Software // Information Management
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7/15/2010
11:18 AM
Elias Khnaser
Elias Khnaser
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Will We Still Be Building Data Centers In 10 Years?

As I look back at the timeline of technology, I can clearly distinguish a turning point in IT's evolution. I see the technology landscape in terms of "Before Virtualization" (BV) and "After Virtualization" (AV).

As I look back at the timeline of technology, I can clearly distinguish a turning point in IT's evolution. I see the technology landscape in terms of "Before Virtualization" (BV) and "After Virtualization" (AV).Up until recently, every time I heard the term "cloud computing," it would annoy me, it rubbed me as just another hyped up marketing term that means nothing. As technology advanced and as I start to understand the significant effect that virtualization has had on technology, cloud computing starts to make more sense to me, even as the term is very general and can mean a lot of things. In this blog, I want to focus on the Infrastructure As A Service aspects of Cloud Computing. When I look back at my years in this industry and how many data centers I have been part of building, millions of dollars spent, I find it fascinating to think that in 10 years' time if not earlier, organizations will not need to build data centers anymore. Why would they?

As IaaS evolves, as communications links and pipes grow, as security in the cloud is enhanced, why would we spend the upfront capital cost of building a data center when we can pay a consumption cost just like we do utilities?

I am sure someone will jump and say we have had this for years, true, the idea of outsourcing existed for years but was extremely difficult to implement, manage efficiently and deliver the expected results. There was two types of outsourcing models, one that says we will move all your hardware into our data centers and we will manage it for you. This model, typically always ends up in heartache, as the company that is outsourcing is under staffed or is incapable of delivering the quality expected etc…

The second model called for placing your equipment in an outsourced data center but continuing to manage it yourself. This took the cost of building a data center and moved it to a better suited facility but did not reduce cost much, if at all. I am aware that there are other models, all of which never took off and did not make any financial or technical sense, until now.

This is all "BV." Now, while the concept of virtualization is not new, it was new on the x86 platform and made enough of an impact that it affected the way we build systems, applications and data centers. The impact was so large, that we now can add a third model of outsourcing, if I can even call it that, and that is to outsource the entire infrastructure and use resources on as-needed basis.

Why build my own data center, my own storage area network, my own servers, worry about management, maintenance, refresh and all the hassles that go with it? When I need a server with 2TB of tier 1 disk, I can request it and it will dynamically be allocated to me in minutes. If I need more disk space, I can request it and pay for it when I need it. Why do I have to bother worrying about how much storage I will need this year? And plan for 3 years ahead? If I can offload these tasks to my cloud provider, have them build the infrastructure, provide me the security I need, the SLAs I need, why should I spend my capital on IT when I can invest it in my business and grow it?

Organizations will still need an IT department, as the functions remain, but the infrastructure goes away. You still need system admins to build your servers, configure them and maintain them, but they don't maintain the underlying hardware that they run on. This concept was not possible "BV." Just imagine if you are a cloud provider in the physical world and had to spin up a physical server every time it is requested of you. It would not be viable on any level. Thus the era of "AV," which is changing the way we do technology and transforming IT into a real services organization that bills on actual resource consumption.

It is going to be exciting to see how this transforms companies like Dell, HP, IBM and others, companies which are built on selling hardware. My guess is that they will transform into the biggest consumers of their own products, they will become the biggest cloud providers; they still need to build servers but instead of selling them, they host them and sell resources. They will become the biggest IT staffing companies, as these infrastructures grow, so will the need for more people to maintain them.

Will there be lock in? Perhaps, but ask yourself this, how many choices do you have when it comes to your electricity provider? For those of us in Illinois, it is ComEd. At least you will have choices in IaaS, and as communications links grow, moving your data from one provider to another should not be difficult.

I wonder what our technology landscape will look like in 2020? I wonder how we will leverage technology and if I will be reading this blog and smiling, remembering how we built data centers and saying, Wow, we really did hard labor.

Elias Khnaser is the practice manager for virtualization and cloud computing at Artemis Technology, a vendor-neutral integrator focused on aligning business and IT. Follow Elias on Twitter @ekhnaser

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