Normally, data centers are historically grown and contain a number of different, heterogeneous systems. Depending on the age of the data center, you can see the evolutionary steps of the IT industry. At older companies, you find mainframe computers, large midrange systems, and a number of rack-based Intel servers all together on one data floor. Looking at younger companies, (less than 10 years old), you won’t see this variety of platforms. They will rather count on a larger number of similar hardware, but highly virtualized to achieve the required flexibility and be able to run a large variety of workloads.
Virtualization certainly was the industry trend of the last decade.
But, what’s next? When we look ahead 10 years from now, what will be the trend of the next decade? I predict, it will be the private cloud!
From a technology point of view, the private cloud is less a revolution than virtualization was. I see it more as a logical next step. Although virtualization changed the way users perceived servers, with cloud computing, users perceive them now as a service.
It is also not a very big effort to add private cloud capabilities to today’s data centers. Every virtualized server farm can be equipped with a cloud computing layer that handles the user interaction, and the provisioning and deprovisioning of virtual servers. So, it is quite easy to adapt to this new technology.
Another reason for private clouds to conquer more and more data center space is because of cloud computing in general: workloads are not limited to run on servers in a specific data center of a company any more. In the next years, we will see more workloads put on public clouds. These remote workloads still require some degree of management and a central control point for provisioning and deprovisioning. Building up this control point for consuming remote public cloud services enables the local private cloud layer to hook in and be managed from the same infrastructure in a hybrid cloud set up.
I mentioned that with cloud computing IT is more perceived as a service than just technology; this is exactly what users outside the IT department will expect in the future. The cloud computing delivery model has already existed in the consumer market for quite some time now. People are used to visiting app stores to install their application software. They understand video on demand and software as a service for their private day-to-day IT usage. In the very near future, users will expect that on their workplaces too.
If a new data center is designed today, or an existing one is expanded to a larger extent, there are very good reasons to think about a cloud layer right from the start. At least, there are no good reasons not to think about it!