It is not uncommon at this time of year to see predications on a variety of subjects for the coming year. While nobody has a crystal ball, knowledge and experience can lead to insight. To this end, I polled a number of my colleagues for their thoughts to add to my own around our core competencies to deliver a list of five IT storage infrastructure predictions for 2013.
Foreseen for the coming year is the continued paradigm shift for IT from the back office to a contributor of business value. Key to accelerating this change will be the further automation of the data center. This includes the move to software-defined architecture such as software-defined storage, and the growth of object storage in both public clouds and enterprises. Data growth will continue to be a challenge, though more organizations will tap into their vast data pools with analytical tools. IT management will increasingly be implemented across domains rather than up and down the stack and tools will be judged by their ability to provide context for the information they present.
2012 was the year organizations truly began transforming IT infrastructure. But, unlike past IT transformations such as the PC or Web eras, end users and their insatiable appetite for content and applications drive this transformation.
The Year Ahead
Applications rule because they serve up the wealth of content available both in-house and in the public domain. The problem is how to harness the data to get more business value. Increasingly, the answer lies in adopting new ways to squeeze more out of IT infrastructure to keep on top of the competitive game.
1. Business Value Emphasis
IT is no longer a back office function characterized by monolithic applications supported by dedicated servers and storage. Sure, many organizations still have a few large business-critical processes well-served by a few stalwart applications that not only do the job but would be too costly and a pain to rip and replace.
More often than not though, new applications are being built on web-based technologies that make them nimble, allowing them to be combined with other applications for new services to meet business needs. IT no longer must focus on keeping the engines churning to support the monolithic applications. More often, IT is now concentrating on the applications and how to deliver new capabilities quickly for business advantage and competitive differentiation.
2. More Data
It is a given that the amount of data in most data centers will increase in 2013. What will change, however, is the mix between structured and unstructured data with the greatest growth (i.e. 80% annually over the next five years) in the form of online documents, images, videos, and audio.
More enterprises will look for ways to analyze and better utilize all data making Big Data and analytical tools more popular for general-purpose applications and not just for scientific and one-off applications. Business intelligence roles will bring new life to the business analyst function and contribute to the rise of data scientists, whether or not the label gets applied to the people doing the job.
3. Software-Defined Architecture
IT will continue to see abstractions with more intelligence in the data center moving to a software control plane that uses Web-based technologies to access compute, networking, and storage resources as a whole (e.g. software-defined data center). The move to put some storage infrastructure intelligence in the control plane will make for more efficient and agile use of storage resources. It will also enable scale-out storage architectures where capacity is not limited by storage system architecture.
Additionally, data services like protection will increasingly move to the control plane, while data movement functions such as replication and snapshots will remain in the data plane. Using policy-based storage infrastructure management will provide a repeatable framework for protecting and recovering mission-critical data. Changes brought on by moving virtual machines or data stores to different areas of the infrastructure using tools like VMware vMotion, for example, no longer create issues. Protection rules remain intact because they reside and move with virtual machines and are no longer tied to physical LUNs.
Cloud model tenets like efficiency and agility will expand to include simplicity as data centers look for easier ways to consume technology. Vendors like EMC will respond with flexible storage solutions that serve up storage-as-a-service to be consumed on demand by application owners and developers.
4. Object Storage
Object storage will grow rapidly as more organizations look for more effective ways to retain and leverage unstructured data. The ability to scale object storage systems will be important to object use in the enterprise. Similarly, support for open cloud-based interfaces such as REST-based APIs will be critical to developers creating applications with objects.
De facto standards like S3 for accessing object storage will get adopted for enterprise solutions. This use of cloud-based object interfaces will go a long way in bridging data center models that span private and public clouds making the hybrid cloud more of a reality in the coming year.
5. Cross-Domain IT Management
Higher levels of abstraction like those found in the software-defined data center model drive the need for better cross-domain tools. Vendors like EMC will respond with tools that provide greater visibility across the data center from the boardroom to the back room.
These infrastructure management solutions will address administrator needs with context, giving storage administrators, for example, views into networking and compute in order to determine the impact of storage changes on application availability and performance. These solutions will combine best-of-breed technologies making them easy to consume, and open up new possibilities where physical locations no longer matter and central control points manage diverse infrastructures.
My grandmother would say “everything is temporary”. This simple statement is profound because it underscores the fact that everything in life changes. It was true for a simple farm girl who never made it past the fourth grade and is especially true for the advanced-degreed personnel managing data centers across the globe.
The predications made here are just extrapolations of the changes we are dealing with in the advancing the technologies we deliver for data center storage automation. No doubt, by this time next year, these predictions will be mostly old news and we will be discussing what we anticipate for the coming year.