A Software Revolution that is Hard to See

A few weeks ago there was a gloomy Financial Times newspaper column about global debt levels reminded me of some of the reasons I remain optimistic about our future (both technological and economic). Here is the gloom I read:

“What if, though, there is just too much capital in the world to support the income streams that have been promised? Capital, whether debt or equity, is a promise, collectively an intergenerational commitment. What if global income growth, or even national income growth, cannot cover the cost of servicing capital? Then the capital market machinery would have to shift into generating capital losses rather than returns. That is the environment we are facing.” 

Though yes, there is probably far too much debt on this planet, I’m not nearly as pessimistic as the columnist about the prospects for the global economy. I’m so old, I remember that when I was 30 it seemed the world had come to the end of productivity growth…and then the Internet happened.

Today, so many exciting things are going on in the cloud software world that my bet is we will see very large improvements in the way things are done (= higher productivity + innovation). The difficulty in perceiving this now is that there is no thing to “see” with this software.

In the 1980s PC era, people could see a PC, its screen, interfaces, watch it operate, etc., and quickly envision things that a PC could do better than existing tech. Everyone could see at least part of the shift from mainframes and minicomputers to the PC that began then. The same is true for the shift to mobile computing which exploded with the 2007 introduction of the iPhone. That revolution centered around a new and revolutionary device that people could see, touch, hold, and play with.

Cloud Software Helps Drive a Software Revolution

With cloud software (especially today’s hot containerization and orchestration software), very few people can get an equivalent viewpoint. The software goodness remains hidden in code until that code is applied to a task. That application process is still difficult, but it’s getting easier all the time.

The underlying reason for my personal optimism isn’t because I possess a more comprehensive view of this fast-changing field. I’m optimistic first because of the unprecedented level of collaboration that is driving new software into our infrastructures (IT, telecommunications, transportation, and eventually industrial). Second, because this collaboration is driving development progress at an ever faster pace.

Software Revolution

A Software Revolution Drives Applications that Can be Developed in Much Faster Bursts 

The business ecosystems developing around Docker, Kubernetes, and related software projects represent a sharing of intellectual property in order to develop compatible commercial products. This is pretty much the model used for Linux, and of course the same organizations like the Linux Foundation are managing this effort.

So please excuse me for being an optimist today. At ARC’s Industry Forum in Orlando we shared some examples of industrial leaders who are figuring out how to use new technology (including new applications based on the ongoing software revolution) to transform industrial operations. ARC will be writing up many of the presentations for weeks to come.

Harry Forbes is a Research Director at the ARC Advisory Group.


  1. The effects of the ongoing software revolution can be seen in almost every aspect of our daily lives. Our world is getting smaller with every day and we’re becoming much more interconnected. One of the industries that has seen major innovations due to software is the shipping industry. The world wants it’s package – and it wants it yesterday, but handling the complexities of getting it there are becoming too much for shipping managers.
    Multi-carrier shipping software helps many of the world’s largest retailers, distributors and offices get their packages where they need to go, for the cheapest price, at the fastest rate.