Gartner kicked off its Infrastructure & Operations Management Summit last week with a top 10 list of the most significant emerging trends that will impact data centers and information technology used by businesses and government from now into the next four or five years.
The list was presented by Gartner Chief of Research Dave Cappuccio in a keynote address, in which he explained there's often a cascading effect as one trend such as employee mobile devices and cloud use affects others such as help desk operations.
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The top 10 trends are:
1. Consumerization and the tablet: Widespread use of tablets, such as the iPad, and other mobile devices in business isn't seen as replacing the traditional computer desktop entirely, but the tablets trend will bring about "more specific applications to do specific things," Cappuccio noted, and "the days of monolithic suites" of applications seems to be going away because of it. Companies using them, including for BYOD (bring your own device) use, should recognize there's a lot of unmanaged storage in tablets and smartphones they should be managing.
2. Infinite data center: The movement toward smaller size but greater density in data centers, combined with a trend to analyze performance per kilowatt, is leading to energy management as a newer type of discipline, even for "moderately energy-intensive organizations," by 2017, said Cappuccio, where a focus on energy-management information systems is apparent.
3. Resource management: Virtualization of servers is well along but businesses still haven't gotten the maximum performance benefits they can get in workload management. And water use as a coolant in data centers is another trend to know about. He said data center information management vendors should be evaluated to see if they can bring anything to data center resource management.
4. Mobility and the personal cloud: "The whole concept of PCs is going away," said Cappuccio, noting that employees, who today often carry multiple mobile devices, may want to use some of them under BYOD conditions in the enterprise. Not only should enterprises immediately evaluate BYOD for their own situations, and consider a "self-service culture for users," but acknowledge that mobility is going to have a cascading effect on how internal physical infrastructure is built -- or not built at all -- in the future.
5. Hybrid clouds: Through next year, more than 60 percent of enterprises will have some form of cloud adoption, and the majority will be exploring private and public cloud techniques, in what's called a hybrid cloud. Into the next three years, private cloud focused on service-centric delivery of IT services to the organization will emerge. Companies should be evaluating what are commodity services and move them to the public cloud, recognizing the decision to virtualize is impacting rack-based bandwidth I/O profoundly, increasing it 25 times over.
6. Fabric data centers: Evolving from "server centrism to fabric infrastructure" for servers, networks and storage will mean more flexibility in workload mobility and placement based on continuously changing factors, such as number of users and time of day, said Cappuccio. Building these kinds of resource pools that can be managed and configured is worthwhile, he added.
7. IT complexity: The complexity of technical changes, combined with trend such as virtualization, mobility and cloud computing, are only increasing the complexity of IT management, he said. In this situation, what's needed is a "generalist at a high level who can figure out what the cascade effects are," and that kind of person in the center of things will play an increasingly important role is helping IT matters run well.
8. Storage and big data: When data storage hits a petabyte and more, suddenly there's a lot of big data and companies would like to be able to analyze it to spot trends that could be useful to their businesses. But most of this data will be unstructured data which hasn't been correlated in novel ways before, and there's the challenge, said Cappuccio. But clearly companies are going to find ways based on "pattern-based strategies" to apply "intelligent analytics to this stuff."
9. End of your service help desk: Mobility, consumerization of IT, the cloud -- all of these trends are leading to another trend, the possible end to the traditional helpdesk. "It may be ending, or morphing," said Cappuccio. The emerging trend is more reliance on crowdsourcing, such as the friend who knows the answer, the Web resources of vendors or blogs, and it all may mean a "transition strategy" related to how IT troubles are handled.
10. Software-defined networks virtualizing the data center: Over the next few years, there will be software-defined networks designed that have basically separated hardware from software in a way that will slowly do away with the "box-by-box" approach and "handcrafted configurations" of today, where tomorrow there will be an "automated workflow" for the next-generation data center. "These fabric-based systems are evolving that -- be prepared," said Cappuccio.
Ellen Messmer is senior editor at Network World, an IDG publication and website, where she covers news and technology trends related to information security.
Read more about infrastructure management in Network World's Infrastructure Management section.
This story, "10 for 2012: Gartner's top emerging infrastructure trends" was originally published by Network World.