John Deere now considers VMs to be legacy tech, Ethernet and Wi-Fi on the brink

Plans robo-tractors to help as folks flee the farm but the planet stays hungry

Next Agricultural equipment maker John Deere has decided virtual machines are legacy tech.

Principal architect Jason Wallin today told Nutanix’s Next conference that a four-year digital transformation project has seen it replace its previous infrastructure in order to take advantage of cloud-native technologies.

Wallin didn’t reveal what infrastructure John Deere replaced, but said when the company reforms its tech it progressively reforms its estate to reflect its latest capabilities.

“This year we have declared VM technologies are something we see as legacy,” he said.

Software development will be cloud-native at John Deere for the foreseeable future, he said. And that’s a big deal because the company has for almost a decade employed more software engineers than design engineers, with code therefore perhaps more important to customers than the machines in which it runs.

Wallin also plans to pension off some networking tech. Ethernet and Wi-Fi are increasingly being replaced in John Deere factories by cellular networks. Wallin didn’t mention it on stage at Nutanix’s gabfest, but it’s not hard to find evidence of private 5G network adoption in the company’s factories.

Those facilities now produce GPU-packing machines that use AI to target application of herbicides.

“Our products directly engage the food generation process,” Wallin told the conference, adding that John Deere tries to do that sustainably. The company’s products therefore use AI to observe plants as machines roll past and can distinguish between crops and weeds.

The latter get sprayed, the former don’t, herbicide use drops by 75 percent as a result, we're told, meaning farmers' bills go down and John Deere gets to burnish its credentials as a sustainability warrior.

Another tech John Deere is working on is autonomous machines, which Wallin said are needed because rural populations are shrinking, but the planet’s is not.

Autonomous vehicles are also more efficient, he argued, and that’s important because he said the world needs to grow “more crops on significantly fewer arable acres.”

John Deere is innovating in its own home paddock. Wallin said the company is trying to make its manufacturing environments “as smart as our products that we have AI built into today.” ®

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