2014: The Year the Data Center Will Rule

The data center is the foundation of the IT stack — it’s the underpinning of global IT trends like Digital Business, Smart Machines and the Internet of Things, yet it is the only layer that has not evolved to meet the demands of big data, cloud computing, and mobile device and application proliferation.

In 2014, the IT organization is going to be judged on its speed and agility to keep pace with business demands. This requires a fundamental shift in the way organizations think about their data center strategies, and demands a strategic lens be placed on IT. Earlier this year, my colleague Patrick Flynn outlined the top five reasons why today’s data centers are broken. As 2013 draws to a close, here are the top five fundamental changes we’ll see in the data center industry to fix what’s broken and evolve the market:


  1. No more cardboard box stacks in 2014 – the Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) migrates down the stack. The benefits of software-defined “everything” are well known: improved infrastructure flexibility, dynamic configuration and ultimately the complete virtualization of end-to-end data environments. In 2014, the data center, will take its rightful and obvious place as the locus of its namesake, the SDDC companies who understand how to optimize data center performance will gain significant competitive advantage in the coming year.


  2. Enterprise CIOs will run to an Open Compute architecture to define the emerging Enterprise Cloud. To change the economics of compute in 2014, the CIO will work to mirror the open design standards championed by Facebook and others. CIOs are under increased pressure from the CEO and CFO to reduce the cost of compute. To realize the cost advantages of an Open Compute architecture while meeting the stringent security and regulatory requirements of the enterprise, the CIO will look to third-party data center providers to securely rollout an Open Compute architecture. This will allow the CIO to outsource infrastructure investments but still reap the financial benefits of an open reference architecture in 2014. This new way to deploy compute is a quantum shift — the old way is dead.


  3. Data at the core of the data center. Data has brought smarter systems to city planning, logistics, and healthcare. In 2014, we will see that same intelligence applied to the design and operations of digital infrastructure. The data center will be the ideal place to fundamentally, comprehensively and enduringly address today’s IT and sustainability challenges. Data center managers and CIOs will tap into operational data to derive analytics that squeeze inefficiencies out of the IT value chain; will intelligently manage application demand; and will compose analytical models that quantify value and cost for the data center environment to bring economic, environment and social gains.


  4. “Data Sovereignty” will be a monster issue. Information that has been converted and stored in digital form is subject to the laws of the country in which it is located. The widespread adoption of cloud computing services, as well as object storage, have broken down traditional geopolitical barriers. In response, many countries have regulated new compliance requirements and legislation that requires customer data to be kept within the customer’s country of residence. CIOs will want to see and control their data, down to the rack-level. Most public cloud deployments don’t offer their end-user visibility into where their data resides. In 2014, enterprise CIOs will look at providers who offer visibility and controls that enable policy-based compliance with respect to domain. Whether it’s corporate security standards or driving compute efficiency, the CIO will be expected to know where data resides and where specific applications are running at all times.


  5. N+1 will be scrutinized. Data centers have been designed for worst-case scenarios. With the advancement of the Software Defined Data Center, the CIO will have the real-time visibility to lean-provision, based on actual application need. With this technology available in the market, CFOs will increasingly — and correctly — challenge CIOs seeking to overbuild.

    In the “Eight Critical Forces to Shape Data Center Strategy” Gartner report, Rakesh Kumar states, “Over the next five to 10 years most organizations will need to change their approach to previous data center strategies used in the last five to seven years, as most of the world comes out of recession and the nexus of forces (social, mobile, cloud and information) affects technology use.” As Kumar outlined in his report, the role and functionality of data centers has shifted. In 2014, the Software Defined Data Center will smash the current paradigm, giving enterprise and government the ability to fully exploit cloud with confidence.

    How quick (and agile) is your IT organization’s response to this tectonic shift? The answer will directly affect your business tomorrow.

    George Slessman is the CEO and Product Architect at IO (www.io.com)
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