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Think Big. Move Fast.

Following up on our consumer internet and mobile predictions, my partner Barry Eggers looks into the crystal ball for 2008 to draw some predictions about enterprise infrastructure:

1. Flash-based storage makes a move towards the datacenter. The last bastion of moving parts in the datacenter – rotating disk drives – will start to feel the heat (no pun intended) as flash-based storage solutions make their way into the enterprise. For the last few decades, rotating disks have dominated enterprise storage the way legendary John Wooden’s teams dominated their collegiate foes. While solid state disk drives based on DRAM have been around since Wooden was carrying a lineup card in his hand, they have been relegated to niche performance-oriented applications, the equivalent of playing backup center to Lew Alcindor. But Flash memory could change all that. Flash-based storage, whose cost/GB is rapidly approaching magnetic disks, offers the additional benefits of 10X the performance, higher storage densities, and last but not least to datacenter enthusiasts, significantly lower power per I/O. All of this could propel SSD 2.0 into the mainstream. Sure, rotating disk drive companies will add flash memory caches and wave their magic marketing wands, but industry insiders will tell you it’s not enough. Innovation will come from a small group of companies that are solving the limitations of flash as it applies to enterprise users. Expect to see hybrid systems, based on a combination of flash and rotating disk, coming to a datacenter near you. Anyone for Green Storage?

2. Virtualization extends to the desktop.
What is good for the server must be good for the desktop, right? Well, yes, but for a different reason. Server virtualization drives higher utilization on machines possessing an ever-increasing number of cores. Desktop Virtualization is not necessarily about utilization. Furthermore, desktop virtualization is not thin client 2.0. Thin Clients were about reducing up-front capital costs with a slimmed-down hardware client. Desktop Virtualization is about intelligently provisioning applications to desktop users. It’s about management, security, compliance, and reducing Total Cost of Ownership. Desktop Virtualization will also be more powerful to end users when used in conjunction with virtualized servers. The limitation with first generation virtualized desktops is that they offer a user experience much less satisfying than a full desktop, but that will begin to change in 2008…stay tuned for more details…

3. The Battle for the Top of the Rack (TOR) heats up.
As server racks are populated with more cores per CPU and more VMs per core, memory and network I/O limitations will become priority concerns. How VMs share those physical resources will impact overall system performance and significantly influence the rate at which mission critical applications are run in virtualized environments. It’s a challenge most adopters of virtualization don’t deal with yet, but many vendors are working on solutions in anticipation of the time when well-utilized CPUs shift the datacenter bottleneck to memory and I/O. Whether the answer comes from software solutions that are internal to the server (advantage software companies) or additional hardware (perhaps a TOR solution) dedicated to managing network services and optimizing physical resource sharing (advantage system players), it represents a meaningful battle for a critical position in the next generation data center.

Later in the week, Cleantech.

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