The Future of IT: A Look at Blockchain and Quantum Computing

German IT leaders and Silicon Valley innovators talk tech trends face-to-face

Innovation and great ideas can be instantly shared worldwide in the digital era, but even the most seamless electronic collaborations can’t replace the value of eye contact, a handshake and the chance to trade opinions and insights with respected peers face-to-face. That kind of information exchange is often inspiring, and Equinix and The Economic Council were looking to enable it when we recently partnered to host a delegation of German IT executives and members of the German and EU parliament in Silicon Valley.

Germany is the world’s fourth-largest economy, and its tech leaders are critical players in digital transformation in EMEA and worldwide. During a packed four days a few weeks ago, the delegation heard and spoke to leaders from nearly 20 Equinix partners – including F5, Google, Oracle, Microsoft, Salesforce and SAP, to name just a few.

Some of the big topics on the table were blockchain, quantum computing and the Internet of Things (IoT), and the sessions were lively, informative and challenging. The following is a rundown of insights gleaned on a few of the key technologies and approaches discussed.

Quantum computing

The exponential increases in computing power that have transformed society in recent decades pale in comparison to the almost unfathomable potential of quantum computing. A quantum computer could potentially solve complex problems that would take today’s computers billions of years. Samir Kumar, the managing director of Microsoft ventures, explained how quantum computing works and gave the delegation a glimpse of its stunning potential.                       

Quantum computers differ from classical computers because quantum devices can simultaneously be in a “superposition” of several different states while having deep connections between spatially separated entities. Its fundamental computing unit, the “qubit,” can represent 2 to the power of “n” states at the same time, where n corresponds to the number of bits. Compare this to traditional computing bits, which can be defined only as a “1” or “0.” Quantum computing allows you to take on exponentially more tasks than traditional computing, and all at the same time.

 Blockchain

Near-foolproof data security is a defining feature of blockchain technology, and that’s why its applications are extending well past enabling cryptocurrencies. Guardtime’s Chief Technology Officer Matt Johnson demonstrated how essential blockchain is becoming by showing the delegation the diversity of ways his company is using blockchain to solve customer problems. They include:

  • Risk management: Customers can safely share data with insurers and make transactions using that data, while reducing costs.
  • Compliance: Customers can prove to regulators that they are correctly handling personally identifiable information.
  • Investigation: Customers can discover who is responsible if there is an accident related to an autonomous or connected vehicle.
  • Authentication: Customers can confirm the right software is running on a device, react when a breach is detected and enable autonomous devices to authenticate each other.

Working differently

The message from Edward Hieatt, senior vice president of services at the software and services company Pivotal, is that every enterprise company must become a true software company to succeed. He also laid out Pivotal’s approach (called “working differently”) for helping enterprises take on a new, software-centric strategy. Among its key components:

  • Extreme programming: Build working software at a consistent speed and quality, even as requirements change. This involves test-driven development, short iterations and continuous development and deployment.
  • User-centered design: Ensure the software solves a real problem for real users

through user interviews, ethnographic studies, persona definition and prototype creation.

  • Be lean: Reduce the risk of building the wrong thing while being agile enough to change direction. This happens through defining the minimum viable product, experimentation, testing of assumptions and making data-driven decisions.
  • Re-think DevOps: In this scenario, operations teams run the software platform, including security, scaling and upgrades, while application teams run their apps. By separating the concerns of the platform and the app, companies can speed product release, deploy more frequently and lower the failure rate of new releases.

Interconnection matters

We were happy to do all we could to ensure the German delegation got connected with the right people and maximized mutual opportunities for learning, and we got some feedback indicating our efforts were successful

“The trip was well organized, and the mix of the visited companies well selected,” said Wolfgang Rosenbauer, chief representative, NXP Semiconductors Germany. “I was able to gain very important information, and my fellow CTOs have already begun to examine possible collaborations. The expectations were far exceeded. Big thanks to the organizers.”

Of course, it wasn’t all business. Table tennis, margaritas and a sightseeing cruise on San Francisco Bay don’t have much to do with our digital future, though it can’t hurt to continue to look for ways to work those things in!

One thing that was clear after the trip was just how important interconnection – private data exchange between businesses – is to the technologies and trends we were discussing. So much of it requires excellent network connectivity and robust cloud infrastructures, which interconnection enables and optimizes.

Microsoft, for instance, envisions that large-scale quantum computers will operate in data centers and be accessed remotely as a cloud service, and interconnection is critical in that scenario. Also, blockchain is far more efficient with the private, proximate connections that are an essential characteristic of interconnection. And as enterprises evolve into software companies, interconnection offers the direct routes to cloud platforms and services that they’ll need.

At Equinix, we’ve spent 20 years building a global interconnection platform, Platform Equinix®, that’s designed to allow our customers to connect quickly and securely with everything that matters to them. We had a great time working with the German delegation and we’re so grateful to the partners who helped make it all happen. We’re also excited to share how Platform Equinix can help companies all over the planet compete and succeed as the digital world evolves.

Download the Platform Equinix Vision Paper to learn more.

And for more details about the trip, please check out the delegation blog.

 

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