Datacenter Demise? It’s Just A Flesh Wound!

Earlier this year research giant Gartner made the somewhat controversial claim that the data center is dead. ‘By 2025, 80% of enterprises will have shut down their traditional data center, versus 10% today,’ noted Dave Cappuccio, managing vice president and chief of research for the Infrastructure teams with Gartner.

The logic behind this statement is based on the emergence of what has been called digital transformation or Industry 4.0, and comes down to matching workloads with the most appropriate resources at that time and place. As one CIO recently told Cappuccio; “My data center?  It’s everywhere and anywhere I need to place compute capability to enable my business”.

Gartner says the role of the traditional data center is being relegated to that of a legacy holding area, dedicated to very specific services than cannot be supported elsewhere, or supporting those systems that are most economically efficient on-premises. ‘As IT moves toward the realm of an ecosystem of partners, connecting the business to the right provider and adding value to this particular relationship require broad understanding of both parties in the brokering relationship.’

The reality is that enterprises must now deal with a rapdily changing mix of datacenters, both internal and external, and that the datacenter market as a whole is growing. ‘Once again research is showing that rumors of the demise of the data center are greatly exaggerated: One study shows across-the-board growth in IT spending, while a second predicts that the financial services sector is really set to explode’, wrote Andy Patrizio in a July refutation to the Gartner claim.

According to the two studies,

-most IT managers at 151 North American organizations expect to at least double the amount of physical servers in their data centers by 2019 (IHS Markit); and,

-the growth in big data and the subsequent massive inflow of all sorts of unstructured data is driving the investment in IT equipment by the financial services industry (SNS Telecom & IT).

There are a number of other reports indicating that datacenters are anything but an endangered species, including:

public cloud infrastructure (server, storage, and Ethernet switch) quarterly revenue has more than doubled in the past three years to $9.0 billion in 1Q18, growing 55.8% year over year private cloud revenue reached $3.9 billion for an annual increase of 26.5%; and the combined public and private cloud revenues now represent 46.1% of the total worldwide IT infrastructure spending, up from 41.8% a year ago;

-spending on cloud IT infrastructure to grow at a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.5%, reaching $77.7 billion in 2022, and accounting for 55.4% of total IT infrastructure spend; public cloud datacenters will account for 64.7% of this amount, growing at a 10.2% CAGR; and spending on private cloud infrastructure will grow at a CAGR of 11.1% (IDC);

-the global data center construction market accounted for $43.7 billion in 2017 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 10.2% during the forecast period 2018 – 2025, to account for $92.9 billion in 2025;

-the global green data center market was valued at $35.23 billion in 2017, and is expected to reach a value of $120.48 billion by 2023 at a CAGR of 22.74% during the forecast period (2018-2023);

-the global hyper-converged solution market will reach $22.93 billion by 2023;

-the global data center power market is estimated to reach values of approximately $19 billion by 2023, growing at a CAGR of more than 6% during 2017-2023;

-demand from US hyperscale cloud users led to more than 177 megawatts (MW) of net absorption in the first half of 2018, representing nearly two-thirds of the 2017 net absorption;

-the global data center services market is foreseen to attract growth at a towering CAGR during the forecast period; and,

-the global data center colocation market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 9.06% during the period 2018-2022.

That’s not to say IT executives aren’t facing a lot more issues than complexity and putting — and managing — workloads in the most appropriate places at the optimal times. Last month the Uptime Institute’s 8th annual datacenter survey reported that ‘operators are grappling with new challenges, including the business case and cost of hybrid IT approaches, and … trends …ranging from climate-change preparedness and edge computing approaches to outages, energy efficiency, rack density, and staffing trends.

“The rapid growth in the implementation of cloud and hybrid IT approaches has ushered in a period of great change creating technology, organizational and management complexity,” said Andy Lawrence, Executive Director of Research at Uptime Institute. “And these new challenges are many times unlike anything previously seen in the industry at this magnitude. It’s a perfect storm.”

Like the mainframe today, and past and current challenges of Y2K, cloud, analytics and AI, datacenter skills is a growing area of concern. While the Uptime Institue study focused on outages and power improvements, it also noted that datacenter staff are aging faster than the equipment. According to the report:

-there is a growing need for new skills in an increasingly hybrid IT environment

-new skills, such as overseeing and managing SLAs for off-premises workloads, are needed, but people don’t have them (only 35% of survey respondents reported that they did not have any of the hiring or staffing issues identified by Uptime);

-operations and management is the leading area of expertise that is particularly critical and yet diicult to hire for according to more than 50% of respondents (other skills shortages are found with security, networking, electrical engineering, and cloud); and,

-another issue, although just 17% raised it, is retaining staff, in large part due to ‘intense hiring by hyperscale cloud and internet operators, as well as large colocation providers.’

I remember a dinner 30 years ago with a half-dozen CIOs (not that the title was in use then) who collectively complained about the complexity they were struggling with. IT is much more relevant today, but the cost is a growing level of complexity that literally beggars the imagination, but promises so much more. In an increasingly digital world, IT is moving (finally) to focusing on the data — and its significance/implications — and not the machines, and whose datacenter they sit in.

Author: Steve Wexler

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