Data centre developments: What does 2017 hold?

Tikiri Wanduragala

Thursday 1 December 2016

Tikiri Wanduragala, Lenovo’s EMEA x86 Server Systems Snr. Consultant, takes a look back at the big developments in the data centre during 2016 and offers predictions for 2017.

It’s that time of year again. As 2016 draws to a close, we look back at what’s happened in the data centre industry and cast our thoughts ahead to 2017.

At the start of the year, I predicted that software-defined would dominate 2016, and I think that was certainly the case. In fact, a few weeks ago I spent a fantastic few days in Barcelona at a VMworld Europe event. One of the big themes there was software-defined and specifically the software-defined data centre, which is something we at Lenovo have a great interest in.

Hyper-converged makes its mark

Another theme that developed over the past year is hyper-converged. The big headlines were probably grabbed by SimpliVity and Nutanix, the latter of which had a rather successful IPO earlier this year. I have previously commented on hyper-converged, which basically refers to an entire data centre that’s condensed into one little yet powerful box. Storage, networking switches, servers – they are all there.

Hyper-converged is an important development for the industry as it offers incredible scalability and much faster deployment, and this year saw a lot of really interesting and exciting deployments of hyper-converged infrastructure. It’s great to see it move from simply creating hype to actually benefiting companies across the world, and it’s something we expect to continue into 2017 and beyond.

What lies ahead

So what else do I think will happen in 2017? Well, to continue on the software-defined theme I believe that we will see software-defined networking (SDN) really break through to become a mainstream enterprise option. That’s an important development because it helps propel the idea of a software-defined data centre (SDDC).

In terms of what this means for us at Lenovo, well I have to say that one of our best-kept secrets is our broad portfolio of networking products. We develop our own range of networking products including top of rack, software and embedded switches with 10G to 40G Ethernet and converged fibre channel over Ethernet with SDN support with OpenFlow. The products cover the full range of enterprise networking deployments.

How to manage the complexity

Everything I’ve talked about so far, in particular that final paragraph about network deployments and products, seems quite complicated. That’s why I think 2017 will see a big push to developing skills among workers to help IT departments cope with this complexity.

Let me expand on that a little. There is a well-documented skills shortage in the industry at the moment, with 750,000 workers needed in the UK alone to meet the gap.

As IT departments know, over the past few years there has been a drive to manage from a single pane of glass. That of course is fine – as long as you only work with one vendor. In a complex, multi-vendor environment like the x86 market, customers can end up with multiple single panes of glass.

XClarity, one of our products that I’ve talked about before, addresses this by passing data from the underlying hardware up to the hypervisor and applications. This allows customers to have a common view of all the underlying hardware from the hypervisor management interface, providing a holistic view.

Cloudy outlook

This is another topic that played a big part at the recent VMworld Europe event. Hybrid cloud is the best of both worlds: the benefits of a public cloud with the security and peace of mind of a private cloud. And it’s something that I think will gain huge traction next year.

From Lenovo’s point of view, much like software-defined deployments, hybrid cloud relies heavily on robust, reliable and efficient servers and networks.

As we move into 2017, what really excites me about the direction the industry is heading in is the knowledge that Lenovo is ideally placed, with our software-defined and hyper-converged offerings in partnership with other leading vendors. And with a range of new ThinkAgile products slated for release in 2017, we will further round out our portfolio to embrace everything that 2017 can throw at the data centre.

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