The digital transformation of business across essentially every industry and market is driven by the need to innovate, automate, and differentiate. Cloud computing and storage have already played a central role in infrastructure modernization, but the race to introduce and support emerging applications and services shows no signs of slowing.

The rapid rise of artificial intelligence and machine learning, business process automation, IoT connectivity, and blockchain applications has propelled enterprise data centers to move from monolithic centralized architectures to decoupled and decentralized deployments. Not only must data centers keep up with the rapid pace of technological innovation, they are also forced to keep up with the demands of global business by breaking down geographical and regulatory barriers.

At this stage of the cloud revolution, we’ve identified several primary challenges that must be addressed when building next-generation data centers:

Hyperscale or Hyperconverged?

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This is one of the hardest choices to make. Hyperscale deployments give you cloud-like flexibility when supporting a wide range of applications. According to Stratistics MRC, the global hyperscale data center market is expected to grow from $20.24 billion in 2016 to reach $102.19 billion by 2023, with a CAGR of 26.0 percent.

But hyperconverged deployments make management easier and work great with limited dataset requirements for point use-cases like VDI, test/dev, and ROBO. According to IDC, the largest segment of software-defined storage is hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI), which boasts a five-year CAGR of 26.6 percent and revenues that are forecast to hit $7.15 billion in 2021.

Hardware vendor selection

Selecting a hardware vendor is generally based on the axiom that you can have only two out of the following three guarantees: cost-effectiveness, performance, and reliability. In order to find the balance and fit that’s best for your particular infrastructure requirements, you need the flexibility to try different hardware vendors without ripping out your application workflow.

Cloud compatibility and control

It’s inevitable that most enterprises will migrate a portion of their compute and storage to cloud. According to a recent State of IT report, 66-72 percent of companies surveyed claimed they are boosting cloud spending in 2018 (amount of increase varies by size of company; companies with more than 5,000 employees forecast slightly higher hosted/cloud budgets).

But your cloud strategy needs to take care of the challenges that come along with easily provisioned resources. If left unchecked, your cloud bills can quickly become overwhelming. According to RightScale, roughly 35 percent of cloud computing spending is wasted on instances that are over-provisioned and not optimized.

That’s why it is time to move toward the next step in data center evolution - the ability to simultaneously strengthen modern applications and support traditional workloads. Let’s define this next stage of evolution as Hyper-Cloud.

The following minimum set of requirements will define Hyper-Cloud:

Freedom to build flexible deployment architecture

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There are three main components of any data center deployment: networking, storage, and compute. Over the past decade, these components have been put together in multiple configurations. Hyperscale and hyperconverged architectures are the most common configurations, and both are organized around a software-centric approach. Both of these architectures have their pros and cons, and almost all of the relevant vendors force you to pick one or the other.

A Hyper-Cloud infrastructure, however, will provide you with the flexibility of being hyperscale or hyperconverged when needed. It will treat networking, storage, and compute resources as building blocks that can be coalesced in multiple ways.

Freedom to choose hardware

Most software-defined solutions force you to buy certain hardware type(s) or to buy from specific hardware vendor(s). A Hyper-Cloud infrastructure lets you innovate faster and get ahead of the competitors by adopting hardware innovations sooner rather than later. For Instance, you would be able to choose from commodity to high-end flash, 1 Gbps to 40 Gbps (or more) networking, and tens to hundreds of CPU cores.

Freedom to consume public cloud

You either already have a cloud presence or you will in the near future. With cloud deployments, two of the biggest mistakes you can make are underestimating total cost and running into cloud vendor lock-in. Hyper-Cloud will give you the flexibility of commoditizing cloud resources by seamlessly supporting multiple cloud vendors and enabling data movement across these clouds. This not only involves infrastructure support, it demands application-level design that is loosely coupled, built on open standards, and cloud-agnostic.

The key benefits of Hyper-Cloud include:

  1. Provides a blueprint to build web-scale, as well as niche application-specific infrastructures.
  2. Provides building blocks for different workloads. Performance and data characteristics dictate design and extension of your hyper-cloud.
  3. Allows a new instance of Hyper-Cloud to be molded, built, and instantiated in no time, if complete data segregation is needed.
  4. Reduces adoption time for bleeding edge technologies.

As we enter a new era of cloud technology and deployment capabilities, many of the initial promises about cloud will come to fruition: cost optimization, true elasticity and modularity for compute and storage, faster spin-up and adoption of emerging tech, and close alignment with business requirements.

Cloud technology is the primary driver for digital transformation. To stay competitive and agile, ensure that you are regularly assessing your software-defined storage capabilities, including backup and archive, containers and microservices, and private/hybrid/multi cloud configurations. The cloud never stops evolving, and neither should your infrastructure.