You’ve probably heard the humorous saying that “It’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future”. This statement is especially true in the technology business. Nevertheless, there are a few value points business savvy engineers will always aim for, such as decreased CapEx and OpEx costs, greater agility/elasticity, scalability and increased efficiency/utilization. In this post, I want to outline virtualization technologies cutting-edge organizations are leveraging and will expand on.
Five focal points
2017 will see more innovative technologists looking to leverage IT for enterprise-wide value. These professionals will find ways to push the environments they manage into innovative new territory and will act as enablers of the future instead of curators of the past. This doesn’t mean technologists will recklessly abandon legacy investments or neglect maintenance, but they will find ways to close gaps and move toward more efficient IT operations. Based on my experience in the industry, here’s where I anticipate allocating my time and focus in 2017.
Hardware-based networks have historically been an integral part of IT environments. They work consistently in static environments, but they can be rigid and hard to scale. Software-defined networking (SDN) promises to facilitate greater network scalability, traffic flow optimization/load balancing and a platform to run applications on secure/robust infrastructure.
SDN has a lot of potential in the network security space. The technology can facilitate a paradigm shift toward east to west security between servers, it can simplify security management and it can provide effective DDoS mitigation. Because security is becoming such a big issue, these potential benefits will be a big driver for this technology as it develops.
With an evolving market for this relatively new technology, organizations must assess how the capabilities of different solutions meet their business needs. Business drivers to consider include simplified network access requests, improved network speed and quality, ubiquitous access, and the ability to apply policies and standards quickly and easily across the network.
Convergence/hyper-convergence solutions provide pre-bundled packages designed to integrate compute, network and storage in a configuration that is pre-tested, certified and relatively simple to manage. These solutions are easy to deploy and come with centralized management tools that can require less skills and quality time to maintain.
Though converged/hyper-convergence offer readily deployable configurations, pre-bundled packages may reduce some organizational flexibility and could lock a business with a certain vendor or leave it stuck with a rigid setup. Pre-bundled packages will also cost more than efficiently procuring separate parts and pieces of a configuration, essentially charging businesses for the convenience they provide.
Many companies just want their IT infrastructure to work, they can take advantage of all the prefigured capabilities and they are willing to pay more because it frees up skilled staff for higher-level innovation. Other companies don’t need all the capabilities built into converged/hyper-converged solutions, or they can reap significant savings by selecting fewer parts to augment systems they already have.
As more and more vendors develop and improve upon these pre-bundled solutions, businesses should plan and utilize these solutions when appropriate, or they should pick and choose the components that best fit their enterprise and staff.
With colocation, a vendor provides space designed to house a data center. Colocation is a good option for organizations that are short on space and/or don’t have space designed to support the cooling and power needed for a data center. By leveraging colocation when appropriate, organizations can reduce investment and maintenance costs while they gain access to a more fault tolerant facility that leverages economies of scale.
Factors to consider with colocation include location, latency, distance of the site from your staff, security, power rates, energy efficiency, redundancy and the quality of the colocation vendor staff. For more information on reasons for and against colocation, read T2 Tech’s white paper: When Colocation Makes Sense: Reasons for and Against.
Colocation is a buyer’s market. The rife number of colocation vendors provides customers more opportunity to increase their ROI. With more competition, expect more efficient facilities with lower power usage effectiveness (PUE) ratings. Also, be prepared to watch smaller colocation vendors as well as the bigger players for optimal solutions.
When using clouds, organizations gain access to a subscription payment model, and they don’t have to make large upfront capital investments. Clouds also enable simplified and elastic scalability, where cloud providers give clients a full provisioning service by upgrading and patching environments. These solutions can be a big advantage for organizations that can’t afford large upfront IT infrastructure investments, need access to readily available capacity and/or could benefit from categorizing expenses as operational.
Clouds can cost more in the long run and present new challenges. For example, a data center will be remote if organizations leverage a public cloud or colocation services. In this situation, organizations need to consider the WAN bandwidth and latency needed to support remote access. Thus, businesses looking for an optimal ROI and speed will need to determine if cloud infrastructure matches their needs.
Sensitive industries need to consider the security aspect of housing data in a vendor’s data center, but many cloud vendor facilities are already compliant with industry standards to protect data. As organizations transition toward clouds, they will need to prepare their apps for an on-demand environment and make sure their infrastructure is optimized for cloud enablement. This will be a big challenge in 2017.
There’s no rule that states organizations should follow a predefined path. Organizations should choose specific solutions that match their varying needs. This may require a mixed approach, and we’ll see many organizations following the hybrid path in 2017.
To make the best improvements possible, many organizations will look to develop a public and private cloud combo that is elastic, agile, highly available and cost effective. By taking a hybrid approach that combines various types of resources, they can optimize what they already have, manage costs and prepare for growth.
Distinguish what’s needed from the bells-and-whistles
These trends are based on what we are observing at T2 Tech Group. Different options will match different requirements, such as cost, performance and the abilities of an organization. Collaboration between IT and other business departments will be important for organizations to determine priorities and the necessary capabilities to meet them. Let me know your perspective and what you anticipate your virtualization focus areas will be.