2015, the new-yet-quite-familiar tech conference that we’re bringing back after the demise of Gigaom earlier this year. Structure is scheduled for November 18th and 19th at the Julia Morgan Ballroom in San Francisco, and several familiar faces — such as Adrian Cockcroft, Urs Hölzle, and Vinod Khosla — are confirmed as speakers, with more to come.

Here are five major themes we plan to cover at Structure 2015:

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Vinod Khosla, Khosla Ventures, Structure 2014

Vinod Khosla of Khosla Ventures will speak at Structure 2015

Never shy and always thought-provoking, Khosla Ventures founder and longtime enterprise technology investor Vinod Khosla will be back for Structure 2015 this November in San Francisco.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Khosla last year at Structure when he caused a bit of a stir by assuring attendees focused on IT (no small number) that automation was coming for their jobs. “It’s ridiculous to have humans manage the level of complexity that they do. People are a big cost in IT. Let’s take that out,” he said, and I’m very curious to hear an update on how that’s going.

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Urs Hölzle, Google

Urs Hölzle, Google’s legendary engineer, will join us at Structure 2015

It’s pretty safe to say that there would be no Google without Urs Hölzle, the man who figured out how to take Larry Page and Sergey Brin’s concept for a search engine and design the computing infrastructure that launched Google to prominence and is still the envy of the tech industry more than a decade later.

We’re proud to have Urs back for Structure 2015, set to take place this November in San Francisco. We have a lot of questions for Urs about the progress of Google Cloud Platform and its progress facing up against the deep-pocketed competitors — Amazon and Microsoft — that are also racing to build the public cloud infrastructure of the future.

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Adrian Cockcroft, Battery Ventures

Structure veteran Adrian Cockcroft will be back for 2015, talking the state of clouds and containers

Structure 2015 has only been live for a few days, but we’re ready to announce the first of our confirmed speakers for November: Adrian Cockcroft, technology fellow at Battery Ventures and alumnus of Silicon Valley tech stalwarts Netflix, eBay, and Sun Microsystems, will join us on stage at the Julia Morgan Ballroom to reprise his talk from last year on cloud trends, but with a very 2015 twist.

After roaring into the picture in 2014, container technology is maturing quite rapidly in 2015, and Cockcroft plans to update his talk to include discussion of the container ecosystem coming off the announcements at DockerCon in June. We hope to have other container-related discussions on tap for the event, so make sure to check back as we roll out more speakers.

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Structure 2015

Introducing Structure, a new tech events company

We’re getting (some of) the band back together.

When Gigaom abruptly shut down last March, the world lost not just a storied tech blog but a vibrant and growing series of tech events, a forum based on editorial integrity in which some of the most important issues of our world were hashed out and where visionaries and startups could mix, mingle, and learn from each other.

As several of us wondered what to do next, we realized pretty quickly in talking to our contacts in the tech industry that the demise of the Structure Series — Structure, Structure Data, and Structure Connect — left quite a void in the yearly calendar. So over the past several months, a series of quiet conversations began in hopes of bringing back this one-of-a-kind event portfolio.
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