10 data cen­ter pre­dic­tions for 2014

The con­ver­sa­tions around data cen­ters in 2014 will be all around in­creas­ing power and per­for­mance ef­fi­ciency, but achiev­ing it will be the re­sult of sev­eral trends that will man­i­fest them­selves over the next 12 months

CRN - - CONTENTS - JOSEPH F KO­VAR

The con­ver­sa­tions will be all around in­creas­ing power and

per­for­mance ef­fi­ciency, but achiev­ing it will be the re­sult of sev­eral trends that will man­i­fest them­selves over the next 12 months

Squeez­ing more ef­fi­ciency out of the data cen­ter (DC), whether it is a full-blown, mul­ti­tenant, fully hosted ser­vice or a server closet for a five-man shop, has al­ways been a top goal for the ad­min­is­tra­tors who run them. How­ever, re­cent ad­vances in server, client, power man­age­ment and cloud tech­nolo­gies, if they haven’t made ef­fi­ciency eas­ier to do, have at least made it pos­si­ble to bet­ter con­trol the power and per­for­mance profiles of the var­i­ous parts of the data cen­ter.

As a re­sult, ef­fi­ciency will be the bat­tle cry for data cen­ter ad­mins in 2014 even more so than in the past. But it won’t be ef­fi­ciency for ef­fi­ciency’s sake. In­stead, new ef­fi­cien­cies will be tied ever more closely with busi­ness ob­jec­tives and, in­deed, even with mar­ket­ing cam­paigns as businesses look to be re­spon­si­ble cor­po­rate cit­i­zens.

1 BYOD, not BYOA

Data cen­ter ad­min­is­tra­tors, for the most part, are still try­ing to fig­ure out how to deal with users who in­sist on us­ing their own de­vices, in­clud­ing lap­tops, tablets and smart­phones. En­sur­ing com­pany ap­pli­ca­tions work on a mul­ti­tude of de­vices while of­fer­ing the kind of se­cu­rity ex­pected in the busi­ness world is far from a given, and 2014 will con­tinue to see BYOD as a fo­cus of the DC.

How­ever, don’t ex­pect to see the same progress in the new­est end user buzz­word, BYOA or bring your own ap­pli­ca­tion. Users fa­mil­iar with cer­tain ap­pli­ca­tions they use for per­sonal busi­ness will in­creas­ingly look to bring those ap­pli­ca­tions to their busi­ness life. Here is where DC ad­min­is­tra­tors will look to draw the line. It is al­ready hard enough for most businesses to se­cure and en­force poli­cies on de­vices run­ning mul­ti­ple busi­ness ap­pli­ca­tions. Se­cur­ing mul­ti­ple ap­pli­ca­tions tai­lored to users’ pref­er­ences is an­other layer of com­plex­ity.

BYOA will have one pos­i­tive im­pact in 2014, how­ever. Enough users want­ing to use their own apps could tell the DC ad­mins that they need to con­sider whether such apps can in­crease worker pro­duc­tiv­ity

For 2014, ex­pect more con­certed ef­forts by cus­tomers to elim­i­nate DCs by com­bin­ing ex­ist­ing fa­cil­i­ties, mov­ing some DC func­tions to the cloud, or deep­en­ing their re­la­tion­ships with third-party hosted data cen­ter providers

and should, there­fore, be brought in and man­aged as any other busi­ness apps.

2 Fewer DCs

The world likely has too many DCs, leading to du­pli­cate in­fra­struc­tures and a raft of un­nec­es­sary ex­penses, in­clud­ing real es­tate, power con­sump­tion and ad­min­is­tra­tion. The prob­lem is com­pounded with ev­ery merger or ac­qui­si­tion, un­less the sur­viv­ing en­tity im­me­di­ately jumps on elim­i­nat­ing the ex­cess ca­pac­ity.

