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Looking back to look forward

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As we take our first steps into 2014, it seemed a good time to stop and reflect a little. We live in a world where the pace of change is accelerating and what seemed impossible a few years ago is not only possible but happening now, and in some cases already embedded in our daily lives.

Over the last couple of years we’ve seen some important trends developing and even some tipping points being reached, which have required us to think a little differently about the delivery of IT services.

One of the biggest trends has been the transition from an analogue to a digital world. Nowhere more in evidence is this than in the transition from physical books to e-books; from CDs to digital music; and of course DVDs and broadcast to online streaming video. Some well-known organisations have created a new role – the Chief Digital Officer – to make sure they are on top of this trend.

This move to digital, when combined with the enormous growth in social networking, and the desire from businesses for more and more targeted and accurate information, has created the need to store and manipulate data on a scale that is incredibly hard to imagine let alone to engineer.

And while we’re on the topic of engineering, we’ve also seen a rise in the large scale industrialisation of Cloud compute and storage. As our demands grow, so has the frequency of the build out of massive cloud service datacentres and the placement of these in cost optimal geographies. Facebook’s new European datacentre in Luleå, Sweden is a great example of this. Located near hydro power in a very cold climate, which helps to keep running costs down, the company is also able to access a highly skilled population and take advantage of great connectivity.

With the rise of Cloud and the concentration of compute into huge datacentres, we’ve also seen a shift in industry buying power from the end user to the service provider. It’s the likes of Redcentric as a cloud provider who now make up a large portion of capital spend on infrastructures that they rent back to the end user. Customers get agility, flexibility, scalability up and down, and financial control, while we take care of the challenge of building out and managing large scale environments. It makes sense – it’s what we know and what we do.

We’ve also seen ‘flexibility’ become the buzz word of the year with all sorts of interesting initiatives becoming mainstream – server infrastructures optimised for a specific task and for scalability, containerised datacentres; and not forgetting of course the wide scale adoption of software defined networking in the virtual datacentre.

Of course we can’t talk about trends without mentioning the huge growth in mobile data. 2013 was the year that the mobile phone overtook the PC as the Internet access device of choice, and Apple and Android devices made their home firmly at the centre of the corporate world. Mobile devices with location awareness, on-board sensors and so on bring with them many new opportunities but also challenges for IT. But more exciting than the choice of device has been the phenomenal growth of application crowdsourcing through the respective App stores, and the immediate access to worldwide innovation that this facilitates.

As the demand for applications soar, so the open source movement continues to gain ground and the recognition that providers to share/ publish key technology innovations, for example OpenStack and Cloud Foundry means that end users will continue to benefit from improving product quality and competitive pricing.

So what does this all mean for Cloud and more importantly its users? It means…

  • You can make real economic savings
  • You can adapt your business faster and scale up more than you could before
  • You can access innovation more easily (if you know where to look)!

But (and there’s always a but) Cloud services do need to become more interoperable, more manageable, and Cloud workloads need to be more portable. These are big challenges for service providers but ones they are taking on board and working towards. Maybe we’ll see these resolved in 2014, VMware for one are making great strides in this area.

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