Data Center Predictions for 2013: Flash Memory, SDNs, Hybrid Cloud and More

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As the new year begins it’s time for all good bloggers to do what comes naturally: compile lists! Far be it from me to buck this time-honored tradition (one that pre-dates blogs, in fact, dating back to what we used to call “columns”).

A reporter by nature, I decided to scour the Web for lists compiled by other pundits and pull together the best data center-related predictions for 2013.

Front and center was Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple and current chief scientist for Fusion-io. Writing as a guest blogger in Forbes, one of Woz’s predictions was this:

Data center technologies will be to 2013 what the Cloud was for 2012.
I think more focus will be paid to enterprise data center technologies because of the improving ability to utilize the data center in a proactive way. The rapid transition from hard disk to NAND flash memories in the data center is drastically improving performance, reliability and the ability to distribute everything through virtual machines – which will lead to the de-centralization of cloud services. Enterprises with different offices in multiple cities will run the same cloud services out of each office and have the cloud services talk to each other to ensure synchronization – improving overall efficiency.

Not sure I quite buy that last part; I thought part of the beauty of cloud was that you run the service centrally and users can tap into it from wherever they may be. It’s not clear to me why you’d want to distribute cloud services, except perhaps for redundancy. But I do think he’s on to something with the flash memory bit, which is something Gartner’s been harping on for a year or more. It promises to change the way applications are developed, making for much faster processing.

It strikes me that data centers will have to become more flexible to keep up with application requirements, and that’s where software defined networking can play a role. Gary Orenstein, senior VP of products at Fusion-io, writes in Enterprise Systems Journal:

Prediction #1: Software Will Define the Data Center
We have witnessed the coming-of-age for software-defined networking, marked most prominently by VMware’s acquisition of Nicira and continued theme towards software defined data centers. Companies now use software to perform functions that previously required specialized hardware.

Nicira was indeed a leader in the SDN space. Its technology essentially brings virtualization to networking, enabling companies to more easily and quickly deliver network resources where they need them. It’s very interesting technology, although in terms of the timeframe for adoption I have to agree more with Andre Kindness, senior analyst of infrastructure and operations at Forrester Research, who isn’t bullish on 2013 being the year for SDN. He writes at

1. Software-defined networking will follow NAC’s maturity path
The network access control (NAC) industry exploded with suppliers producing their own solutions without acknowledging the entire security and networking ecosystem. Thus, early NAC-enthusiast I&O teams got stuck with a dysfunctional and disparate set of components that proved very difficult to assemble. Over time, NAC suppliers standardized interfaces and worked together to ensure that endpoints and their assessments could flow from the devices to the network nodes to the policy managers and back.
Software-defined networking (SDN) solutions will go through this same refinement process. SDN solutions, products and concepts will need five years to mature enough for enterprises to use them in production. There is a lot of work to be done to tie the components together and fit them into other management systems, orchestration software, hypervisor management solutions and Layer 4 to Layer 7 services.

No prediction list is complete these days without some mention of cloud. I’ll go along with Alan Priestly, Intel’s Strategic Marketing Director within Europe, Middle East and Africa, who writes at

Hybrid moves in: Hybrid cloud infrastructure will become more popular with large enterprises, as their IT teams become more expert at understanding which applications and data can use the external cloud providers – both private & pubic. In the past, enterprises have overwhelmingly preferred internal private cloud over public cloud infrastructure. I don’t think we’ll see a u-turn, but we will see enterprises adopt hybrid architectures where possible, so they can take advantage of the lower costs and ease of adoption of external cloud services. As these hybrid deployments take off, orchestration and automation tools will become increasingly important.

With the unemployment rate the way it is, it sounds like quite a bit of retraining is in order to get potential employees up to speed with where the job market is going.

I’ll close with one prediction of my own, which is that we’ll be hearing more and more about modular, containerized data centers in 2013. The technology is there, as we’ve written about time and time again in this space. And the business case is pretty much ironclad that building or expanding a data center with modular components makes far more sense than the traditional way.

There you have it. We welcome your own predictions for 2013 in the comments section below. Best of luck with all your IT endeavors in 2013.

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