The traditional enterprise vendors’ hold on the data center market is said to be shaky and growing weaker by the day as new cloud and white box solutions come into vogue. But by the numbers at least, it seems like the old guard is holding its own for the moment.
According to Synergy Research Group, HPE, Cisco and Microsoft are tops in the $120 billion data center infrastructure market, which itself is growing at about 3 percent per year based largely on sales of virtualization software, blade servers and security solutions. HPE controls about 25 percent of the market, followed by Cisco at 13 percent, and then Microsoft, which has about 70 percent of the total software spend. Somewhat ironically, the cloud is driving many of these revenue gains by spurring demand for hyperscale and private cloud infrastructure.
And despite what you hear about converged, commodity infrastructure and tightly integrated computing solutions, it seems that the rack server still rules the roost in the data center, says the UK Register. About $10 billion of the $29 billion in sales for the third quarter went to the rack, with growth moving roughly in sync with the overall infrastructure market. And while HPE does rule in the established enterprise market, Cisco is tops in the fast-growing service provider segment, which is eager to match servers with advanced, high-speed networking.
The real winner in all of this is likely to be Microsoft, however, says Datacenter Knowledge’s Yevgeniy Sverdlik. As the top software provider with a fairly sizable cloud presence, Microsoft is sitting pretty when it comes to creating enterprise-class hybrid cloud architectures. Sure, Amazon has scale, but it lacks the expertise to match its cloud with legacy enterprise software, which Microsoft rules.
So when it comes to crafting integrated data environments spanning the data center and the cloud, Microsoft leads in both fields and can always turn to other cloud services, perhaps even Amazon, should data loads exceed the Azure footprint. And with Windows Server 2016 offering built-in connectivity to the Azure cloud, this strategy is likely to play out as part of the normal server refresh that most enterprises engage in as a matter of course.
This is all well and good for the moment, say organizers of the DCD Enterprise event scheduled for next April in New York, but the dynamic nature of the industry makes it almost impossible to construct a normal three-year strategic capital budget anymore. The data center is caught between two paradigms, says DCD executive VP Bruce Taylor. On one hand, it must constantly reinvent itself in order to capitalize on emerging business opportunities. On the other, it must produce optimal return on investment. The former requires nimbleness and scalability while the latter calls for strategic investment and capital planning. Threading this needle will be the central theme of the show.
With all these forces coming into play, the future of the data center is wide open. There are those who say there will be no data centers before long, other than the massive hyperscale deployments of the top cloud providers. Others say enterprises will maintain local infrastructure, albeit stripped down, modular constructs that tap cloud services to scale data loads. Still others call for a highly segmented market in which the make-up of the data center will be as varied as the enterprises that build them. And then there are those who start to question whether the words “data” and “center” have any real meaning at all when you put them together.
In the end, though, it isn’t the make-up of data infrastructure that matters, or the location or design of hardware, software and other resources. Solutions are all that matter, and if the business models at hand are optimally supported by the data environment they rely upon, then the enterprise wins no matter where or how the infrastructure is provided.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.