1. Predict 2017 by looking at 2016 tech building blocks

    Predict 2017 by looking at 2016 tech building blocks

    As the New Year opens, data center operators should rejoice in the opportunities ahead. Cloud services and APIs are enabling everyone to take building blocks of services and use them to build apps and businesses in a rapid and scalable fashion. The next three to five years should see a rapid evolution of voice-enabled, AI back-end services that are coming together today in first generation form.

    Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Siri, Google Home, and Microsoft's Cortana are all examples of services using multiple building blocks. Voice recognition is the first building block, followed by natural language processing to make sense of what a human being is saying, rather than a forced "Tea, Earl Grey, hot" syntax.  AI in the form of machine learning is used to refine both voice recognition and natural language processing processes, improving accuracy and success rate on user requests.

    Alexa and other API-enabled assistances also form the next building block for services. Users can ask Alexa to order items from Amazon (no surprise there), but third-parties are using assistant APIs to enable hands-free service orders. Amazon Echo users can do such things as order flowers, pizza, and car share rides.

    Image by: burnworld.com

    Viv, purchased by Samsung this year, is the latest evolution of the API-enabled assistant, using open standards and interfaces to enable a broad third-party ecosystem while adding "stackability" for multiple layers of queries and writing its own code on the fly to handle tasks. I expect Alexa and Viv to have their own little arms race in 2017 and beyond to establish mind share and market share. Amazon will want more users flowing through the ever-growing AWS while new player Viv wants to be the market leader.

    Some building blocks take much longer to devolve and develop. About a decade ago, reports the New York Times, the big wave in clean tech was engineering bacteria and other biological processes into cranking out industrial chemicals through genetic engineering. Great idea, but Mother Nature was a lot more messy and complex than anticipated.

    It took time to develop better tools -- building blocks -- for editing DNA, measuring results, and figuring out how to automate processes on an industrial scale. You can do a lot of magical things in a lab setting, but making thousands to tens of thousands of gallons of chemicals requires a whole different set of processes to make things easy and affordable.

    The biggest advance is the use of agile-like processes for biotech. Small changes to genetics are conducted and adjusted as a fast rate as better analysis delivers more information for fine-tuning. Big data plays a key role in the Lygos company's ability to sift 2,000 genes and 300 amino acids per gene in yeast, finding the right characteristics to have yeast crank out acid. Crispr is the key biology tool enabling Lygos and other companies to efficiently "edit" DNA to make yeast and bacterial do what they want, but automation and plenty of servers are able to measure and predict the best yeast strains.

    Lygos has pulled in over $21 million in investment and is working with partners to scale up to make tons of chemicals next year and rail-car batches within two. Other companies are going after niches such as vitamin production and biodegradable plastic feedstocks, working the balance between automated biology, big data analytics to provide more information for improving organisms to produce chemicals, and figuring out the most effective way to scale from the lab bench to commercial production.

    All of these building-block businesses require the cloud and data centers for computation and storage. It's easy to see continued and sustained growth for data center space with the number and types of applications coming on line today just through existing and "in the pipeline" applications. Add in the potential of augmented reality (AR), a bet on virtual reality (VR), various Internet of Things (IoT), and the appearance of home robots and the wise might start looking at adding server room space.

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