For 2014, ex­pect more con­certed ef­forts by cus­tomers to elim­i­nate DCs ei­ther by com­bin­ing ex­ist­ing fa­cil­i­ties, mov­ing some DC func­tions to the cloud, or deep­en­ing their re­la­tion­ships with third-party hosted DC providers.

3 Pri­vate cloud de­vel­op­ment to boom

For com­pa­nies run­ning large DCs that serve a large in­ter­nal cus­tomer base or a se­cu­rity-sen­si­tive ex­ter­nal cus­tomer base, the de­vel­op­ment of pri­vate clouds, usu­ally tak­ing ad­van­tage of hard­ware and soft­ware in­fra­struc­tures al­ready in place, can be a se­ri­ous boon in ef­fi­ciency.

So, at the risk of sound­ing ob­vi­ous, 2014 will be a big growth year for pri­vate clouds. The year also will see a huge push by so­lu­tion providers who have in the past gen­er­ated the bulk of their rev­enue from hard­ware to make pri­vate cloud a key of­fer­ing for cus­tomers.

How about aban­don­ing all that low-mar­gin legacy hard­ware busi­ness? That won’t hap­pen. Hard­ware is of­ten the foot in the door for talk­ing pri­vate clouds with clients, and can be key to up­grad­ing an ex­ist­ing DC or ar­chi­tect­ing a new DC to take ad­van­tage of new pri­vate cloud ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

4 Slow growth for pub­lic clouds

It may seem counter in­tu­itive given all the hype around the cloud, but 2014 will likely see muted growth of busi­ness-fo­cused pub­lic cloud com­put­ing as DCs re­view the se­cu­rity risks of pub­lic clouds af­ter some re­ally se­ri­ous break-ins in 2013. The pub­lic cloud will be where con­sumers live, as the flex­i­bil­ity and cost of­fered out­weigh se­cu­rity con­cerns, es­pe­cially among younger gen­er­a­tions of users born with tablet PCs and smart­phones in their hands. For businesses, the pub­lic cloud will re­main more of a place where data is stored for emer­gen­cies i.e. dis­as­ter re­cov­ery or even archived.

5 Soft­ware-de­fine this!

Soft­ware-de­fined net­work­ing and stor­age are join­ing with server vir­tu­al­iza­tion to en­able en­tire DCs to be built us­ing cheap in­dus­try-stan­dard white-box servers on top of which runs soft­ware ap­pli­ca­tions that han­dle the func­tions of legacy pro­pri­etary hard­ware.

De­spite the hype, it hasn’t hap­pened yet. But watch for it to start tak­ing hold in 2014 thanks to the so­lid­i­fi­ca­tion of stan­dards, the pro­lif­er­a­tion of startup soft­ware de­vel­op­ers with no legacy hard­ware mar­gins to pro­tect, and fast re­ac­tion from legacy hard­ware providers who worry about pro­tect­ing their mar­gins.

As an ex­am­ple, just look at EMC. The com­pany is the stor­age in­dus­try’s top hard­ware ven­dor, but it is also the com­pany that is push­ing the en­ve­lope on soft­ware-de­fined stor­age. Or Cisco, which is try­ing to wrest away the mind share in soft­ware-de­fined net­work­ing de­spite its hard­ware in­stalled base.

6 Low power server chips stum­ble, will re­cover

The abrupt clo­sure in late 2013 of ARM pro­ces­sor-based server mod­ule maker Calxeda all but took out of the pic­ture one of the more promis­ing de­vel­op­ers of tech­nol­ogy for low-power con­sump­tion servers.

How­ever, the push to cut server power con­sump­tion will con­tinue. But it will be a bi­fur­cated mar­ket. In­tel and AMD will con­tinue de­vel­op­ing power-sip­ping pro­ces­sors that cater to cus­tomers’ gen­eral-pur­pose ap­pli­ca­tions, which run on Win­dows and Linux. ARM-based pro­ces­sor de­vel­op­ers will push the en­ve­lope on Web ap­pli­ca­tions with new 64-bit pro­ces­sors for the server busi­ness.

