Research Report: The Virtual Public Sector

The Data Center of the Future

The data center of the future might provide many of the same basic functions as the data center of today—but it will look and function very differently. There is really no choice, given the speed at which workloads must be provisioned; data must be processed and services must be delivered. These demands place tremendous stress that today’s data centers would have trouble handling. There are also many issues related to both security and availability that will arise as data centers struggle to accommodate that increasing number and type of devices. Storage and server requirements will increase at untenable rates, and network bandwidth will be constantly strained.

To accommodate all of this, the data center of the future will be fully virtualized, automated, software-driven and cloud-focused. It will also take advantage of convergence to a great extent, with hyper-converged infrastructure becoming the norm in many cases.

Many of these advances are already happening, but as the decade comes to a close, these trends will be much more entrenched. Cloud computing—especially the hybrid cloud model—is becoming more popular every year, due to its cost- and space-effectiveness in the data center, along with flexibility and scalability. And it will continue to evolve, from today’s efficient, shareable model to one that is more optimized, interconnected and powerful. According to the Cisco Global Cloud Index, global data center traffic will increase to more than 8.6 zettabytes each year by 2018—a compound annual growth rate of 32 percent from 2013 to 2018. The Index also found that 76 percent of all data center traffic will come from the cloud by 2018.

Every component in the data center infrastructure will be virtualized, from servers and storage to networking, and everything in the data center of the future will be fully automated and software-focused. The software-defined data center means that every part of the data center, from network, storage and compute to data center management and power and cooling, will be controlled by software. Software-defined technologies let data center managers to more efficiently and granularly control configuration, provisioning, troubleshooting and updates.

Toward the hyper-converged data center

All of these data center trends set the stage for the biggest change of all. While many data centers are experimenting with some degree of converged infrastructure today—mainly for specialized workloads, remote offices or disaster recovery—the data center of the future will become fully converged.

Full convergence takes the converged infrastructure several steps beyond what many data centers are now doing. Today, the converged infrastructure approach improves automation, resource allocation and overall efficiency by ensuring that a specific set of storage, servers and networking are pre-integrated and managed via software. The specific pieces of technology in the converged infrastructure can come from different vendors, but pre-integration ensures that they will work together.

While converged infrastructure is a good step, it still requires data center managers to add a hypervisor and other important technologies like snapshots, backup software, data deduplication, inline compression and WAN optimization. That’s the benefit of the hyper-converged infrastructure, and why many believe it will play a large role in the data center of the future. A hyper-converged infrastructure is essentially a “data center in a box” with servers, networking and storage, as well as the hypervisor and other technologies, delivered and pre-certified from one vendor. One example is VMware’s new EVO line of hyper-converged solutions.

This “infrastructure in a box” approach is the future, according to Arun Taneja, president of Taneja Group, an analyst and consulting group focused on infrastructure technologies. He expects the demand for hyper-converged solutions to double or triple every year for the next several years.

“It simplifies and speeds up the purchasing process and is easier to manage and deploy because when you buy it, it’s already in a rack, ” Taneja explains. “You just fire it up and everything under the covers pops in the right order. Deployment goes from something like 25 to 3 days. ”