Australian organizations are forecast to spend A$2.5 billion on data center systems in 2015, an increase from A$2.3 billion in 2014, according to Gartner, Inc. This includes spending on enterprise communications applications, enterprise network equipment, servers and external controller-based (disk) storage. This is in line with Gartner's annual CIO survey, which has cloud and infrastructure/data centers in the top four technology priorities of Australian CIOs in 2015.
Despite this spending increase, the number of data centers in Australia continues to decline as Australian businesses are focused on improving data center economics, coupled with agility and management. Of the 62,314 data centers in Australia in 2015, only 11 are classified as large data centers, defined by Gartner as having at least 1,000 racks of equipment and/or at least 20,000 square feet, while 78 are enterprise data centers with at least 250 racks of equipment and/or at least 5,000 square feet. The vast majority are classed as single deployments or small racks in "computer rooms" in smaller companies.
Speaking in the opening keynote of the Gartner Infrastructure, Operations & Data Center Summit 2015 in Sydney today, Gartner managing vice president Michele Caminos said that the Nexus of Forces (cloud, social, mobile and information) and the Internet of Things together are creating a new digital business world that requires a new approach to data center demand and management.
"The future data center is moving toward a more fluid architecture, focusing on workflow relative to how it interoperates and collaborates with other systems and cloud components to support digital business, rather than workload. It is also focused on what the work is doing and supporting, rather than where it is located. Organizations have to look at their data center environment at a much higher level today," Ms. Caminos said.
Gartner says an integrated data center will help organizations support the transformation to digital business capabilities and models. It defines an integrated data center as a combined software and hardware entity, which is becoming more logical in function, in addition to its traditional physical nature. According to Gartner, there are six key technology and process foundations that taken holistically make up the integrated data center: software-defined, optimized resources, new infrastructure models, new operational models, hybrid alternatives and nonstop operations.
A software-defined data center is a layer of abstraction above multiple other software-defined layers (network, virtualization, storage), whereby data centers are controlled/automated from a single control plane using a common set of APIs, wherever they are located. According to Gartner, the idea is that data center resources would be placed where they made the most economic sense, and the allocation and use of those resources could be controlled by rules and analytics, allowing both workflows and workloads to be moved/directed where they best served the business at any particular point in time.
2) Optimized resources
One of the key dimensions of the integrated data center is optimized resources to help organizations understand what the data center infrastructure needs to look like and how power needs to be managed. There are many approaches and technologies that can be used to extend the life of an existing data center for a number of years or provide the basis for an effective decision on the rollout or build out of the next generation data center. According to Gartner, the ultimate aim is to deliver a data center operation that is cost-effective and really delivers the level of service quality organizations expect.
3) Hybrid alternatives
One of the big drivers for the use of hybrid data centers today is for disaster recovery management and IT service continuity management. Gartner analysts have seen a significant increase in interest in cloud-based disaster recovery and IT service delivery continuity services over the last 12 to 18 months. In a true software-defined data center environment, the physical data center location becomes irrelevant, which means that true hybrid data centers will emerge that could enable critical work to be managed on-premises, noncritical work off-premises, and load or time-sensitive work in the cloud.
4) New infrastructure models
Gartner is starting to see significant differences in data center technology in terms of what vendors are pushing and what will drive decision making within IT organizations. There is a trend toward integrated systems that have complete integration of hardware, software, networking and storage infrastructure in one solution. Many vendors are also now selling further up the food chain in terms of leveraging best-of-brand rather than best-of-breed. At the same time, large public cloud service providers are focusing on disaggregation of data center components, such as standard building blocks, direct attached storage and scale out infrastructure. Price, choice and ease of use are key in the need to drive strategy for systems of records, competition and differentiation.
5) Operations management
Gartner is also seeing new operational models evolving to handle the increased velocity of change. Digital business is forcing a split between traditional and more agile IT, which Gartner has termed bimodal IT. To achieve this, technology departments are adopting two distinct approaches to meet enterprise demand — one focused on being agile and flexible, the other centered on the longer-term, efficiency, security, predictability and a step-by-step approach. For systems innovation and differentiation, the level of change, new functionality, being able to be location agnostic and the ability to broaden an organization's reach in a very rapid way will drive a whole new level of support, leveraging a DevOps model.
6) Nonstop IT
According to Gartner, the concept of nonstop IT really represents a significant break from the traditional notion of disaster recovery. One of the key changes in recent years is that many organizations are building infrastructure, as well as leveraging virtualization and orchestration automation software, to facilitate a scenario that is closer to a managed or continuous availability model, rather than the notion of having to recover an entire data center after a major disaster has occurred. This approach takes into account what organizations are planning for, what they are looking at, what they need to do and why they need to do it, in an effort to achieve nonstop IT or very close to continuous availability.
"A key focus for Australian businesses this year is service delivery to improve the performance of IT operations for digital business," added Ms. Caminos. "As businesses move toward an integrated data center, it is crucial they stay on top of the latest technology developments, how to implement and keep their digital business environment available, as well as how this new way of operating will affect the way that they purchase, the vendors they look at, and the process and skills that are needed."
Data center trends and strategies will be discussed at the Gartner Infrastructure, Operations and Data Center Summit 2015 in Sydney on Monday 18 and Tuesday 19 May. Follow #GartnerDC on Twitter for updates.