Goodbye to the Small Data Center?

Arthur Cole
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Five Mistakes Companies Make in Their Cloud Strategies

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Is the cloud really on the verge of putting an end to the internal data center at the vast majority of enterprises?

It would appear so if the development strategies at many of the top hardware vendors are any indication.

Gartner has taken a hard look at the numbers and has concluded that hardware sales are on a growth curve until at least 2015, with the largest of the large deployments, which they define as 500 racks and up, cruising along at between 20 percent and 26 percent annual growth. At the same time, the top 2 percent of data centers will increase their portion of total floor space from 52 percent today to more than 60 percent by 2015, accounting for nearly three-quarters of all hardware spending.

At the same time, hardware requirements for individual workers at organizations large and small are likely to diminish with the rise of tablets and smartphones. Trends like desktop virtualization are already starting to chip away at the one-PC-per-employee custom that has guided hardware deployments for nearly three decades, and now the mobilization of the knowledge work force stands to push the movement even further, according to Global Industry Analysts. The company predicts a global enterprise mobility market of $174 million by 2017.

All of this is causing the leading enterprise platform developers to focus increasingly on singularly large deployments, both for top-tier enterprises looking to build internal cloud architectures and for the rising cadre of service providers aiming to lure large numbers of small and mid-sized organizations with promises of low cost and extreme scalability. HP and Cisco, in fact, have even put aside their recent differences to provide top clients with an integrated networking fabric for BladeSystem users who are heavily invested in Cisco network gear.

This may be the way the world is turning, but is it really the wisest strategy, asks WindowsITPro's Tony Redmond. Recent outages at Microsoft, Amazon and RIM point up the dangers of placing too many enterprises in one basket. To be sure, individual data centers go down all the time, but when a cloud service like EC2 or BPOS crash, the impact can be felt across entire industries, not just individual players.

This need for security and availability, then, is likely to be the major limiting factor on the cloud for the foreseeable future. Cloud architectures and data center consolidation will continue at a steady pace throughout the decade, but it doesn't appear that organizations are quite ready to give up their own infrastructure just yet.

That may change as cloud technology matures, although the industry is likely to suffer the same perception problems that airlines continue to face: even though they are safer and more reliable than other forms of travel, every crash is horrific nonetheless and serves only to sow seeds of doubt in the public mind.

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