The Evolving Data Center, Part 2: AI in 2020

Western Digital executives share their 2020 predictions for AI and ML in the second installment of a 2-part series on the changing data center.

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From end points and edge to the core, our world is increasingly connected via the Internet of Things (IoT). Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are enabling new use cases across industries. In this second part of a 2-part series on the Evolving Data Center, Western Digital executives share their AI predictions for 2020, including a unique perspective from its own CIO, who implements cutting-edge innovations daily.

Prediction #1: In 2020, we will see a proliferation of customized AI chips hitting the market. As a result, almost every vertical will begin to tap into the power of AI/ML. 

Billions of dollars have been spent over the past few years to develop AI chips customized for specific workloads, such as facial recognition, natural language processing, network security, robotics, and automation. With RISC-V and other open-source technologies further lowering the barriers to purpose-built innovation, an influx of these customized AI semiconductor “building blocks” will be available in 2020, enabling systems designers to make AI/ML even more prolific across a variety of vertical industries including smart homes and cities, automotive, retail, healthcare, and telecommunications.

--Siva Sivaram, Western Digital's President of Technology & Strategy

Prediction #2: In 2020, AI/ML will help drive the adoption of “auto” everything.

In IT, the quest for greater efficiency is never-ending, and automation is essential for success. From database tasks to manufacturing, cars, customer experiences, and self-service business functions, virtually anything and everything that can be automated, will be. New AI/ML models and insights, leveraging the convergence of multiple data types, will be the key enablers of automation. In 2020, organizations will continue to implement AI/ML in order to unlock the power of automation to drive efficiency and increase productivity. The result? Reduced costs across the value-chain.

--Steve Phillpott, CIO, Western Digital

Prediction #3: In 2020, we’ll see more standardization in the AI/ML ecosystem, making it easier to integrate and deploy solutions at the edge.

Analytics are the competitive advantage – companies that aren’t investing in analytics by 2020 probably won’t be in business in 2021. There is just too much company data that can be collected, processed, and then turned into insights. Those that do not take full advantage of modern analytic tools in this space will suffer. With this, the new connected world has more and more of the workloads moving to the edge, increasing the need to ensure these very small edge devices can run and analyze increasing large amounts of data. Due to the small footprint and the rapid deployment needs, we’ll need to have more standardization and interoperability. This will take the form of more open architecture, open standards, open messaging, and more. 

--Steve Phillpott, CIO, Western Digital

Prediction #4: In 2020 and beyond, companies will begin automating data scientist roles for ML.

There are simply not enough data scientists in the world to support the growth of ML workloads. Companies are now developing ways to put the power of ML into the hands of software engineers and/or business subject matter experts. New off-the-shelf tools will fulfill the baseline role of the data scientist, and true data scientists will shift to higher-level, value-add roles such as fine-tuning ML for specialty use-case work. In 3-5 years, ML automation will become the norm, and companies will have more tools at their disposal to empower data scientists to be more efficient and agile.

--Steve Phillpott, CIO, Western Digital

Prediction #5: In 2020, we’ll see growing support for an open, standards-based approach that addresses IoT/IIoT security challenges from edge to the core.

The rise of 5G and IoT is revolutionizing businesses and industries of all shapes and sizes – from oil and gas, agriculture, and manufacturing to autonomous vehicles and smart cities. With this comes billions of connected devices, monitors, and sensors—all opening up vulnerabilities and security risks to sensitive data, systems, and architectures, from endpoints to edge to core. Today’s highly diverse use cases and proprietary IoT security solutions simply cannot reach economies of scale. This will drive the industry to embrace open security standards in software and hardware, new innovations in RISC-V instruction set architectures (ISAs), and standards-based devices and platforms. Solutions that are open, customizable, comprehensive, stronger, and easier to use and adopt will lead, and help accelerate new developments and innovations throughout the ecosystem. This will be a shared defense to protect the data the world depends on. No company is or will be large enough to drive these changes without engaging the ecosystem and harnessing its collective power in the industry.

--Yusuf Jamal, SVP, Western Digital’s Devices & Platforms

Forward-Looking Statements:

This article may contain forward-looking statements, including statements relating to expectations for Western Digital’s products, the market for these products, and capabilities of these products. These forward-looking statements are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed in the forward-looking statements, including development challenges or delays; supply chain and logistics issues; changes in demand; global economic conditions; competitor actions; and other risks and uncertainties listed in Western Digital Corporation’s most recent quarterly and annual reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, to which your attention is directed. Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements and we undertake no obligation to update these forward-looking statements to reflect subsequent events or circumstances.