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Vinod Khosla
Vinod Khosla

SAN FRANCISCO–Engineers today should build systems that are designed to weather a changing technological landscape, tech industry legend Vinod Khosla told an audience at today’s GigaOM Structure conference in San Francisco.

“I think we have to re-engineer engineering itself to optimize for change,” he said.

To do that, engineers have to set aside their usual planning methods like optimizing for performance or cost, and build systems that can be easily reconfigured as new developments arise. In Khosla’s view, engineers should “plan to be really agile,” but avoid building a system that assumes a particular future is coming.

Khosla said that the rate of change in technologies, especially those related to the cloud, is so high that successful companies will need to build tools that will allow them to be adaptible so they can take advantage of upcoming developments that they may not be able to conceive of yet.

Looking at the broad arc of technology in recent years, Khosla’s push for adaptability certainly makes sense. Cloud services like AWS and Microsoft Azure give companies the ability to have immediate, scalable access to massive amounts of power that would have taken tons of planning and capital expenditures in the past.

There are a growing number of platforms which use that power, including the growth of mobile and tablets as new markets for applications and services. Companies that have been able to take advantage of those new platforms have done well, those who stumbled have had a harder time competing against upstart counterparts.

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