Consensus is building that the cloud will subsume traditional data center infrastructure within the next decade. This is not to say that local resources will go the way of the dinosaur, but that whatever remains in the data center will be cloud-based.
This means that both the hardware and software platforms that hope to support future data architectures will have to cater more toward cloud functionality than traditional data center constructs. And yet, it seems that only recently have we seen anything that can be described as cloud-specific enterprise systems in the channel.
HP took the wraps off of its Cloudline server this week, aimed specifically at helping cloud service providers gain an edge on competitors by offering not just lower costs, but advanced functionality as well. This includes open management capabilities that enable a broad range of third-party solutions, as well as broad ties to the OpenStack format through HP’s Helion platform. This should give providers a wedge in crafting hybrid cloud solutions for enterprises that convert their legacy architectures to OpenStack-based clouds. At the same time, Cloudline supports the HP Altoline open network switch, which itself supports the Cumulus Networks Linux networking distribution aimed at building web-facing hyperscale infrastructure.
Meanwhile, on the software side, Microsoft has confirmed that it will come out with a number of new Windows Server versions, including one called Nano that will be tailored directly to cloud operations. According to the UK Register, Nano will be a very lightweight version of the software that will support basic cloud functionality alone, while supersets layered on top will add compatibility with legacy server installations. This will ultimately diverge into two application builds, one featuring existing APIs and the other with cloud-ready interfaces, which should help developers tailor code to the specific operating requirements present in the cloud.
It is also possible that we could soon see cloud-specific development on the processor level, which is a near u-turn on the general-purpose mindset currently in vogue. As tech consultant David Linthicum points out on InfoWorld, Intel is hinting at customized chips for cloud providers that will help them improve the performance of workloads they typically handle. This will essentially formalize agreements that Intel has already struck with leading providers to deliver custom silicon, making these devices available to the industry at large. However, over-reliance on optimized hardware could be detrimental to cloud providers, because it makes it more difficult to reconfigure systems and architectures in the face of changing workloads.
And in a way, it can be argued that many organizations, both cloud and traditional enterprise, are already reconfiguring legacy infrastructure for the cloud through technologies like Flash storage. Pure Storage CTO Michael Cornwell notes that Flash offers both the speed and scalability to support dynamic data environments and is in fact emerging as a key differentiator between companies that are embracing advanced cloud architectures and those struggling to keep up. Pure Storage is not exactly a non-biased source, considering it is one of the leading proponents of the all-Flash array, but the numbers are hard to argue: In terms of performance and, increasingly, cost, Flash will be tough to beat in high-performance workloads.
To be sure, the cloud is the emerging data paradigm, so it is only natural that underlying infrastructure would start to reflect that reality. Nevertheless, it is a little puzzling that the vendor community has waited this long to release systems that clearly favor cloud computing over standard data center fare.
But now that the ball is rolling, it appears that cloud domination is inevitable, as traditional infrastructure will soon be not only more costly but less prevalent in the channel as well.
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, Carpathia and NetMagic.