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AI Everywhere? It’s going nowhere without data movement and a connected enterprise

Software DevelopmentAI Everywhere? It’s going nowhere without data movement and a connected enterprise

We all know AI is going to grow – and tech budgets are shifting accordingly. IDC expects the shift in IT spending toward AI will be fast and dramatic, impacting nearly every industry and application. By 2025, Global 2000 organizations will allocate over 40% of their core IT spend to AI-related initiatives, leading to a double-digit increase in the rate of product and process innovations.

But I see 2024 as being a year where organizations will begin to prioritize the business value of AI. Most AI applications today are Large Language Models or Gen-AI for text and images – bringing a lot of whizbang and gimmicky consumer-facing applications. When looking at their own AI priorities, organizations need to focus on value for their outward-product AI enhancements, but also every tool they use internally may have AI enhancements that will bring business value. However, these additions will push up subscription prices – sometimes even doubling the cost per-user of the tool.

There’s clearly a balancing act that needs to happen to get a cost to benefit ratio in the right place so that organizations are getting real business value and not throwing money away.

Prediction 1: AI gets productized for Intelligent Applications – but needs to be fed the right data

2024 will see AI and data getting “productized” into Intelligent Applications to deliver real business value and intelligent insights. Gartner defines intelligent applications in its strategic IT trends for 2024, as consumer or business applications that are augmented with AI and various connected data from transactions and external sources.

But in an AI-Everywhere world, data is the crucial asset to feed AI models and applications. There’s a data grab on right now.

Two challenges in the way of the great data grab – silos mean data silos!

Technology suppliers and service providers recognize this and will accelerate investments in additional data assets to improve their competitive position. This is well needed, as IDC finds only 12% of enterprises connect customer data between departments and 42% of enterprises have underutilized data.

…and it needs Unified Control

For AI and data to work together, it needs a connected enterprise, and Unified Control. IT teams in the next several years will need to start navigating the maturation of control platforms as they evolve from addressing a few basic systems to becoming one platform that orchestrates operations across infrastructure, data, AI services, and business applications and processes.

This means putting data in motion – to direct the right data to the right places and get it anywhere in the world. 

Prediction 2: An Event mesh is key: Data movement + AI are what truly enable Intelligent Applications

In 2024, organizations need to shift from purely data “generation” to data and decision “velocity.” This needs an event mesh, a network of interconnected event brokers that enables the distribution of events information among applications. Using an event mesh makes it possible to layer AI inferences on top of each other, adding intelligence incrementally.

To explain, let’s consider a practical application that merges AI with an event mesh to react to the analog nature of the world to process and respond to diverse inputs such as audio, video and human text. 

Imagine a building incident manager application that’s overseeing a company facility. There are guards present in the building, as well as security cameras, to properly respond to events that happen on the premises. But there are also bystanders and employees that have an ability to text or slack critical information to the building operations manager.

AI agents, each performing a specific role, can subscribe to the events from these inputs in order to transform them into more consumable events. Inside this mesh, those inputs will be taken and passed to the appropriate model based on a per-event hierarchical description of the event. So, let’s say the security guard radioed in that there’s a problem in the reception area. That’s useless to the incident manager application. However, if you push it through the speech to text model, augment that event with the actual text that the security guard used, it will then get routed into the incident manager who now has a text description of what the guard was saying.

It could then use the AI Large Language Model (LLM) to decide what the appropriate action should be for the issue at hand. Some of those actions might need to be verbally spoken, in which case it can be directed to the text to speech model which could then be played on the security guard’s walkie-talkie. Of course, this information gets augmented and passed through this incident manager, which is all AI driven. It could then publish into the event mesh to automatically trigger next steps, such as turn on alarms, turn off alarms or alert emergency services to take care of whatever incident might have happened.

The importance here is that an event mesh, combined with AI, translates a series of analogue events into a streamlined flow of information, allowing an extremely quick time to gain intelligence. As the example shows, the business value can be huge.

