The enterprise industry is changing, and with it the data center itself. Virtualization, software-defined infrastructure and cloud computing are all changing the equation that organizations use to build and finance their data support capabilities, which has led many pundits to predict the end of the data center as we know it.
And perhaps it’s true, as I mentioned a few days ago, that we are on the verge of utility-style virtual data environments, but the bottom line is that no matter how services and applications are delivered, they have to reside on physical infrastructure somewhere. So even if enterprises of all stripes start shedding their local data centers for on-demand virtual infrastructure, it’s a safe bet that demand for enterprise-class hardware and middleware will remain vibrant for some time.
At the moment, at least, all this change has lit a fire under the data center construction market. According to Research and Markets, data center construction is set to rise more than 20 percent per year until 2018, driven largely by increased demand for colocation services. At the same time, new regulations are spurring the revamp of many existing facilities in the drive to produce leaner, more efficient data operations, affecting everything from building design and location to power/cooling systems and data-support hardware. And the pace is likely to pick up even faster once the conversion to modular, containerized infrastructure gathers steam.
This is most certainly welcome news to providers of base-level infrastructure and components, following years of speculation that virtualization was going to dry up the hardware market. Intel’s Data Center Group, for example, saw healthy gains in the most recent quarter following the latest Xeon E5 and E7 releases. The company is churning those profits into further development of 14nm and 10nm processes, even as other more trendy portions of Intel’s overall portfolio, namely tablets and smartphones, remain in the dumps.
Higher up the stack, companies like Dell are doubling down on the data center as well, although with a nod that it must be tweaked to support dynamic, virtual environments. The company recently launched a number of new cooperative ventures with Red Hat to fuel the development of new PaaS architectures based on the OpenStack protocol. At the same time, new product lines like the Fluid Cache SAN accelerator and the Compellent Storage Center are designed to support the conversion of legacy data centers into cloud-ready infrastructure. In this way, the company can keep a hand in both the emerging cloud provider sector and the enterprise private cloud market, and offer integration tools through its EqualLogic portfolio to boot.
Surely, a streamlined data center will not require as much hardware as the traditional silo-based version, but that model was clearly unsustainable, anyway. Going forward, infrastructure will be leaner and meaner, but the individual pieces will be more powerful and flexible.
And the data center itself will be fewer in number, but much, much bigger.