"In the future, all companies will be software companies." That was the message delivered today at GE Minds + Machines by Paul Maritz, executive chairman of the board of Pivotal. To be clear, he wasn't saying that every company will be exclusively a software company. But as customers' service expectations grow more personalized based on always-on connectivity, more companies will embrace software as a core competency in order to differentiate themselves with customers and capture more opportunities. "That is the path GE has taken, and more large and small companies will continue to take," Maritz said.
Pivotal is a cloud analytics, computing and software-development services business that helps large companies adopt the "agile" software development method used by Silicon Valley startups. Pivotal's Cloud Foundry provides the cloud-native platform behind GE Predix, and GE is an investor in Pivotal.
Maritz said the cloud is what is empowering companies to make this change. With the cloud, Maritz said, any company can achieve the computing power and data handling capacity of Google or Facebook.
"The Internet of Things is driving a need for massive computing power to handle data in real time," Maritz said. The cloud provides that power. In a way, the cloud is the new hardware.
Once upon a time, programmers were limited by the processing power physically present in their office. "Today, computing power is basically free," Maritz said. "You need 10 machines to throw at a problem? 50? 100? That power is there for you in the cloud, and that is radically transforming the types of problems that can be solved and the speed at which they can be solved. The Internet of Things is going to mean there will be many more events flowing in much greater quantities. In a lot of cases, it won't just be about ingesting them and analyzing them, but about reacting to them in real time."
In the timeline of computing, first came the mainframe and the automation of accounting. Next came the PC and Web, which Maritz said was largely about automating paper processes. Today, in the cloud/mobile era, what's being automated are systems of engagement: the Internet of Things.
"By taking advantage of these capabilities you can build applications that reason over much bigger and much more diverse datasets and get more value out of them. You can do it more quickly, more cost-effectively, and then actually use that reasoning to drive some interaction with the user," Maritz said. "So it's not just about analytics, where you kind of get some insight into the data. It's about how you use that in the context of some application that's going to drive a transaction or cause some interaction with the user."
Maritz said succeeding in this new software-first world requires alignment in three key areas: people, platform and analytics.
"Integrated business and development teams are critical," Maritz said. "It's no longer a world in which business tells development what to make and development just makes it. That's done. The computing power available today means developers will discover capabilities and new ideas as they work, and business has to be able to support that. There are no more versions. Versions are dead. Today it's about continuous delivery and that only happens when teams are aligned."