RFG Perspective: The global economic headwinds in 2014, which constrain IT budgets, will force IT executives to question certain basic assumptions and reexamine current and target technology solutions. There are new waves of next-generation technologies emerging and maturing that challenge the existing status quo and deserve IT executive attention. These technologies will improve business outcomes as well as spark innovation and drive down the cost of IT services and solutions. IT executives will have to work with business executives fund the next-generation technologies or find self-funding approaches to implementing them. IT executives will also have to provide the leadership needed for properly selecting and implementing cloud solutions or control will be assumed by business executives that usually lack all the appropriate skills for tackling outsourced IT solutions.
As mentioned in the RFG blog "IT and the Global Economy – 2014" the global economic environment may not be as strong as expected, thereby keeping IT budgets contained or shrinking. Therefore, IT executives will need to invest in next-generation technology to contain costs, minimize risks, improve resource utilization, and deliver the desired business outcomes. Below are a few key areas that RFG believes will be the major technology initiatives that will get the most attention.
Analytics – In 2014, look for analytics service and solution providers to boost usability of their products to encompass the average non-technical knowledge worker by moving closer to a "Google-like" search and inquiry experience in order to broaden opportunities and increase market share.
Big Data – Big Data integration services and solutions will grab the spotlight this year as organizations continue to ratchet up the volume, variety and velocity of data while seeking increased visibility, veracity and insight from their Big Data sources.
Cloud – Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) will continue to dominate as a cloud solution over Platform as a Service (PaaS), although the latter is expected to gain momentum and market share. Nonetheless, Software as a Service (SaaS) will remain the cloud revenue leader with Salesforce.com the dominant player. Amazon Web Services will retain its overall leadership of IaaS/PaaS providers with Google, IBM, and Microsoft Azure holding onto the next set of slots. Rackspace and Oracle have a struggle ahead to gain market share, even as OpenStack (an open cloud architecture) gains momentum.
Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) – CSPs will face stiffer competition and pricing pressures as larger players acquire or build new capabilities and new, innovative open-source based solutions enter the new year with momentum as large, influential organizations look to build and share their own private and public cloud standards and APIs to lower infrastructure costs.
Consolidation – Data center consolidation will continue as users move applications and services to the cloud and standardized internal platforms that are intended to become cloud-like. Advancements in cloud offerings along with a diminished concern for security (more of a false hope than reality) will lead to more small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) to shift processing to the cloud and operate fewer internal data center sites. Large enterprises will look to utilize clouds and colocation sites for development/test environments and handling spikes in capacity rather than open or grow in-house sites.
Containerization – Containerization (or modularization) is gaining acceptance by many leading-edge companies, like Google and Microsoft, but overall adoption is slow, as IT executives have yet to figure out how to deal with the technology. It is worth noting that the power usage effectiveness (PUE) of these solutions is excellent and has been known to be as low as 1.05 (whereas the average remains around 1.90).
Data center transformation – In order to achieve the levels of operational efficiency required, IT executives will have to increase their commitment to data center transformation. The productivity improvements will be achieved through the use of the shift from standalone vertical stack management to horizontal layer management, relationship management, and use of cloud technologies. One of the biggest effects of this shift is an actual reduction in operations headcount and reorientation of skills and talents to the new processes. IT executives should look for the transformation to be a minimum of a three year process. However, IT operations executives should not expect clear sailing as development shops will push back to prevent loss of control of their application environments.
3-D printing – 2014 will see the beginning of 3-D printing taking hold. Over time the use of 3-D printing will revolutionize the way companies produce materials and provide support services. Leading-edge companies will be the first to apply the technology this year and thereby gain a competitive advantage.
Energy efficiency/sustainability – While this is not new news in 2014, IT executives should be making it a part of other initiatives and a procurement requirement. RFG studies find that energy savings is just the tip of the iceberg (about 10 percent) that can be achieved when taking advantage of newer technologies. RFG studies show that in many cases the energy savings from removing hardware kept more than 40 months can usually pay for new better utilized equipment. Or, as an Intel study found, servers more than four years old accounted for four percent of the relative performance capacity yet consumed 60 percent of the power.
Hyperscale computing (HPC) – RFG views hyperscale computing as the next wave of computing that will replace the low end of the traditional x86 server market. The space is still in its infancy, with the primary players Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) SeaMicro solutions and Hewlett-Packard's (HP's) Moonshot server line. While penetration will be low in 2014, the value proposition for HPC solutions should be come evident.
