10 Data Center Predictions For 2015

D ata Centers In 2015: Fundamental Shifts To Shake The Core Of Design And Deployment

Design and deployment are in for some major changes in 2015, as customers and solution providers find new ways to tackle the many issues surrounding corporate and cloud data centers. Whether it's adopting new technologies that seek to move specialty hardware functionality into software stacks, adopting new architectures or consolidating the number of data centers, the industry is in for some major changes in 2015. On top of that, throw in a new political climate, and get ready for a decrease in the number of data centers being built, and the future gets very interesting indeed.

For a look at what the immediate future holds in store for the data center business, turn the page and take a short walk with CRN into the data center of 2015.

10. Corporate Splits Bring 'Focus' To Focus

A significant number of major data center hardware and software technology vendors are going through corporate splits, a trend that will be positive for the data center industry in 2015 as it gives those vendors, along with their customers and partners, a way to focus their energies on the business at hand.

CA in 2014 already split off its storage software business into a separate organization called Arcserve, while 2015 will see Veritas split into security and storage companies, Hewlett-Packard into PC and enterprise companies, and JDS Uniphase into networking and services companies. In addition, there is a good chance EMC may sell off its VMware business, although that is still a rumor.

9. Energy Efficiency To Increase Despite A Couple Key Trends

2014 saw energy costs drop fast, in part, thanks to a big drop in oil prices. Dig deeper, however, and it becomes apparent that increased energy efficiency of everything from cars to server and storage equipment has been an important factor in driving down total energy costs.

While 2015 could be an opportunity to pull back on the power efficiency drive, smart money says data centers will instead ignore the lure of lower energy costs and look for new ways to increase efficiency, especially as newer and larger data centers come on line. Energy costs could easily rise again, so investing in energy-efficient technologies will reap their rewards. And never underestimate the power of public relations and "green" data centers.

8. Politics And Data Center Efficiency

While it would appear to be in everybody's best interest to see an increasing focus on energy efficiency in data centers, 2015 could see politics derail some of the best incentives to increase efficiency.

The November midterm election in the U.S. gave solid majorities in the House and Senate to Republicans, many of whom deny the concept of global warming and who want to relax incenting to move from fossil fuels to renewables or other alternatives. That will lead to moves to rein in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and to relax requirements to move away from coal. That, in turn, would take away the pressure on corporations to invest in energy-efficient technologies.

7. Data Center Growth To Slow

IDC in November estimated the total number of all types of data centers deployed will peak at 8.6 million worldwide by 2017, after which the number will start to slowly decline. This includes the number of internal data center server rooms peaking in 2016, followed by a peak in internal server closets in 2017.

Those numbers may actually be conservative. Channel partners told CRN that the move away from corporate-owned data centers and toward co-location or managed services is speeding up. In 2015, the trend will be widely recognized, causing businesses and solution providers to closely examine data center alternatives to be ready for the next wave of technology.

6. Data Center Security Front And Center

After all the security breaches in 2014, data centers will bring security concerns to the forefront. But it still will remain a difficult task, given that data centers are rapidly connecting to the cloud and being asked to work with user-supplied equipment and applications.

Data center builders and operators in 2015 will be increasingly called upon to prove their operations can protect against viruses, malware and other malicious software, especially as governments increasingly adopt the cloud and managed services.

5. Get Ready To Hyperscale

Corporate data centers, when it comes to performance and efficiency, have a lot to learn from the hyperscale operations of companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook, and 2015 will see them start to adopt similar hyperscale technologies.

"Hyperscale" refers to the treatment of servers as commodity components that can be dynamically configured, as needed, for specific workloads or applications, including as storage devices, and quickly replaced when issues arise. We have seen major vendors, including Hewlett-Packard and Dell, as well as custom system builders like Supermicro, ready such servers for introduction in 2014 and 2015.

Corporate data centers will be able to take advantage of hyperscale technology in 2015, and solution providers will find this a new area in which to invest as a way to show differentiation and be ready for the future.

4. Servers Will Go To The Data

Given the growing amount of data to be managed, especially the ephemeral nature of much data generated by big data applications, it gets more and more difficult to move it to where it needs to be processed. That is leading the industry to come up with new ways to move the processing capability to the data.

2015 will see an acceleration of this trend. It will be easier to mount, migrate and delete servers where data exists. That may be in one or multiple clouds, or even inside the storage array. EMC is leading the way in the latter case with its new VMAX3 arrays (pictured), which can actually run virtual servers on the array itself.

3. Converged Infrastructure To Bring Data Center Closer To The Cloud

The deployment of converged infrastructure and hyper-converged infrastructure solutions will explode in 2015 as customers find them to be easy ways to combine server, storage, networking and virtualization technologies as a solution with a single management point, as well as a single throat to choke.

The introduction in late 2014 of VMware's EVO: RAIL hyper-converged software stack, while not the first or the best solution by far, will be notable in 2015 as the spark that generates widespread interest in converged infrastructure and hyper-converged infrastructure solutions, but every server, storage and networking vendor that offers such solutions -- and that means pretty much every vendor by now -- will offer their own solutions, and customers will run with them as an easy way to build private clouds.

2. Data Center Connections To The Cloud To Get Easier

2014 saw cloud providers, such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, introduce plug-ins that allow server and storage hardware easy access to public cloud capacity on an as-needed basis. Customers in 2015 will widely adopt that capability, working with their solution providers to bring more of their hardware infrastructures into data centers with direct connections to the cloud.

That will be a factor in cutting down on the amount of storage capacity and servers purchased by customers, particularly those purchased for burst or test/dev applications, but providers of related services will see their businesses grow as customers explore new applications to take advantage of the technology.

1. Software-Defined Everything

If 2015 doesn't become known as the Year Of The Software-defined Data Center, it won't be from a lack of interest in software-defined computing, networking, storage and more. Software-defined networking and software-defined storage are technologies now available from most mainline vendors, and if they don't quite yet fulfill the promise of working on any commodity server, they are getting close. The hyper-converged infrastructure vendors have shown that putting all the functions of a data center into a software stack running on commodity hardware works. Ditto the cloud vendors and their hyperscale cloud infrastructures.

The last step is for customers to start cutting the cord on specialized hardware. It will take time, but 2014 showed it can be done. 2015 will show that it will be done. By 2016 or 2017, data center customers (including the falling number of owners of corporate data centers) will wonder what all the fuss was about.