After what has seemed like years of hype, 2014 was the year where more organisations than ever actually moved production workloads (like software-as-a-service) away from dedicated IT systems and onto shared infrastructure.
The last 12 months have seen a flurry of developments in how enterprises of all shapes and sizes use IT infrastructure, with hot topics like hybrid cloud, increasing levels of flash storage and the emergence of OpenStack dominating conversation across the industry.
The growth of flash storage is particularly significant, with a dwindling number of organisations viewing performance as their primary consideration in selecting a suitable platform for their growing needs.
Instead, automation, reliability and environmental considerations are becoming far more important, with businesses increasingly focused on how this infrastructure will help them grow over the next 10 years – rather than simply how it addresses the immediate needs of today.
As enterprises of all sizes move away from traditional dedicated infrastructure towards infrastructure that is shared across workloads, business units and organisations, it marks a major turning point for the storage industry. However, it is also only the beginning of what will likely be a period of sustained change and development.
With this in mind, it is starting to become clear that a number of trends will influence next-generation data centres in 2015.
1. Automation gets automated
Real automation is set to become a serious priority for a large number of organisations. This represents a major shift from a focus on projects with a narrow scope to those that entail genuinely wide deployments (but also requires a growing need to scale). We are seeing this arrive in two forms: scale-out (a need to build out infrastructure as the applications require) and automation (the focus on integration with orchestration automation tools). The increasingly popular OpenStack platform is widening its scope to straddle both forms, with more and more automation projects appearing within it, from initial cloud and workload deployment tools to the ongoing operations that keep this infrastructure running.
2. Chef and Puppet accelerate
Configuration management tools like Chef and Puppet are also set to add an extra dynamic to the automation engines at scale as their popularity increases. This means that we will see organisations moving from conducting research to actually building out their projects, as both of these tools are accelerating the ability of organisations to move towards automated infrastructure.
3. Price wars: the next stage
Meanwhile, the ‘big three’ cloud providers – Google, Amazon and Microsoft – will continue their race to the bottom on price. Traditionally, their proposition has been around the availability of tools and infrastructure, rather than simply pricing. Where previously a number of service providers may have tried to compete with them on price, this is no longer the case. Instead, serious competitors are looking to get ahead through offering service differentiators such as performance guarantees. For end-user businesses with a close eye on the bottom line, this price war will be a spectacle well worth watching.
4. Flash storage continues apace
Looking ahead, there’s plenty to suggest that the need for flash storage will continue to grow as it persists in taking workloads away from traditional disk storage. There’s no doubt about this, but how fast and to what extent this will happen is a little more debatable. It’s anticipated that around half of all workloads will be running with flash storage in the next few years, but organisations need to look beyond the use of flash as simply a logical next step, and instead question just how it can support their infrastructure needs over the next decade. The fact is that enterprises can use flash for more than they might believe.
5. Cloud confusion reigns amid plethora of options – but consolidation is near
Early 2015 will continue to see confusion reign across the market as a result of the sheer number of cloud products and services becoming available. This will curtail slightly, with serious consolidation expected over 2015 as the storage market matures. VMware’s vCloudAir, meanwhile, is an important entrant to the market in the movement of workloads onto shared providers. This new disruptor is allowing those who have conventional on premise data centres to expand outwards to hosted platforms, and it will be interesting to see the impact of this shift in approach.
In summary, these are the main developments in IT infrastructure that enterprises need to be aware of as they shape their next generation data centre strategy. Chief amongst this is next generation storage, which is arguably taking centre stage for organisations of all shapes and sizes. Flash storage shouldn’t be considered to simply be the best option by virtue of being flash, but rather what each organisation wants to achieve over the next ten years.
An increasingly competitive environment is generating better opportunities to secure performance guarantees and improved service levels from providers, while new entrants are offering genuine expansion to hosted platforms, and the benefits these enhancements bring. Used effectively, flash storage should be the centre of a powerful infrastructure and innovation strategy throughout 2015 and for years to come.
Sourced from Martin Cooper, SolidFire