Traditional datacenters were built to host static, or at best, slowly evolving compute platforms, targeting cheap space, network connectivity, and favorable locations. At the same time, IT elements were purchased and built in horizontal silos — storage, server, network, and application. This is all starting to change, according to International Data Corporation (IDC), as visible portions of facility and hardware spending are now captured by pre-integrated, industrialized solutions.
"The push toward faster time to market is becoming apparent, with datacenters under pressure to deliver internal and external services more quickly, while avoiding large speculative capital investment," said Giorgio Nebuloni, research manager with IDC's Enterprise Server Group. "The Web era brings with it new levels of expectation; technology is becoming easier to consume on tap. This is leading to a review of purchasing processes and a greater openness towards prebuilt solutions, both on the facility as well as on the back-end system side of the datacenter. Needless to say, automation is a key ingredient for success at all levels."
Containerized Datacenter for High Density, Modular Rooms for Service Providers
As compute density skyrockets and the cost of computing power decreases further, energy constraints and higher electricity prices are becoming relevant issues, especially for scale-out datacenters. As a response, suppliers have been developing solutions such as containers or modular "foldable" steel datacenters, with second and third generation products now on the market and adoption growing both in scale-out customers as well as in pockets of the midmarket.
"With the number of computing cores shipped into Europe growing at double digits despite low server shipment growth, power and cooling density has been growing dramatically," said Chris Ingle, associate VP Consulting, IDC System Infrastructure Solutions. "Combine that with constrained budgets for capital expenses in the midmarket and financial sector and it becomes clear that modular facilities, or, in cases where high cooling density or small environments are required, containerized solutions become increasingly attractive.
"A recent IDC survey showed that around 15% of European enterprises are using or plan to use modular or containerized facilities. While they currently account for only a small portion of the datacenter facility spending in Europe, this will remain a key segment, with growth in the 30%–40% range over the next few years, led by deployments in Northern Europe and emerging markets."
Converged and Integrated Blocks Keep Inching Up
IDC distinguishes between converged systems (targeted at virtualized, multipurpose environments, including but not exclusive to platforms for private cloud) and integrated platforms (targeted at specific workloads and embedding higher layers of software, including middleware and database). Both product categories are meant to accelerate deployment time by removing some of the tweaking and fine-tuning of server, network, and storage components. Survey data shows that the more advanced, larger customers look to these as a way to improve business agility (first priority) and improve staff efficiency (second priority). Smaller datacenters, meanwhile, seem still to be looking at pure technology benefits (improved utilization of resources, improved disaster recovery), which IDC believes should be secondary drivers.
"We have tracked several hundred million dollars spent on hardware for converged systems and integrated platforms in EMEA in 2012, and expect spending in those product segments to keep growing in double digits, largely outpacing low growth for spending in servers and storage in 2013," said Donna Taylor, research director with IDC's European Storage group. "Pricing and pricing perception will play an important role in this — only around 30% of the European customers we interviewed were ready to pay more than the sum of list prices of each single product delivered separately — a sign that education efforts need to continue."
Enterprises and service providers have started thinking beyond the old silos of legacy systems and distributed, unmanaged x86 environments toward a multiform ecosystem bundled together with broader system management tools. "Our advice would be to evaluate converged and integrated architectures as future building blocks, but make sure suppliers' roadmaps and approaches are aligned with your own IT strategy. Pre-integrated blocks should not become monoliths, but must be manageable within the existing hardware landscape," said Giorgio Nebuloni.