The original roaring 20s were 100 years ago, but we may be about to see a new version of this… And if it’s going to be “a period of economic prosperity with a distinctive cultural edge,” then both the economic and the cultural aspects will be all about data.
Data is shaping a new culture, bringing about a new way of doing business, a new way of decision making, new applications and infrastructure, and is an enabler for the transition to AI. Data is the focal point of our coverage on Big on Data, so following up on Andrew Brust and Tony Baer’s predictions, here’s our own round of things to keep an eye on in the 2020s.
This is the first part — including trends 5, 4, and 3. The second part — including trends 2, 1, and a bonus — will follow suit in a few days.
5. It’s the end of blockchain as we know it, and I feel fine
Do you remember blockchain? 2017, 2018, and the Bitcoin and ICO craze seem like a lifetime ago. Back in early 2017, we noted that blockchain is, in essence, a distributed database, with some unique properties that databases typically lack:
Immutability, where written data is “forever” tamper-resistant. The ability to create and transfer assets on the network, without reliance on a central entity, based on a decentralized consensus mechanism. This is what powered Bitcoin, which opened up the realm of possibilities, but also spurred an immense wave of speculation, ignorance, and fraud.
Today, blockchain seems to have hit rock bottom. Gartner is placing blockchain at the bottom of the Trough of Disillusionment. Scams such as Onecoin and Bitfinex – Tether exemplify the Wild West that blockchain has become, and Facebook’s Libra is not getting traction either — which is a good thing.
Even leaving speculators out of the picture. However, there still are technical issues to resolve. A database with poor performance, inability to interface with the outside world, and no query language to speak of is not exactly a solid substrate for applications. This is where blockchain is today. But here comes the good news: Yes, blockchain will have a transformational impact across industries in five to ten years.
Behind the scenes, people are working to resolve issues. To name some examples: BigchainDB is still working on performance. Chainlink launched an Oracle service to connect Ethereum blockchain to the world. The Graph is using GraphQL to provide an open-source query protocol for blockchains. Alternatives such as IOTA are exploring different data structures.
Although enterprise blockchain implementations do exist — check JP Morgan’s Quorum or Oracle’blockchain Platform — the blockchain landscape in the 2020s will probably be very different. It may not even go by the same name: Distributed Ledger Technology is a better match for a technology, which may not really be a blockchain anymore. DLTs will be front and center in the 2020s.
4. On cloud No. 9… or, on how many clouds actually?
This one should be rather familiar. The gradual move of applications and data to the cloud has been a recurring theme on Big on Data. A decade ago, for most businesses, the cloud was not really an option for data and compute at scale. Hadoop was all the rage – a synonym for Big Data, for all intents and purposes. Today’s world is very different.
The cloud is now the de facto data lake. Hadoop itself has gone cloud and consolidated. In the 2020s, as Tony Baer put it, hybrid cloud and multi-cloud will be the default option. Cloud providers have been adding databases and data management tools in their offerings at a staggering rate.
In addition, cloud storage, which is where it all started, is becoming more sophisticated, too. Amazon Athena has added SQL query capabilities on top of AWS S3. The open-source Delta Lake project unifies cloud storage and data warehouses. So cloud storage looks more like a database, and cloud providers offer data management solutions, too.
But mobility goes both ways. Every database today has a managed offering in the cloud or is in the process of getting one. With databases getting increasingly complex to manage, and the ability to get on-demand storage and compute for their needs offering major advantages, managed databases in the cloud are a natural evolution.
Today, when choosing a data management solution, the shortlist almost always includes an offering by a cloud vendor. Being cloud-native, managed, and billed via a single control plane, and having multi-region availability makes cloud vendor offerings attractive. On the other hand, those offerings are not multi-cloud and are not always the best of the breed.
3. Cloud does not pay; open source is not free
The future of databases is the cloud. But the future of databases is also something else: it is open source. By 2022, more than 70% of new in-house applications will be developed on an open-source database, and 50% of existing proprietary relational database instances will have been converted or be in the process of converting.
In other words, open-source is winning, in databases and beyond. There are some very good reasons why this is happening: low barrier to entry, community, innovation, interoperability. But the fact that open source is becoming the norm in enterprise software has side effects, too. To put it simply: AWS is eating open-source software because it can.
Following customer demand, AWS has, over the last few years, added every single top open=source database to its arsenal as a managed service. This is a rather complicated issue, which we first touched on in May 2019. We are glad to see it been taken up by the likes of The New York Times, and the debate around the issue is heating up.
This is really about much more than databases and vendors. What this really is about is business models around shared resources and fair contribution and reward around those shared resources. Open-source software is free as in speech, but not free as in beer. Someone has to build the software, and then someone has to maintain, run, and manage it.
So, it all comes down to how much each actor gives and takes, and whether this should somehow be accounted for. Clearly, this is a much broader topic than what we could possibly address here, so a piece crystallizing thoughts and exchanges on the topic is due. In the meanwhile, let us be reminded of another example of a “free” shared resource — the web.
Much of the trouble with the web and the monopolies built around it today stem from the failure to operate a workable business model around it. In its absence, the Googles and Facebooks of the world have been eager to step up and fill that void, dominating the web and installing ad-based empires in the process. Making the same mistake twice would not be wise, and this deserves to be a top priority for the 2020s.
Join us for part 2 of the 5+1 technology trends for the roaring 20s next week: AI, Knowledge Graphs, to infinity and beyond.