Gaining 4Sight into the future

The following is an introduction to 4Sight, 451 Research's newly-released research framework. In the coming months, we'll be releasing a series of Spotlights on 4Sight and its major themes--Invisible Infrastructure, Pervasive Intelligence, Universal Risk and Contextual Experience.

Eric Hanselman, Chief Analyst
John Abbott, Founder & Distinguished Analyst

It may seem trite to state that the world is changing faster than ever before. That's a natural product of the progression of modern society. But the change that is happening in information technology today has taken on a different character, which requires a different kind of conversation in sorting out its impacts. There are opportunities that necessitate something more than what we've used in the past. There are also existential threats for those that misstep. The 451 Research team has distilled research data, client conversations, and market and technology insight to produce a framework that offers a new way to assess technology's more distant outcomes.

There have to be deeper conversations around where IT is heading, and they have to reflect changes in expectations and perceptions. The old models and ideas leave too much out. The intrusion of cloud services continues to bend plans and buying patterns. Security concerns spur protections, while users try to push them aside. Greater perspective has to be put to work to effectively guide investment and thinking. 451 Research's 4Sight framework can guide thinking around what the future holds and how to make plans for it.

45ight 2018

It's too easy to fall back on pat responses to what is a complicated transition with significantly different circumstances for different organizations. As human beings, we naturally settle on conforming expectations. 4Sight is an effort to extend thinking. This isn't a quadrant, wave or mode. It's a framework through which you can plan and assess a set of outcomes and their impacts, and guide your expectations and investments. As organizations work to make sense of what 'digital transformation' means to them, the ideas in 4Sight can aid their exploration. The full description and our detailed expectations for the next 10 years run to about 70 pages. We boil it down to the basics here, and will be following with a set of more detailed Spotlight reports. We invite you to engage the 451 Research team in deeper conversations. These conversations can be most useful when they dig into the specifics of your situation and your hopes and long-term goals.

We've divided our expectations into four areas. They're not distinct, and have significant overlaps and influence on each other, being messy like the real world. They are focused themes that have aligned forces. Those forces are driven by market perceptions and technology transitions. They outline considerations that should drive your thinking. Pervasive intelligence describes the impact of the growth of analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence, as well as the ways these technologies will pervade so many aspects of business and society. Invisible infrastructure looks at what is happening as service abstractions mask increasingly more details of the foundation on which technology rests. Universal risk expands the conversations that have dwelled on the fears and mechanics of information and cyber security, and addresses the potential for what can be achieved when they're not looked at in isolation. Contextual experience explores the entanglement of customer interactions with technology, and the challenges and opportunities that result. Together, they can be used to map out plans to achieve better outcomes for enterprises, vendors and service providers.

Pervasive intelligence
While there has been considerable discussion of the potential for analytics in IT operations and customer interaction, there is a deeper impact that will be felt as it infuses into not only how technology interacts with us, but also how we expect to interact with the wider world. Pervasive intelligence drives much of the computed context that feeds contextual experience. It depends on the compute, data and interconnection resources provided by invisible infrastructure. It is governed by the assessments from universal risk.

Invisible infrastructure
The idea of infrastructure becoming invisible is powerful, but also a bit scary to certain segments of our clients. It's a harsh reality that more of the underpinnings of technology are being abstracted in ways that make them seem more trivial by those that consume them. Need a thousand servers in an hour? The cloud will provide. This can be particularly useful in helping infrastructure providers encourage consumption, but it presents challenges in differentiating them to consumers that, at first blush, may seem less concerned about the details. The truth is far different, in that there is massive potential for differentiation, brand establishment and revenue enhancement. It's just necessary to deliver infrastructure with new language and capabilities.

Invisible infrastructure supports contextual experience and pervasive intelligence with the resources to hold and manage all of that data, do the computational work required, and deliver it where it's needed. It depends on pervasive intelligence to operate efficiently, and is secured and guided by universal risk.

Universal risk
Conventional views of risk have operated at different and isolated levels in the majority of organizations. The people guarding the doors weren't often in the same conversations as those looking at supply chain disruptions or firewall configurations. And that is changing. When supply chains are susceptible to digital disruption and the threat of cyber-kinetic attacks looms, conversations about risk have to expand. It's not all doom and gloom and ransomware, either. Considering risk, security and suitable controls in a broader context opens the opportunity to address these needs in new ways. There is balance in the benefits and risks of technology, but there has to be enhanced understanding of the forces at play to remain on one's feet.

Universal risk guides the use of data that drives contextual experience and secures provenance for the streams that feed pervasive intelligence. It secures the various aspects of invisible infrastructure, while establishing trust across the chain of those creating and consuming value.

Contextual experience
The global society is just beginning to see the impact that a richer relationship can have between creators and consumers. A key part of most interactions creates an expectation of greater relevance. Location context guides possibilities, and historical perspectives on what's experienced and liked have become the norm. The progression from redialing the last number to understanding what one might like next has been steep and quick, but there is much further to go. This is the area of technology that has the most direct societal collisions, and, if it is not well managed, can get very ugly when it's not beautifully wondrous. Contextual experience is the proving ground of the human-machine interface and the place where the tendrils of IoT data can find fertile soil.

Contextual experience depends on invisible infrastructure to provide contextual data and analytical results from pervasive intelligence. It relies on universal risk to guide the use of data, manage privacy concerns and ensure that trust isn't broken as part of this enhanced relationship.

Wide and deep
We can debate whether we're on to a new industrial revolution or a refinement of a stage of technology, but the change that is happening now demands a better way to understand its implications. The level of interdependencies created by expanding technology ecosystems requires a wider exploration of influences. Time horizons of any length have to be delved into with more depth to discover meaningful impacts. The 451 Research team has created 4Sight as way to focus and frame the exploration of how your organization anticipates and invests in the future. We look forward to discovering many futures with you.
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