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Experts Blog: Honey, I Shrunk the Data Center! Key Tech Trends to Watch

By Pete Schmitt, CTO, cStor


History is an interesting predictor of the future, isn’t it? Did you know the first computer, the ENIAC, was invented in 1943 at the University of Pennsylvania, took three years to build, needed 1,800 square feet, used 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighed nearly 50 tons?

Compare that to the world’s smallest computer just announced in June by a team at the University of Michigan. It is designed to be a precision temperature sensor that can report temps in clusters of cells with an error of 0.1 degrees Celsius. Dubbed the Michigan Micro Mote, it fits on a single grain of rice, with room to spare.

The world is shrinking. History proves it over and over. Every new generation of technology does so much more, yet with so much less. And like so many other things, the digital transformation era is creating some important shifts in how the data center is managed, and we believe it’s important IT leaders of today are prepared for the shift.

So here are a few important things to recognize. As these worlds merge, technology is ever-shrinking, and you’re grappling with multiple IT trend shifts all at the same time.

1. It’s time to embrace containerization.

Just like you jumped on the virtualization bus a few years ago (and rightfully so), it’s time to get on the containerization bus. A container is your entire runtime environment bundled into one package, so you can handle workloads without an operating system. That frees you of OS challenges between systems and helps eliminate the traditional struggles of moving systems and applications from one computing environment to another. They ‘shrink out’ the OS system altogether.

It also means you minimize a lot of lag time, OS version control, maintenance and updates, end user support issues, and more. The result is leaner, far more efficient systems which then deliver new levels of productivity with fewer support and maintenance issues. Although containers are unlikely to fully replace virtualization, they eliminate the “OS middleman,” without sacrificing security, speed and ROI back to the business.

Check out more on free, open source containers and container management systems emerging such as Kubernetes and Docker Enterprise Edition.

2. Microservices are all the rage.

According to the developer credited for creating the microservices architecture concept, Martin Fowler, the approach develops a single application as a suite of small services, each running in its own process and communicating with lightweight mechanisms, often an HTTP resource API. These services are built around business capabilities and provide independent, fully automated deployment.

The ultimate shrinkville, microservices are essentially even smaller, purpose driven containers that handle very niche, purpose-built workloads. You no longer need an enormous server farm running around the clock. Microservices allow you to run what you need, only when you need it, then shut down the rest of the time. For more on microservices and how they work, check out this helpful article on TechTarget.

3. Reshape your data center strategy.

Our advice to clients is to take a ‘top down’ approach in evaluating what parts of the organization should run where and how. We like to use the Application Time Analysis quadrant (originally published by Gartner) in our evaluation process to determine what systems and apps should ‘live’ where and ‘run’ how.

As we go through that with clients, we pull out our ‘shrink ray’ goggles, so we can be sure to identify opportunities along the way for containerization, virtualization and microservices. We also look at opportunities for automation and orchestration to further improve the organization’s efficiency and speed factors. The analysis process categorizes systems and applications into four quadrants: 1) tolerate, 2) invest, 3) eliminate, and 4) migrate against risk and business fit on either axes. The below graphic is a quick and easy way to visualize the process.

In the end, you could pretend the world isn’t shrinking and transforming, but that would likely be a recipe for early retirement. Better to get proactive around your data center and digital transformation strategy so ultimately you’re the hero, not the zero. As always, we’re here to help if outside expert eyes are what you need to move forward sooner versus later.

Pete Schmitt
About Pete Schmitt
As the lead for cStor technology and engineering, Pete researches new and emerging technology to ensure that his team is at the forefront of technology trends and best practices so that they can deliver the best possible technological solutions to cStor customers. He brings an extensive background in information technology, customer service, and professional services and is known for delivering second-to-none customer experiences—a philosophy that is directly attributable to cStor’s long-standing success and reputation.

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