CIOs have to support new apps and usage models while also running traditional workloads
Need for greater infrastructure agility to rapidly adapt to changes in business environments
MEGA trends such as big data, mobility, BYOD (bring your own device), cloud computing, the Internet of Things and software-defined IT are rewriting the rules for IT and compelling businesses to reexamine their approach to creating, storing, moving and analysing information.
Previously, CIOs (chief information officers) have had to choose between technology that supports either the traditional approach that typically delivers services based on transactional system-of-records, or the new IT approach that typically focuses on social engagement rather than transactions.
This limits their ability to get the most out of their IT solutions.
However, CIOs today are now being asked to support new applications and usage models while also running traditional workloads more efficiently and cost-effectively.
The pressure on IT not only to deliver superior performance on a day-to-day basis, but also to rapidly respond to changes in the business environment, is greater now than ever before.
Let’s take one example with big data. Business units will increasingly demand capabilities that involve real-time analytics and greater intelligence in their IT operations.
The marketing department may want to deliver sales messages to mobile phones based on a customer’s purchasing history, social media activity, location and other sensor data.
But that same marketing department will also want to continue running its conventional CRM (customer relationship management) system – and dozens of other applications, for that matter, on the same infrastructure.
Data centres must have the flexibility to meet all these varying needs, and also to handle usage spikes by shifting resource utilisation rather than by maintaining costly excess capacity that can go unused for significant amounts of time.
To address these challenges in 2014 and beyond, there needs to be greater simplicity – in the solution stack, the physical infrastructure, and the tools used to monitor and manage operations.
There’s also a need for greater infrastructure agility that offers greater flexibility and scalability beyond what exists today – an infrastructure IT can easily configure, provision in incremental blocks, and rapidly adapt to changes in the business environments.
At Dell, we've identified the following five trends we believe will have an impact in the data centre:
1) Hyperscale computing paradigms will enter the mainstream
As web companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon are building their own data centres and the technologies within, businesses are paying attention to the flexibility and efficiency these companies have.
While taking into account the distinct differences between web companies and the traditional enterprise, vendors will start to leverage hyperscale design principles as a model to meet broader enterprise needs – but in a way that works for each business.
In hardware, this will mean greater density, more efficient use of power, more direct-attached storage (DAS), and a greater focus on modularity and scale-out capabilities. In software, there will be greater use of open source technologies such as OpenStack, Hadoop and NoSql, which are particularly well suited to handling cloud computing and big data.
All in all, the line that separates hyperscale from more mainstream enterprise computing will continue to blur.
2) Converged infrastructures will gain ground
For new projects, more and more data centres will choose a converged infrastructure approach where the operational silos that now exist for servers, storage and networking functions will give way to a unified architecture. Hardware systems will be integrated, sold, and managed as a single unit.
On the strategic level, many organisations will make it a goal to extend the concept of converged infrastructure to encompass the entire data centre with all its heterogeneous components.
3) Server side flash will deliver ‘right now’ experience
The relationship between servers and storage will continue to evolve as customers across the globe demand instantaneous results – whether it’s a webpage to load instantly or an application to respond in two seconds or less.
Flash cache technology brings the most frequently accessed data closer to the server, thereby minimising data travel from storage to the server.
While point products for flash at the server do exist, organisations will gain more value from integrated server and SAN (storage area network) flash technology to accelerate application performance without sacrificing availability.
4) Microservers will solve important niche requirements
High density, energy efficiency and a space-saving form factor are the key factors that make this category attractive for tasks that are not extremely compute-intensive.
In addition, there are some applications that simply cannot be virtualised and microservers will play an increasing role in these cases. They are also ideal for managed hosting companies that need to provide customers with physical rather than virtual servers or for cold storage workloads where minimising cost per GB is critical.
Microserver adoption will increase in 2014, especially with continued innovations in 64-bit ARM and x86-based technologies hitting the market this year.
5) Data centre management will go increasingly mobile
Managing the data centre will remain an upmost priority. The good news is that administrators who not so long ago wore pagers to alert them of data centre problems will find a growing number of options for monitoring, managing and automating infrastructure hardware from a mobile device.
Actionable alerts, intuitive interfaces and navigation, and personalised dashboard views will give administrators the ability to manage the data centre anytime, anywhere.
The technology industry is never dull, but we are witnessing some especially exciting times. While the task of managing a data centre will never be simple, these trends will move IT management in the direction of greater simplicity, modularity, and efficiency.
We see big things on the horizon for the remainder of 2014.
Sumir Bhatia is general manager of Enterprise Solutions, South Asia, at Dell Inc
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