Too often, human beings interpret new developments through the prism of the status quo. A revolutionary new technology, for example, is first viewed in terms of how it can solve existing problems before its potential to remake life as we know it becomes evident.
More often than not, issues that once seemed intractable aren’t so much solved as they are made obsolete. The new paradigm, in turn, generates its own set of challenges, which leads to even newer technologies, and the cycle continues.
Not all developments are as revolutionary as the cloud, mind you, but in today’s data environment there is no better example of this dynamic at work. As today’s enterprise works to leverage the cloud to expand its own data center footprint and feature set, the fact remains that the cloud is already spurring the rise of an entirely new class of data center – a nimble, dynamic entity that owes little or no allegiance to the data environments of the past and could very well emerge as the new standard for data infrastructure within a very short time.
The idea of the cloud-facing data center isn’t exactly new, but it is only recently that products and systems development is starting to focus directly on this emerging market. As Parallels CTO James Bottomley pointed out recently, applications function differently in the cloud than in traditional enterprise environments, which is why the company is pursuing its container strategy to more effectively leverage the highly virtualized infrastructure that permeates the cloud. In this way, the cloud operator can more effectively apply security, availability and other facets to applications directly while still meeting the demands of multitenancy and high VM density.
Storage architectures are starting to gravitate toward the unique requirements of the cloud as well, says MTM Technologies’ Bill Kleyman. Cloud-facing data centers must serve more applications and users than traditional facilities, and indeed are tasked with larger and more diverse workloads overall, so it is no wonder that many are implementing cutting-edge storage technologies at a rapid pace. These include solid-state drives, unified computing architectures, and vast amounts of replication, deduplication and other technologies, all aimed at driving efficiency without compromising availability and reliability. Of course, this is made easier by the fact that data services are the profit engine for the cloud provider rather than the cost center, which makes infrastructure investment that much easier.
It would also be a mistake to think that the new cloud data center is destined to simply provide general-purpose infrastructure to those who need a boost. On the contrary, many providers are developing tailored environments for key vertical markets, particularly ones that have higher data loads than most. A prime example is the film and video industry, which has grown exponentially in terms of storage, networking and processing requirements in recent years. When you’re talking 800,000 TB of new content generated per year, it’s small wonder that companies like Cisco and VMware are actively pursuing rich media platforms for cloud distribution.
In most cases, cloud providers will target specific verticals on the virtual layer or above, devising various IaaS, PaaS and SaaS offerings to key clients. However, IBM is going a step further with a new line of Power Systems platforms that combine hardware and software components to accommodate top industries like health care and retail. The packages provide tools like predictive analytics, scoring and optimization functions to enable turnkey deployments in either public or private cloud environments.
All of these technologies will certainly find their way into public, private and hybrid clouds, which means today’s enterprise has just as much at stake in their development as the growing cloud hosting industry. But as traditional data centers become more cloud-like, expect the barriers between what is and is not enterprise infrastructure to break down.
Ultimately, it will push today’s struggle for resources off the radar, and the goal posts in IT will move from finding what you need to support business functions to aggregating and managing the wealth of resources at your disposal.
It won’t make life any easier, but it does represent a clean break from the past.