7 More em­pha­sis on non pro­pri­etary hard­ware

When the con­cept of con­verged in­fra­struc­tures, which in­te­grate server, stor­age, net­work­ing and soft­ware re­sources into a so­lu­tion that can be man­aged as a sin­gle ar­chi­tec­ture, first ap­peared on the mar­ket three or four years ago, the pri­mary pro­po­nents were large hard­ware ven­dors like HP, Cisco, EMC, NetApp and Dell.

In 2013, many star­tups joined the mar­ket, in­clud­ing those with low cost in­dus­try servers run­ning pro­pri­etary soft­ware, and those who just sold the soft­ware for in­te­gra­tion by cus­tomers on their own hard­ware.

The year 2014 will see the con­cepts of soft­ware-de­fined DC and con­verged in­fra­struc­ture more fre­quently spo­ken in the same breath. This push will

SDN and SDS are join­ing with server vir­tu­al­iza­tion to en­able en­tire DC to be built us­ing cheap in­dus­try-stan­dard white-box servers on top of which runs soft­ware ap­pli­ca­tions that han­dle the func­tions of pro­pri­etary hard­ware

be led by the smaller star­tups look­ing to chip away at the mar­ket share of their larger com­peti­tors by em­pha­siz­ing the ad­van­tages of bas­ing DC func­tions, and even the cloud, on in­dus­try-stan­dard servers in­stead of pro­pri­etary hard­ware.

Buzz about hy­per­scale servers

The year 2013 saw a lot of noise gen­er­ated around hy­per­scale com­put­ing, which in­cludes such high-den­sity servers as Hewlett-Packard’s Moon­shot, as well as the Face­book-led, open source open com­pute project, which de­signs high-den­sity server so­lu­tions.

Hy­per­scale com­put­ing is de­signed to build highly ef­fi­cient web-scale DCs. As a re­sult, it is still very much a niche mar­ket mainly cen­tered on Web ser­vices providers.

For the vast ma­jor­ity of DC cus­tomers, hy­per­scale com­put­ing will re­main noise in 2014 and per­haps be­yond un­til more gen­eral-pur­pose ap­pli­ca­tions are writ­ten that take ad­van­tage of the tech­nol­ogy.

9 Un­needed servers will be put down

While larger com­pa­nies have put in place power man­age­ment tools to en­sure servers and other DC hard­ware run ef­fi­ciently, such tools have yet to fil­ter down to SMBs. SMBs tra­di­tion­ally have had a man­age­able num­ber of servers, but the ease of which servers can be pur­chased and de­ployed means that num­ber can eas­ily grow out of con­trol, leav­ing one or more drink­ing from the power feeds and do­ing noth­ing pro­duc­tive.

Look for power man­age­ment tools to be in­creas­ingly de­vel­oped for SMBs that in the past could not af­ford them, but to­day can­not af­ford to feed servers that give noth­ing back in re­turn.

10 The year of the vir­tual desk­top

It has been the year of the vir­tual desk­top for the last decade or so. How­ever, 2014 could fi­nally see real progress as businesses re­al­ize the ben­e­fits of not pur­chas­ing full-fledged PCs for a large part, or even a ma­jor­ity, of their work forces.

How­ever, these will not nec­es­sar­ily be tra­di­tional thin client de­vices. Sure, thin clients, or zero clients, will in­creas­ingly be adopted by call cen­ters or other businesses where stan­dard­ized end user de­vices are im­por­tant. But the vir­tual desk­top of the fu­ture will likely be a mish­mash of stan­dard de­vices and mo­bile PCs, tablet PCs and even smart­phones. The choice of form fac­tor will be de­ter­mined by the ap­pli­ca­tion, and not the other way around. And end users will in­creas­ingly de­mand a voice in se­lect­ing which de­vices they use in a vir­tual desk­top sce­nario.

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