Top 5 Infrastructure Trends of 2012

Pie graphAs 2012 comes to a close, now is a time to reflect on the previous year and also plan for the upcoming one. To say that the data center has undergone some changes may be an understatement. Data is now increasing at a rapid pace for businesses and even the general public at a rate of 2.5 quintillion bytes per day. The infrastructure to support that has changed and will continue to change dramatically over the coming years. In 2012, several data infrastructure trends emerged. The following five rank near the top in terms of impact.

1. Big Data – Those 2.5 quintillion daily bytes of data are there somewhere. You just may not remember where you put them. Such is the big data dilemma. Information overload at the consumer level has been a problem for a long time. At the business level, it can cause the business process to grind to a halt.

Organizations with large amounts of data need effective ways to store, access, retrieve, and analyze that data without taking hours, days, or even weeks. Big data solutions, such as the open source Apache Hadoop, are intended to provide that effective method big data management.

In 2012 big data continued its explosion onto the enterprise scene with all major players in the data industry offering hardware or software solutions. Companies like EMC, NetApp, Oracle, Google, Amazon, IBM, HP, Cloudera and Hortonworks all have interest in big data and all contributed to the big data revolution of 2012. This trend will likely continue in 2013.

2. Converged Infrastructure - The concept of converged infrastructure is not a particularly new concept. Various solutions such as compute, storage, and networking components are packaged together to created a unified IT system that is manageable and easier to scale. What changed in 2012 is that infrastructure convergence is now reaching out into the cloud, merging on-premise and cloud infrastructure into a usable system that seamlessly integrates the private and public cloud.

According to Wikibon.org, the converged infrastructure market will reach $402 billion total available market (TAM) by 2017. Noteably, HP announced several new converged infrastructure solutions, particularly its Converged Storage solutions, which compete directly with converged storage systems from EMC, NetApp, and IBM.

3. Mobile devices in enterprise – Once upon a time, going to work meant sitting at a desk all day, essentially cut off from the outside world. Today, mobile devices allow business professionals to be constantly connected, and in some cases, they remain connected, even outside of the office. Mobile devices are now ubiquitous in enterprise, and 2012 continued the trend away from the old company-issued Blackberry into the age of BYOD (bring your own device).

In terms of infrastructure, mobile devices present a number of concerns. The first is access. Mobile users still need access to the same applications and data as traditional computer users. In some cases, that may mean a company must create application interfaces for multiple mobile platforms (i.e. iOS, Android, and others). Alternatively, they may employ the use of universal web-based interfaces catered to mobile devices. Either way, companies will have to operate on an “always-on” mentality, giving their employees access away from the office at all hours of the day and night.

That concept of remote access presents the second major concern, which is security. It is more difficult and sometimes more expensive to regulate device security when users can bring their own. Therefore, organizations with BYOD policies must implement security strategies that are comprehensive and applicable to a wide variety of platforms and access methods.

4. Flash Storage – Flash has begun is gradual ascendancy into storage supremacy. In 2012, enterprises made it clear that they have flash storage on their collective mind. The idea of hard disk drives (HDD) with movable parts and speed limited to the number of rotations per minute a system can churn out without overheating may soon be over. Flash has already taken root at the server level, with on-server cache in the form of flash IO cards. This type of caching could also even be implemented on existing storage controllers.

In some cases, organizations have additionally implemented flash storage to replace HDD arrays. Solid state drives (SSD) may eventually replace hard disk drives as the standard form of storage. As it stands, there are still some cost and technical disadvantages, but those barriers to adoption are rapidly eroding.

5. Cloud storage for backup – Even a few years ago, the idea of backing up data to the cloud may have seemed unattainable and even counterproductive. Today, with hybrid cloud implementations, increased bandwidth, and vendors who offer complete backup storage solutions, cloud backup is a reality.

Three key areas where cloud backup gained headway in 2012 were remote backups where production is in-house but the backups are outsourced, outsourcing of both the servers and backups, and replication services, where the remote backups are duplicates of on-premise backups.

Another important development in cloud backup is the advent of long-term gradual backup storage, such as Amazon’s new Glacier project. These tools are designed for extended archiving of large amounts of data.

Cloud backups, particularly when it comes to large amounts of data, can be problematic, but you can expect cloud service providers to address some of the concerns CIOs may have in 2013.

What to Expect in 2013

Infrastructure is no longer something that can be ignored or put off until later. Most companies are looking for ways to cut costs, power consumption, and the number of work hours it takes to maintain infrastructure. What we can certainly expect to see in 2013 is more emphasis on revamping infrastructure and finding ways to be more efficient. Some of the trends analysts predict for 2013 include:

  • Software defined networking – Forrester analysts predict that software defined networking will take about 5 years to mature. Companies will also need network software engineers, people who specialize in developing integrated software systems for managing networks, which is very different from the traditional network management model.
  • Converged Infrastructure market will heat up – As more vendors offer converged infrastructure solutions, CIOs can be more discerning in their choices. Not all vendors who promise to tear down silos will actually deliver on those promises. If the goal is to move beyond vendor vendor lock-in, CIOs will need to read the fine print. In 2013, they will have a little help as analysts sift through the hype and separate the vendors who can deliver from those who are offering more lock-ins under the banner of convergence.
  • Mobile virtualization- In 2012, the trend of BYOD moved full speed ahead. This left companies scrambling to deliver applications to multiple mobile platforms, while also maintaining internal security to prevent those devices from bringing down the house. Enter: mobile virtualization.According to the folks at VMware, companies will start to deploy virtual instances of their apps that are self-contained and neither influenced by nor influential to the user’s mobile OS or apps. This kills two birds with one stone. The business will no longer need to develop apps for multiple OSes and devices, and they can contain all security issues within the virtual containers.

Looking to the Future

It is not always easy to stay ahead of the fast moving world of technology. Infrastructure trends sometimes come and pass without much long-term impact, but more often than not, they can have lasting implications for businesses and even entire industries. The aforementioned points should help you gain some insight into current trends and a glimpse of what is on the horizon for the next year.