The birth of a new industry is always a heady time, as events are propelled by both the challenges at hand and the possibilities of the future. True, many of those possibilities will turn out to be unrealistic altogether or not as effective as the dreamers had hoped, but then, there are likely to be just as many valid possibilities that are as yet unimagined.
This is where we're at when it comes to the data center. While the concept of utility computing is not new, and in fact has been the driving force behind co-location for some time, both virtualization and the cloud have finally made service-based architecture cost-competitive with owned and operated infrastructure. It's to the point that data center services are poised to make the leap from adjunct resources to primary ones - in other words, fully outsourced IT.
Clearly, this movement is going to happen from the bottom up, with small enterprises and startups in the best position to scrap their local servers and storage units in favor of all-cloud operation. This provides enormous potential for local service providers and systems integrators/resellers to build up clientele. Firms like OnX Enterprise Solutions of Toronto are forging strong ties with VMware, Cisco and other platform providers to shore up reliability and availability of their cloud operations. At the outset, at least, many smaller customers are likely to seek out data providers that are relatively close by, if nothing else than to ensure that facilities are well maintained.
This isn't to say the Amazons and Googles of the world will be relegated to perpetual backup and archiving status. Amazon has already amassed hundreds of thousands of cloud customers around the world, and is actively pushing its Applications Web Services and online app store as the means to an all-cloud data environment. A major factor in placing all of your IT eggs in someone else's basket is trust, and the more that customers feel they can rely on Amazon for backend applications the easier it will be to expand to mission-critical ones. Trust, of course, isn't something that is granted by right. It must be earned, and then maintained.
Yet another sign that the fully outsourced data center is upon us is the rise of its own media environment. More and more websites, blogs and social media feeds are geared toward helping enterprises find the right data services, as opposed to the right IT technology. Of course, much of this is driven by the service providers themselves, who are happy to share thoughts on topics like the criteria by which to assess service providers and how to make the most of your services budget. But this isn't any different from the traditional IT press, which is chock full of industry-generated commentary.
Most intriguing in all this, however, is the way the rise of data center services will change long-standing practices and positions within the enterprise, even those that rely on hybrid data architectures. As UK service provider Getronics reported recently, nearly 17 percent of finance directors surveyed expect the CIO position to become extinct within five years. In many organizations, business units are already making many of their own data services decisions, shifting the responsibility for availability and reliability away from enterprise IT.
So are we destined to see the end of local IT infrastructure, with all data and data platforms streaming across wide area infrastructure like water or electricity? Not likely. The more likely scenario will be that large enterprises will continue to provide data infrastructure for themselves and others, while smaller firms will eventually move to the outsourced model, particularly as new businesses are created and come face-to-face with the cost of building and maintaining their own infrastructure. And the IT industry as we know it, people, platforms and all, will be divided between large traditional enterprises and the growing legions of regional, national and international service providers.