Every so often, I like to provide CIOs with easily digestible summaries of hot technologies that can solve real business problems starting today while, at the same time, taking a bit of a longer view to help CIOs get a better understanding of what’s coming down the pike. So, here are five emerging trends that can help you cut costs, improve services, and make life just a bit easier for the IT staff.
You’ve probably heard before that storage is one of the toughest areas of the data center when it comes to dealing with performance issues. It can also be among the most expensive with only dubious opportunities for full return on investment.
Fortunately, organizations have an increasing number of opportunities to correct storage performance issues without having to break the budget and without having to perform a forklift replacement of existing storage systems. Earlier this month, I posted an article on Wikibon describing in detail how three new products can help. All three are software tools and one doesn’t require any specialized hardware:
- Infinio Accelerator: A software tool that aggregates 8 GB of RAM from each host for use as a read cache. Infinio does not require the use of solid-state disks.
- PernixData FVP: FVP is a software layer that aggregates all of the solid-state storage from across all of the hosts in the cluster and uses it to create a scale-out data tier for the acceleration of primary storage. While this solution does require the use of solid state disks, that’s a minimal expense when compared to replacing a complete storage array.
- Proximal Data AutoCache: The AutoCache tool provides customers with a full read cache, with write-through support to handle the write side of the IO equation. AutoCache also requires flash-based storage in the host to work its magic.
All three of these are server-side software solutions that aren’t that expensive to deploy. To learn more about these solutions, read this article.
CIO action item: Before you lay down big dollars on your next storage system, see if you’re able to extend the life of your existing system using low cost software tools.
I’m a huge believer in simplifying everything in IT, from individual processes up to the data center and everything in between. As CIOs begin to consider the future of their data centers, they should consider hyperconverged infrastructure solutions that bring together all major elements of the data center. These kinds of solutions enable CIOs to take a consumption-based building block approach to data center infrastructure. No longer do you need to individually size and spec compute, storage, and RAM; now you can simply buy prebuilt, predefined units of infrastructure. This enables upgrades in increments that can be more easily acquired and deployed.
Recently, two of the biggest players in this emerging space updated their entire product offerings. Nutanix and SimpliVity have carved out this space and are working on claiming it as their own. However, there are other players in the market, such as Scale Computing, that are quickly building portfolios that provide even more options in this space.
CIO action item: Don’t forklift your data center! But, during the normal replacement cycle, consider what potential benefits a simplified architecture may be able to bring to your organization. Will it mean less downtime, less time IT staff needs to spend on complex interconnection issues, better storage performance, or reduced overhead costs? Also consider converged solutions for new initiatives such as VDI. While these hyperconverged solutions are absolutely suitable for general purpose workloads, they are often introduced as a part of a VDI solution due to the complexity of those implementations.
Hybrid Cloud Services
Not everything needs to reside inside the walls of your data center, although I remain a firm believer that certain services should reside on site. Today, we’re seeing the growing emergence of hybrid cloud services from Microsoft and VMware. I specifically mention these two services due to their tight coupling with the vendors’ respective hypervisors. Both companies are increasingly integrating their existing products with their cloud-based offerings. In fact, I see six distinct ways that Microsoft’s Hyper-V has become a “gateway” to the company’s Azure service. Regardless of your hypervisor, the ability to seamlessly shift workloads to a common platform in the cloud can result in great benefits to an organization when it comes to overall compute capacity, application availability, cost, and disaster recovery.
CIO action item: Could applications that currently reside in your data center be better serviced by running them in Azure or in the VMware vCloud Hybrid Service? Before you deploy that next major application and before you create a huge new DR plan, consider the role that a hybrid cloud service could play in these efforts.
Software Defined Data Center
Unfortunately, I fear that the phrase “software defined” is going to be massively overused in the coming years – if it isn’t already – and will lose its meaning. That said, the watering down of the term should not diminish the potential benefits that organizations of the future may enjoy from a primarily software-based world. In addition to being able to implement lower cost commodity hardware, CIOs of the future will also have much more control over that hardware than they do with today’s hardware. It will be easier to automate routine tasks and to react to new business opportunities than it is today.
But, as pointed out in an earlier article from Wikibon’s David Floyer, while SDDC itself may be a new concept, a rules-driven data center is not a new idea, but the data center of tomorrow will boast a number of characteristics that, when brought together, will bring business benefits, including better SLA management (which translates directly to better business application availability), reallocation of expenses from expensive proprietary systems to systems that benefit the data center as a whole, and potentially reduce IT labor costs as systems become simpler to manage.
CIO action item: Today, just keep an eye on the software defined/software led trends. It’s too early to just jump into a complete SDDC opportunity, but when the entire ecosystem matures, there is significant potential for reshaping the IT organization.