We’ve gone back and forth on this for many years now. Are enterprise data centers dying? Gartner seems to think so, recently predicting that by 2025, 80% of enterprises will have shut down their traditional data centers, compared to 10% today.
That’s less than ten years out. Do you foresee your data center being put out to pasture within a decade? Or largely decommissioned and consolidated? It doesn’t seem too far-fetched considering an average hardware lifespan of three years. You could cycle through your servers three times over before then — and most of those compute workloads will likely end up in the cloud or hosted elsewhere.
Many recent reports do demonstrate strong hardware sales, likely fueled by the rapid growth in centralized data centers operated by service providers (though not entirely — enterprises still report purchasing for now.)
The actual data storage, computing requirements, and bandwidth needs are not going away any time soon. In fact, they continue to skyrocket. But organizations are not interested in maintaining and operating data centers any longer.
The even bigger driver is the combination of cloud computing and the occasional colocation deployment creating opportunity for strategic scale and placement of workloads in response to business drivers and demand.
Traditional application procurement focused on taking a business request and making it work within the hardware and software constraints available within the on-premise data center. With the advent of the cloud, all that has changed. Now, applications are custom-built on PaaS and SaaS platforms that allow native integration of a wide variety of virtual hardware and software pieces, allowing the IT department to deliver a solution that is focused strictly on the business requirement (with allowances given to corporate security protocol and any interoperability hurdles).
As more and more enterprises look to go cloud-first or cloud-only in their new deployments, and slowly migrate and modernize legacy workloads, the question becomes more about where, why, and when to generate and place workloads, rather than how to get it done.
In other words, the shift is one from architecture-driven decision making to one focused on services. To reach the data center-less future in 2025, you should be building an application and service portfolio rather than getting too bogged down in hardware decision making.
Those applications and services can then be located with service providers within geographic regions based on office sites, end user or consumer populations, site safety, backup requirements, or even political drivers, like the recent GDPR and CLOUD Act laws.
Read these best practices from CEO Shawn Mills to start planning your migration and consolidation process.
Of course, it’s not all as simple as it sounds. While you have your pick of cloud providers, both niche and hyperscale, and the security and services available on those platforms improve on a near-daily basis, you still must make your cloud services work in concert with each other and any legacy platforms still in production.
That means interconnection and data center management tools must work across a wide array of technologies. Some of these solutions will be custom developed and others may be provided by third parties. Already, colocation and cloud providers provide virtual networking and SD-WAN services that enable better communication and migration between providers, underlying hardware, virtualization platforms, and applications. The wide variety of bandwidth providers, cloud services, and content providers present in major data center provider sites makes migration between providers easier than ever.
Performance and cost management becomes even more critical in the cloud to avoid cost overruns. A digital infrastructure management layer will be essential to keep track of expenditures and whether or not business goals are achieved with a given application, regardless of the physical status or location of underlying infrastructure.
These considerations — along with a staff shift towards managing diverse application stacks rather than hardware procurement and operations — mark the key elements of digital transformation, a recurring topic for many in the industry as of late.
Ultimately, the data center of the future is not dead, but rather reanimated in new form. A phoenix born in the cloud, if you’ll allow a bit of drama. While business units and IT staff will need to adjust to manage this new form of the data center, and you may not have rows of servers among your business properties, you’re still answering the same core question: what combination of IT services, be they hardware or software, can help our business gain revenue or support customers?