Prediction 3: 2024 will see the rise of the Platform Engineer, expediting delivery of application business value

But such applications will be only hypothetical without the ability to design and develop them in the first place. This is why it is exciting that Gartner sees topics such as Platform Engineering coming of age in 2024. Platform Engineering is an emerging trend intended to modernize enterprise software delivery, particularly for digital transformation. It’s an approach that can accelerate the delivery of applications and the pace at which they produce business value.

It improves developer experience and productivity by providing self-service capabilities with automated infrastructure operations. It involves discipline of building and operating self-service internal platforms — each platform is a layer, created and maintained by a dedicated product team, designed to support the needs of its users by interfacing with tools and processes. The goal of platform engineering is to optimize the developer experience and accelerate product teams’ delivery of customer value.

Gartner predicts that 80% of software engineering organizations will establish platform teams by 2026 and that 75% of those will include developer self-service portals.

Prediction 4: AI technologies will be counted on to further shorten software development cycles 

2024 will also present a growing opportunity for AI usage in application development. To what degree is for debate. Forrester, for instance, predicts generative AI bots, or TuringBots as they call them, will play a substantial role this year in shortening software development lifecycles by 15 to 20 per cent. 

In my view, it will be some time before development teams are fully embedding AI bots in their software development lifecycle. But the spirit is there – there is no question that AI technologies, such as generative AI and machine learning (ML), will aid software engineers in creating, testing, and delivering applications, providing an assistive role to help accelerate development tasks. 

If anything, I believe 2024 will see development organizations spend more time looking at their software development lifecycles through AI tinted glasses, seeking to better gauge where current processes are flexible enough to embed AI in a way that provides real value. For example, AI-augmented development tools integrated with an engineer’s development environment to produce code, translate legacy code to modern languages, enable design-to-code transformation and enhance application testing capabilities.  

Prediction 5: Bonfire of the silos 2024 – welcome to the integrated enterprise of the future 

But amid the rush to real-time and AI-driven operations, large, disparate organizations will still be limited in their ability to achieve optimal business value because of their reliance on a complex mix of legacy and/or siloed systems. Remember the IDC stat that only 12% of organizations currently connect customer data across departments! Constellation research agrees, stating “few enterprises have their data games down.”

This is why I believe the AI Data rush will drive greater industry-wide urgency for event-driven integration. This entails the combination of data transformation and connectivity attributes of an iPaaS with the real-time dynamic choreography of an event broker and event mesh. Only with this enterprise architecture pattern will systems new and old be able to work together to offer seamless, real-time digital experiences, linking events across departments, geographies, on-premises systems, IoT devices, in a cloud or even multi-cloud environment. 

Look no further than a refreshing lager

Consider an organization the size of international brewer HEINEKEN – which runs thousands of business-critical applications across 190 countries. In order to achieve its aim as “the world’s best-connected brewer”, the company introduced its EverGreen business strategy, underpinned by a shift to event-driven integration. In the past, HEINEKEN would see hundreds or thousands of point-to-point scenarios, but now they are being leveraged with one-to-many integration patterns, where an application only has to produce an event (such as an order of beer) once, and any other applications in the system (production, shipping, fulfillment, inventory, payments, cloud data lake etc.) can just subscribe to what they want to receive, and get it when it’s published. Delivering seamless digital interactions across the entire value chain, HEINEKEN has now positioned itself to make smarter, more informed, and real-time decisions – an organization truly getting on top of its data game.

AI and business value go hand-in-hand for more real time operations in 2024

Businesses need to balance AI hype against business benefit in 2024. 

We will certainly see AI flow down into new products and solutions at the front-end, but these apps need the data fluidity to live up to their full expectations. At the back end there is also potential for AI to impact software development processes, but more work to be done before we see AI fully designing applications. Ultimately, AI-enabled or not, we’ll see more organizations evolve their API and integration strategies to be more event-driven, underpinning their journey to truly real time operations at scale – getting the right insights to the right people, in the right place, at the right time.

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