What is the third wave?

Futurist Alvin Toffler introduced the idea of the third wave in his 1980 book of the same name to interpret cultural shifts based on economic drivers:

  • The first wave was the Agricultural Era, which lasted for a millennia.
  • This was disrupted by the Industrial Era, which started in Western Europe in the seventeenth century.
  • The Third Wave is the Information Age, which drives the world we live in today.

Steve Case–who co-founded AOL in the mid-1980’s and played a key role in the roll-out of the Internet–describes the evolution of the Internet in three waves. In a nod to Toffler, Case’s book is also called The Third Wave.

  • The first wave (1985-1999) documents the Internet’s creation and looks at how AOL got people online.

  • The second wave (2000-2015) was the wave of Google, Facebook, Twitter and others creating the apps that ushered in the mobile revolution.
  • The Third Wave has just begun. Case calls this the Internet of Everything, where whole industries are being transformed as the Internet integrates everything we do.

Lenny Pruss, a VC at Amplify Partners, uses the same analogy in his blog Infrastructure 3.0 to map the transformation of applications and infrastructure as the Internet evolved:

  • As the commercial Internet was born in the 1980’s and 1990’s, the first wave was built on Intel x86 architecture, Microsoft OS, and Oracle relational databases.
  • The Cloud Era (Infrastructure 2.0) was driven by web-scale giants in the 2000’s using a new kinds of technologies– Linux, KVM, Xen, Docker, Kubernetes, Mesos, MySQL, MongoDB, Kafka, Hadoop, Spark, and many others.
  • And now machine learning and artificial intelligence is driving the Third Wave. The new breed of applications requires new platforms and tools, including new hardware platforms to support low latency and high computational complexity.

At Megh Computing, we see the evolution of the computing infrastructure in the data center in three waves too:

  • CPUs: The first wave of computing that supported mobile’s roll-out in the last decade was enabled by the rise of the hyper-scale cloud service providers using general purpose x86 CPUs.
  • GPUs: The second wave of computing began earlier this decade with machine learning/artificial intelligence applications that drove the adoption of GPUs to meet increasing computing needs for deep learning training.
  • FPGAs: The third wave of computing has already started. Now specialized hardware accelerators based on FPGAs are required to support the real time streaming and ML/AI needs for analytics and other applications.

Welcome to the third wave!

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Megh Computing

Enabling the 3rd Wave of Computing in the Data Center