Integrated systems – Integrated systems is a poorly defined computing technology that encompasses converged architecture, expert systems, and partially integrated systems as well as expert integrated systems. The major players in this space are Cisco, EMC, Dell, HP, IBM, and Oracle. While these systems have been on the market for more than a year now, revenues are still limited (depending upon whom one talks to, revenues may now exceed $1 billion globally) and adoption moving slowly. Truly integrated systems do result in productivity, time and cost savings and IT executives should be piloting them in 2014 to determine the role and value they can play in the corporate data centers.
Internet of things – More and more sensors are being employed and imbedded in appliances and other products, which will automate and improve life in IT and in the physical world. From an data center information management (DCIM), these sensors will enable IT operations staff to better monitor and manage system capacity and utilization. 2014 will see further advancements and inroads made in this area.
Linux/open source – The trend toward Linux and open source technologies continues with both picking up market share as IT shops find the costs are lower and they no longer need to be dependent upon vendor-provided support. Linux and other open technologies are now accepted because they provide agility, choice, and interoperability. According to a recent survey, a majority of users are now running Linux in their server environments, with more than 40 percent using Linux as either their primary server operating system or as one of their top server platforms. (Microsoft still has the advantage in the x86 platform space and will for some time to come.) OpenStack and the KVM hypervisor will continue to acquire supporting vendors and solutions as players look for solutions that do not lock them into proprietary offerings with limited ways forward. A Red Hat survey of 200 U.S. enterprise decision makers found that internal development of private cloud platforms has left organizations with numerous challenges such as application management, IT management, and resource management. To address these issues, organizations are moving or planning a move to OpenStack for private cloud initiatives, respondents claimed. Additionally, a recent OpenStack user survey indicated that 62 percent of OpenStack deployments use KVM as the hypervisor of choice.
Outsourcing – IT executives will be looking for more ways to improve outsourcing transparency and cost control in 2014. Outsourcers will have to step up to the SLA challenge (mentioned in the People and Process Trends 2014 blog) as well as provide better visibility into change management, incident management, projects, and project management. Correspondingly, with better visibility there will be a shift away from fixed priced engagements to ones with fixed and variable funding pools. Additionally, IT executives will be pushing for more contract flexibility, including payment terms. Application hosting displaced application development in 2013 as the most frequently outsourced function and 2014 will see the trend continue. The outsourcing of ecommerce operations and disaster recovery will be seen as having strong value propositions when compared to performing the work in-house. However, one cannot assume outsourcing is less expensive than handling the tasks internally.
Software defined x – Software defined networks, storage, data centers, etc. are all the latest hype. The trouble with all new technologies of this type is that the initial hype will not match reality. The new software defined market is quite immature and all the needed functionality will not be out in the early releases. Therefore, one can expect 2014 to be a year of disappointments for software defined solutions. However, over the next three to five years it will mature and start to become a usable reality.
Storage - Flash SSD et al – Storage is once again going through revolutionary changes. Flash, solid state drives (SSD), thin provisioning, tiering, and virtualization are advancing at a rapid pace as are the densities and power consumption curves. Tier one to tier four storage has been expanded to a number of different tier zero options – from storage inside the computer to PCIe cards to all flash solutions. 2014 will see more of the same with adoption of the newer technologies gaining speed. Most data centers are heavily loaded with hard disk drives (HDDs), a good number of which are short stroked. IT executives need to experiment with the myriad of storage choices and understand the different rationales for each. RFG expects the tighter integration of storage and servers to begin to take hold in a number of organizations as executives find the closer placement of the two will improve performance at a reasonable cost point.
RFG POV: 2014 will likely be a less daunting year for IT executives but keeping pace with technology advances will have to be part of any IT strategy if executives hope to achieve their goals for the year and keep their companies competitive. This will require IT to understand the rate of technology change and adapt a data center transformation plan that incorporates the new technologies at the appropriate pace. Additionally, IT executives will need to invest annually in new technologies to help contain costs, minimize risks, and improve resource utilization. IT executives should consider a turnover plan that upgrades (and transforms) a third of the data center each year. IT executives should collaborate with business and financial executives so that IT budgets and plans are integrated with the business and remain so throughout the year.