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AI and sustainability: The most important tech challenges of 2021

In this episode of Tech Talk, experts lay out some of the top technology trends they see in the coming year and beyond.

In 2020, tech showed its value in ways no one had foreseen. In 2021, it will not only help us rebuild but move forward—also in significant ways.

In this Tech Talk podcast, Andrew Wheeler, HPE Fellow, vice president and director of Hewlett Packard Labs, and host Robert Christiansen, vice president, strategy, Office of the CTO at HPE, highlight some of the top trends in the coming year. From energy and capability gaps to trustworthy and ethical AI, here are key areas IT leaders will be focused on.

Energy gap

At the top of the list, Wheeler says, is "the sustainability problem," also known as the energy gap, with IT infrastructure now consuming as much as 20 percent of the global energy production in the world.

It's a "core global challenge," he says, noting the digital universe is on track to grow by a zettabyte of data every day. How much is that? Well, you'd need 1 billion terabyte hard drives to store 1 zettabyte of data. "This is the expansion of the digital universe we're talking about," Wheeler says.

Add to that new technologies such as 5G and the connectivity and bandwidth it's going to require, along with "all of the autonomous things that are going to be out there, the fact that we're going to be embedding intelligence everywhere, and that problem is only going to get worse," he says.

Please read: The edge is on your mango: Energy harvesting and IoT

Given the accelerating rate at which IT infrastructure is expanding, Wheeler predicts that IT leaders in 2021 and beyond will prioritize investments and breakthroughs that help their organizations do more with less energy consumption and environmental impact.

Capability gap

Another priority will be to address the "capability gap," he says, which applies to the core infrastructure hosting all of these workloads.

"Right now, our ambitions are going a little bit faster than what our core infrastructure or computers can improve upon," Wheeler notes, pointing to high-performance computing and AI workloads as examples.

Please read: HPC as a service: High-performance computing when you need it

This is where different types of accelerators and heterogeneous architecture—special-purpose computing engines that boost the speed and energy efficiency of critical workloads—are being used to improve overall performance, he explains.

And over time, Wheeler says, "the holy grail of that trend is going to be more and more dynamic," to better support the composability of these different systems.

Trustworthy AI

Other areas IT leaders will focus on are related to AI as well: Is AI trustworthy, and is it being used as a force for good?

Those questions encompass a range of concerns, from the techniques used to arrive at results to the privacy, security, and robustness of AI data platforms.

Please listen: Digital ethics: the good and bad of tech

In terms of trustworthiness, Wheeler says the goal will be to take "humans out of the dashboard" and use AI to optimize data center resiliency, energy efficiency, and end-to-end operations.

And from an ethical perspective, Wheeler and Christiansen say eliminating bias in AI and improving "the way people live and work" are key.

"[It is] absolutely core to the culture that our CEO, Antonio Neri, is cultivating," Wheeler says.

This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.