As 2018 winds to a close, it’s worth taking a moment to take a brief look back and reflect on another tumultuous year in enterprise tech.
Here are five numbers to keep in mind as the new year begins:
No. 1: 2.4 billion
That’s the number of data records stolen for a total of the 10 largest breaches reported in 2018. Nearly half the number was from a single breach: Aadhaar, India’s government ID database. Thieves scooped up 1.1 billion records which included names, ID numbers, bank account information and biometric data.
What’s especially troubling is that the amount of stolen records is scaling sharply upward as more information gets loaded onto the internet. We are no longer shocked at a breach of 10 million records anymore, an amount that didn’t even crack the Top 10 list. Now the conversation has moved to billions of records stolen.
Some of the reasons are technological and some are geopolitical. As recently documented by Wikibon researcher James Kobielus, artificial intelligence tools are being used to create bots that harvest identities and credentials around the clock, every day of the year. Armed with smart data, a bot can pose as a reasonable-sounding human and launch absurdly sophisticated attacks.
On the geopolitical front, significant financial backing by nation state actors is beginning to bear fruit, with China and Russia emerging as major players. The Marriott breach of 500 million records has been attributed to China, while Russia’s capabilities since the 2016 presidential election have moved into highly sophisticated territory.
It will be very interesting to see how enterprise security companies respond to the arms race as they roll out new tools and technologies at major cybersecurity gatherings, such as the RSA Conference, in the coming months.
No. 2: 3,200
This is the number, confirmed by Amazon Web Services Inc. Chief Executive Andy Jassy, of new features and services launched by AWS over the past 24 months. A significant number of Fortune 500 companies don’t even approach a 10th of that number in the same period.
Several of the announcements have resonated strongly in the enterprise world. Over just four days at AWS re:Invent in Las Vegas last month, AWS announced its entry into custom chips with the introduction of both a cloud processor and another chip for machine learning, built a bridge into the data center with the rollout of an on-premises system called Outposts and launched a satellite “ground station as a service” to improve data transmission to earth.
The satellite venture is indicative of AWS’ ability to move quickly with new products and services. According to Shayne Hawthorne, the project’s senior manager at AWS, it took the company a mere six months from the initial idea through senior-level approval to actual launch and establishment of 24 antennas and two ground stations. This is how AWS is redefining corporate agility.
Although 3,200 new products and services is an impressive number, it oversimplifies the point to focus merely on the company’s sheer volume. The real significance here is that AWS is raising the bar for everyone by accelerating the pace of innovation to a level unheard of in the corporate world. The cloud provider shows no signs of slowing down, so it will be incumbent upon a number of large technology companies to respond in 2019 or risk falling dramatically behind.
No. 3: 788 million
This figure represents the number of people in China who use a mobile platform, which is 98 percent of the nation’s total base of internet users, according to data published earlier this year by the China Internet Network Information Center. At 802 million, China’s total user base is approaching triple that of the United States.
The significance of these numbers is that China has become enormously efficient in deploying countrywide network coverage while ushering virtually all of its population straight to mobile. This is important because it sets the nation up to take full advantage of two key developments scheduled to play out in the coming year: 5G network deployment and growth in mobile payments.
As the next generation of wireless infrastructure, 5G has the potential to perform at speeds up to 100 times faster than 4G and power the “internet of things.” China began technical trials on 5G two years ago and the Chinese government has opened large amounts of spectrum to the country’s biggest mobile operators. With its strong manufacturing base in Shenzhen, China could leverage its robust 5G network to seamlessly connect a significant number of devices to the cloud and drive national productivity.
While it’s still “cash and carry” in the United States, even the smallest merchants in China have adopted the mobile platform. Research reports have shown that more than three-fourth of China’s smartphone users made mobile payments last year versus only a quarter of those in the U.S.
More than 90 percent of mobile payments in China are processed through either WeChat Pay or Alipay, run by internet giants Tencent Holdings and Alibaba, respectively. This would be analogous to giving social-media leader Facebook Inc. and e-commerce powerhouse Amazon.com Inc., with their significant user bases and service platforms, control over nearly all mobile banking in the country. You have been warned.
No. 4: 80 percent
This represents the percentage of ledger transactions secured by the top five mining pools in Ethereum, the largest public blockchain stack. The data point raises one of many questions over whether the blockchain’s future will be truly decentralized.
The past 12 months in the blockchain community has been marked by friction, not entirely because the value of bitcoin alone lost approximately 75 percent of its value since December 2017. There was friction over scaling issues and how to fix them as transactions rise, friction over an IBM Corp. blockchain implementation, friction surrounding the ravenous amounts of electricity needed to run the entire system.
Yet 2019 may be the year that the blockchain community accepts the need for more centralized control as a way to surmount some of these issues. The signs already point in that direction. Business-to-business platforms have evolved around private blockchains with centralized governance. Bitcoin’s own blockchain is maintained by a core team.
Meanwhile, blockchain startups proliferate, venture money is flowing in and major financial institutions are continuing to explore uses. There may be friction, but there is also momentum for blockchain, a trend worth watching closely going into the new year.
As Al Burgio, founder of the DigitalBits Project, told SiliconANGLE in an interview this year, “It’s a matter of moments, not years. If you’re not paying attention, you need to be paying attention, including if you’re in the cloud industry.”
No. 5: $34 billion
There is more behind this eye-grabbing number than simply a validation of the open-source community, because 2018 saw that trend evolve as a key theme well before IBM opened its checkbook. Prior to the buyout of Red Hat, Adobe Inc. purchased Magento Inc., Microsoft Corp. acquired GitHub Inc. and Salesforce Inc. scooped up MuleSoft Inc.
The key takeaway from this activity is that in addition to purchasing open-source software businesses, big companies are also catering to the hearts and minds of developers. And that’s because developers love open-source software.
A large number of applications now include more open source than proprietary code, with one report showing 96 percent containing open-source elements. This year marked the rise of not just open source, but the increased influence of developers, a pullback from vendor lock-in, and healthy innovation as enterprises such as Lyft Inc. and SoundCloud “grew their own” tools and contributed them back to the open-source community.
The open-source world will still confront issues around how to make money, since not every company gets acquired for $34 billion, and tension over the expected contribution to projects by major public cloud providers. But there is no escaping the reality that in 2018, open source came of age.