hardware renaissance.jpgAccenture's annual Technology Vision Report, entitled "From Digitally Disrupted to Digital Disrupter," highlights the return of hardware and big names after years where software development by smaller companies have been the stars for business.

The six trends that the company believes could shift the industry barometer also cover crowdsourcing, applications, resilience and the data supply chain, something for any CIO to be thinking about.

There are six trends highlighted in Accenture's annual vision report, spanning the blurring between our physical and digital world, a future where crowdsourcing becomes commonplace in the enterprise, supply chain, applications and resilience, but the post tracks the change back from a business software focus to a revived interest in hardware. 

Many of these trends are ongoing. One force already radiating out from business to users is the continuing digital-physical blur. We can see this in a story today about Intel adding voice recognition intelligence on a device rather than sending the data to the cloud for interpretation, as Apple's Siri virtual assistant does. 

The Accenture report talks about extending intelligence to the edge. Instant voice feedback built into the upcoming smart devices is just one example. That plus a new layer of connected intelligence will improve workforce capabilities and processes. Consumers will feel new levels of empowerment, while businesses will feed off customer data, creating more opportunities.

Can Hardware Dent Software's Star?

Software has, for some time, been at the forefront of business thinking for CIOs and the technology world. Software enables users to do things, while hardware is reduced to merely enabling all that fun software -- the services, applications, connectivity and collaboration.

Processor improvements are no longer whooped about outside the benchmarking scene. Storage is cheaper than your coffee and Danish, fast networking is taken for granted and, for many, virtualization has taken the shine off endless rounds of expensive hardware upgrades. Sure, some enterprises still feel the need for speed, but for the rest of us, getting work done efficiently is the order of the day. 

For the enterprise, when it comes to hardware, prime concerns have been over power efficiency, keeping the temperature down and the wiring to a minimum. For web-focused businesses and start-ups, it is simply cheaper and less stressful to buy some cloud provisioned services and get cracking. 

Big is Back, Hyperscale is Better

Still, Accenture sees hardware already making its way back to prominence, with the move to hyperscale computing. As server architectures evolve and data centers become a focal point for big business investment, new hardware reduces in cost while increasing processing power and sucking up enterprises' big data.

As Accenture's Chief Technology Architect, Paul Daugherty puts it:

Eclipsed by over a decade of innovation in software, the hardware world is now a hotbed of innovation with demand soaring for unprecedented levels of performance in storage, processors and specialized servers. Organizations in every industry will be touched by the new technologies now being developed."

Another tenet of the Accenture report is that big business will drive this change forward. Hyperscale doesn't come cheap, so the large enterprises like Amazon, Google and others running these data centers (either internally or for customer use) are having a greater say in the overall future direction of technology. InformationWeek has a look at how the big names are using Open Computer Project to drive these efforts.

Turn and Face the Change

The rest of the report poses several interesting questions for business: Can big business applications really be reduced to apps for mobile consumption? And how will software development change in a world of increasing middleware?

Perhaps the ultimate test in this environment is that of the workforce. Experiments in crowdsourcing are taking place to expand and focus workers and groups to drive innovation, research and  product development. If these succeed, what will happen to the wider workforce as leaders tinker with productivity and core roles? 

Read the full piece for more insights and then think about how they could impact your business, if not from a technology perspective, then on the level of  how workers will function in a rapidly-changing environment. 

Title image by nmedia (Shutterstock)