We’ve been fortunate enough to spend the past year speaking with hundreds of techies at every major networking trade event in 2013, drawing certain conclusions on how the industry has evolved and developed over the past 12 months and where we see it heading in 2014 and beyond.
2013 was the year of vendor-led hype on buzz technologies such as SDN (software-defined networking), virtualization and storage. But while we’ve seen a couple of vendors introduce real products that could have a landmark impact on the industry, in practice very few notable advances in technologies or vendor offerings in these areas actually came into fruition.
Surprisingly, storage may be the area where we see the most activity and change in 2014. With continuing developments in data transmission technologies, storage environments will begin to shift away from Fibre Channel SANs toward other methodologies. Thanks to the reduction of costs to implement InfiniBand and the availability of 40 Gb/sec and 100 Gb/sec Ethernet, the constraints of the 16Gb/sec Fibre Channel, felt by many organizations, will be lifted.
Enhancements to Microsoft’s SMB protocols introduced in version 3, plus the ability to build larger file service clusters, will allow companies to build on-premise storage clusters at exponentially lower costs than they would have been able to do using Fibre Channel SANs.
In terms of tangible implementation, virtualization is the most notable example of a technology being implemented and adopted on a wide scale. Microsoft’s release of Hyper-V v3 in Windows Server 2012 offers the enterprise a viable choice in hypervisor platform, while Cisco’s Unified Computing System (UCS) is already ubiquitous. Its ability to integrate with VMWare V-block has already had a significant impact on the widespread implantation of VDI.
But what does this mean for the enterprise? If we combine the successful developments in virtualization and the products announced in 2013 with what seems to be a steady pace of increasing cloud technology usage, in 2014 we’ll continue to see exponential growth in first-time implementations of virtualization in small organizations, and many medium and large companies will approach complete virtualization.
While some small and medium-sized businesses might ultimately become completely virtualized, particularly newer (and smaller) companies that do not have existing legacy equipment, it’s highly unlikely that large enterprises will ever become fully virtualized, and it is likely such companies will continue to virtualize in a hybrid fashion.
Alongside issues surrounding legacy data center equipment, which can’t just be moved offsite, the increasing awareness and concerns surrounding data security and data integrity will impact any attempt to move to a complete virtualised environment, with large companies choosing to keep certain data storage and/or applications on-site.
Now that many organizations’ original investments in Windows 7 systems are now nearing the end of their hardware lifecycles, and expiration of support for Windows XP is also on the horizon, 2014 is an opportune time for companies to make the shift from desktops to thin-clients via VDI. Taking these developments into account, VDI could be the area of virtualization most likely to see significant growth in 2014.
Now it’s time to tackle the ‘big unknown’ of 2014 - the impact of software-defined networking. Most of the buzz and investment in software-defined networking and storage is currently being driven by infrastructure vendors that have taken a siloed, infrastructure-centric view of it. However, as software-defined network and storage technology moves into more environments the new speed and flexibility can create new risks.
Uncoordinated changes at the application, virtual server, storage and network layers can quickly impact adjacent layers and result in application performance problems. In 2014, this will drive the industry toward application-centric visibility as the blueprint for software-defined infrastructures, allowing companies to harness the new capabilities while avoiding some of the problems they can create.
SDN, being built on top of the IPv6 stack, also has the ability to pull IPv6 into enterprises as the primary addressing mechanism, presuming that SDN itself gets a foothold. Currently, though, SDN shows its greatest promise within the realm of those organisations who are explicitly implementing hybrid cloud environments and need to bridge the networking worlds between on-premise systems and cloud-based systems. As such, SDN is really becoming a tool to achieve an objective, which is hybrid cloud.
SDN is not likely to be a solution implemented for its own sake, and not likely to be implemented at all in organisations that are minimally virtualized, not utilizing IaaS environments or whose virtualization infrastructure is not ‘cloud’ oriented.
So will 2014 be the year that the ‘buzzwords’ of 2013 evolve from ‘cool to have’ products into something actually being implemented in critical mass? The way we see it, virtualization will continue to see significant growth, particularly in the realm of multi-hypervisor environments and implementations of VDI. Associated with the growth in virtualization, storage environments will begin to shift away from Fibre Channel SANs toward other methodologies. Some of these implementations will be assisted by the benefits of SDN, and that might produce an increase in the number of enterprises utilising IPv6 as their primary addressing methodology.Lawrence Garvin