The New Cloud and the Old Data Center

Arthur Cole

The more things change, the more they stay the same. It’s a trite saying but appropriate for today’s cloud infrastructure market, which seems to be evolving along much the same vendor-defined trajectory as the data center before it.

According to new data from Synergy Research Group, the top three vendors duking it out for cloud dominance are … wait for it … Dell EMC, Cisco and HPE. This may come as a surprise to some, considering commodity manufacturers in the APAC region are supposed to be taking over. But according to the company’s research, the new Big Three each hold about 11.5 percent of the market, while an equal share went to multiple ODMs in the Pacific Rim. Microsoft and IBM each held smaller shares, which means that more than a third of the market is divvied up between numerous small to medium-sized vendors.

This is significant because both Gartner and IDC predict further migration of enterprise workloads to the cloud – public, private and hybrid – over the next decade, and failure of traditional manufacturers to manage this transition would have led to significant disruption among vendors and the substantial channel networks that support them. As Datamation’s Cynthia Harvey notes, hyperscale providers like Amazon and Google have accumulated significant data loads, but the plethora of Infrastructure, Platform and Software as a Service offerings, plus the development of targeted hosting models for key industry verticals, all but ensures that no one will be cornering the cloud market any time soon.

It seems that talk of the enterprise giving up local resources in favor of third-party clouds was a bit overblown as well. CIO’s Arik Hesseldahl notes that even red-hot social media company Snap, which currently forks over hundreds of billions per year to Google and Amazon, is planning to build out its own infrastructure in the coming years. While the cloud may be a godsend when it comes to launching services quickly and at low cost, the economics start to change when the user base scales into the millions and beyond. While many companies will no doubt remain perfectly happy with all-cloud infrastructure, expect the largest of the large to eventually build in-house. In fact, it may turn out that by mid-century or so, having your own data center will be something of a status symbol in the corporate world.


Perhaps the biggest difference between the cloud and the data center is not the infrastructure but the application-layer performance characteristics. This causes many organizations to fail to ensure basic service-level requirements like availability and reliability, says Vishwas Lele, CTO of consulting firm Applied Information Sciences. In an interview with Fortune, he notes that recent outages at Amazon and Microsoft should drive home the point that cloud failures are inevitable, so the enterprise should forget about maintaining 100 percent reliability and focus instead on speedy restoration and minimizing damage. One way to do this is to first prioritize cloud applications and then assign various failure modes depending on their importance to core enterprise processes.

The cloud is here to stay, but it’s safe to say that the cloud is not taking over, not completely anyway. And as the enterprise becomes more comfortable pushing workloads onto third-party infrastructure, it’s important to note that reliance on traditional vendors will help ensure that the transition will maintain some semblance of familiarity on an operational level.

By taking a gradual approach to the cloud, organizations have a better chance of ensuring that the changes that do take place are for the better, not the worse.

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.


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