Why 2016 will be the year of converged and hyper-converged infrastructure

Big Data, the Internet of Things (IoT), DevOps and containerisation were some of the big trends that dominated the industry this past year but how is the modern data centre affected by all of these macro trends?

How will 2016 be shaped by the impacts of these massive disruptive forces? Most importantly, how can you prepare yourself in a world where budgets are constantly under pressure and IT teams are overstretched?

Here I will detail how CIOs can embrace and apply digital transformation initiatives to drive competitive differentiation and achieve success this coming year.

Forget the Hype: Hyper-Scale Is For Real

Hyper-scale data centres — the assembly of massive computing infrastructures to support today's global Internet and always-connected businesses — are disrupting the traditional data center value chain by creating new and simpler computing ecosystems. But, before you think we’ve witnessed the full effects of this transition, realise we are just at the beginning of these changes: converged and hyper-converged infrastructures are just getting started.

Certainly virtualisation, software-defined storage and networking containers, and micro services have already had big effects on how the modern data centre is architected: virtual machine collections are now the norm, not the exception. Storage pools are elastic, and hypervisors have become more flexible and powerful. But that is not enough.

According to IDC Research, hyper-scale data centres will become the primary adopters of new compute and storage technologies. According to their report, 70 per cent of these new storage and 50 per cent compute technologies will reside in hyper-scale data centers by 2017. And by 2018, there will be 10 times more CPU cores than people! Not just that, IDC also predicts 77 billion data centre cores, and a doubling of their annual growth too! We have to move beyond yesterday's generation of infrastructure and better position our businesses to harness this future growth in computing resources.

Orchestration and Automation: The Enterprise’s Best Kept Secret

Orchestration is going to be one of the more challenging factors as data centres grow beyond thousands of servers. It will be the glue that keeps everything together and running smoothly.

Automated orchestration makes a difference when it comes time to scale up and down the number of servers that are needed to satisfy spot demands. We are still in the early days in understanding how these kinds of tools can deliver a full complement of services. Expect them to become capable and flexible in the coming years. Too many organisations still size capacity for a peak requirement, and spend 90+ per cent of the time and cost not needing to run at that level.

Balancing the different elements of the data centre is going to be the next great challenge. While it is great that we can virtualise our CPU’s along with our networks and storage pools, we need to manage them together and make sure that we can expand and contract, and make trade-offs across all three elements to meet our changing workloads. This is because each element depends on the others to deliver the most value. Next-generation systems will need to continually adapt to additional use cases and variable workloads through intelligent sizing and orchestration tools.

Private Cloud: The Sky’s the Limit

While a lot of attention has been focused on public cloud deployments, the real action will be in private clouds. We are going to see the lion's share of enterprise development over the coming years happening in private clouds — this is where businesses are going to be building their next-generation applications.

Private clouds will supply the next pool of resources for enterprise computing needs. Michelle Bailey, of the 451 Research Group, says that "68 per cent of the hosting customers had applications or data they had pulled out of the public cloud, and put in either an on-premise, private cloud or a hosted private cloud."

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): The Future of Application Success

We’re currently in a golden age of technology and see numerous innovations spring up almost overnight. From opto-electrical chips, NAND flash to software defined infrastructure, and cloud-based applications that are radically upending traditional business models and disrupting entire industries, everything from retailing, taxi, travel, and our social interactions. These new generation applications have intelligence built into them and are designed to evolve rapidly with daily or weekly releases, scale up and down according to demand, and leverage data to help companies make rapid business decisions.

In enterprise environments, developers sometimes used to wait a week to a month for servers, networking, and storage resources provisioned with the right operating systems, software, and tools they need for just a few days of development work. This is no longer acceptable today, as businesses expect instant access to data and applications and consumers are equally demanding in terms of expecting a robust multimedia experience that protects personal information and spans multiple devices.

To deliver on this promise, it’s imperative for today’s enterprises to have a really strong software-defined infrastructure management. Doing so, via hyper-converged infrastructure solutions, enables enterprises to quickly and seamlessly deploy necessary server, network and storage resources associated with applications to scale up or down to meet demands in a cost-effective manner.

In order for businesses to drive forward and be successful, it is imperative they consider converged infrastructure and software defined hyper-converged infrastructure as viable solutions in their overall IT strategy. Only these solutions fully address both traditional workloads that require the infrastructure to be reliable and guarantee performance, and cloud-native workloads that are inherently resilient and work across wholly software defined infrastructures.

With the growing levels of complexity in technology choices, business requirements and security threats, the need for a simplified infrastructure to deliver applications and tools that drive business competitiveness continues to rise in demand as the end user experience becomes even more critical.

Nigel Moulton, CTO EMEA, VCE

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