Thinking Beyond “The Cloud”

As the conversations from FIRE sink in, I start to see IT evolve away from the conventional (and highly standardized) data center design to more advanced and highly-tuned architectures customized for particular operating missions.  For all of the buzz about commoditized infrastructure there has been very little discussion about the need for customization.  Yet, much of enterprise IT may be interested in customization for operational advantage, instead of commoditization.  And by customization, I’m talking about the strategic alignment of the OSI stack as well as the data center and campus itself.  Here is what I’m thinking, kind of like Hoff’s incomplete thoughts.

The following quote from Allan Leinwand, Zynga’s CTO of Infrastructure in  PC World earlier this year, raises the point:

“What’s missing from the cloud today is the ability to take that infrastructure-as-a-service and customize it and tweak it in an appropriate way for our business,” Leinwand said.

“For IT to really embrace cloud computing and outsource their data centers, you need to have more control than perhaps we’re seeing these days.”

If you think about an enterprise shift to the development of private clouds (more elastic and customized, on-demand IT resources/services delivered by in-house IT departments on dedicated infrastructure) there are a host of implications for IT spending.  This came up in our FIRE panel on cloud computing.

James Baresse, David Nelson, Paul Strong, Winston Damarillo and Don Pickering on “What Every CIO Should Know About Cloud Computing.” Photo Copyright (c) 2012 Dan Lamont / Strategic News Service.


Here are a few of my own ideas about the future, stimulated by the panel and other May 2012 conversations:

1)      The development of more energy efficient data centers that are also supporting higher power densities.

  1. Power emerges as the largest variable cost in IT and drives IT out of inefficient data centers);
  2. Data centers in the future will have the ability to increase power supplied to IT without impacting resident IT operations and infrastructure; and
  3. This ability to scale is at least part of the scalability solution needed to make private clouds more economically compelling alternatives.

2)      IT hardware will become commoditized as more enterprises migrate to x86 architectures, even for networking gear.

  1. The power of commodity hardware to support multiple software instances has already transformed the server industry; the networking industry may be next;
  2. It is easier to build scalability on an x86 platform than on a complex, multi-device platform of custom ASIC silicon; and
  3. The network itself may be the final frontier for private cloud, despite the hardware-centric business model for most network equipment vendors.

3)      Enterprises will demand more influence over the mechanical and electrical designs of their new data centers in order to reduce power costs (and IT total operating costs).

  1. Expect more “build-to-suit” data centers tightly aligned to operating requirements in order to deliver operating advantage versus today’s more common “turn-key” wholesale model; and
  2. Enterprises will engage highly-specialized data center developers to augment/supplement their own internal teams, shifting the focus from “one design fits all electrical and mechanical” to unprecedented levels of innovation and customization.
  3. Today’s “one size fits all data centers with PUEs above 1.6 will depreciate in value faster as power densities increase and enterprises take aggressive measures to drive waste out of operations.

Check out Greg’s articles here and at Archimedius.

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