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Data center forecast calls for DCI, containers

A data center forecast by 451 Research predicts demand for data center interconnect services to blossom.

Data center interconnect (DCI) will underscore the technologies data center administrators will be racing to implement in the coming months, as enterprises migrate more of their operations to the cloud.

Eric Hanselman, chief analyst at New York-based 451 Research, in sharing his 2016 data center forecast with SearchNetworking, added that containers, more robust management platforms and the continued implementation of leaf-spine backbones will also populate administrators' lists of projects to complete in the next 12 months.

DCI is being fueled by enterprises that need to connect their data centers with cloud data centers. Both Cisco and Arista Networks released switch components with DCI capabilities over the past few months, and a range of other vendors -- both established and startup -- are also eyeing the DCI market. At the same time, a growing number of cloud data centers are offering DCI among their menus of services, permitting enterprises to bypass carrier-provided DCI.

"Everyone is beginning to talk about hybrid capability," Hanselman said, "and interconnect is the linchpin that makes it work."

Reassessing internal architectures

Even as IT administrators assess DCI, they continue to evaluate their data centers' core infrastructure. Leaf-spine backbone designs have accelerated, as the legacy hierarchal data center networking model continues to fade, Hanselman said.

"[Leaf-spine] has now gotten to a point where people expect that it will be the way forward. It's now an accepted technology, where a year ago, folks were just beginning to kick the tires. Replacing the core architecture of your network is not something people take lightly," he said, but there is now an agreement that the mesh topology will become dominant. "That wasn't necessarily the case before."

The next 12 months will also see more data center managers discuss how they might use  25 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) and 50 GbE switches, as well as other components, prior to the standards' expected ratification in 2016, Hanselman said, but in the meantime, 40 GbE deployments will continue to proliferate.

So will containerization -- hailed by some as an alternative to hypervisors, and a technology its supporters contend will make application deployment more efficient in the virtualized data center.

Containers pace data center forecast

Hanselman has seen a tremendous amount of interest in containers as an efficient and flexible means through which to deploy applications, but it is a big step for a lot of people, he added. "We see people starting to make the move to get some experience with them [containers], but perhaps not treating them with a lot more sophistication than relatively trimmed down virtual machines. And that presents some challenges."

To really leverage all of the benefits of containers, you have to begin thinking about a microservices architecture, he said. "Moving to a lightweight packaging environment is OK, but by doing that, [administrators] aren't taking advantage of what containers can really do."

There's a tremendous amount of interest in containers ... but it is a big step for a lot of people.
Eric Hanselmanchief analyst at 451 Research

Some of the uncertainty about how to best exploit container technology might stem from a pervasive and thorny problem: the lack of qualified personnel. Containers, along with the continuing maturation of software-defined networking, security concerns and other evolving technologies are all putting enterprises in a bind. Indeed, Hanselman said, finding qualified personnel is getting tougher than ever, and it's an issue that could cloud the 2016 data center forecast.

"The people component of this continues to be one of the biggest challenges moving toward next-stage technologies," he said, citing sluggish OpenStack adoption as a prime example. "One of the factors that makes OpenStack cloud so expensive is that there are so few OpenStack-qualified engineers. Enterprises are forced to find people with experience, and, of course, that's very expensive right now."

'Hype' in hyper-convergence beginning to retreat

Finally, Hanselman said he believes some of the hype associated with hyper-convergence may be disappearing -- and at the right time. Storage is no longer the main focus of hyper-convergence, he said. Enterprises are now beginning to understand how other applications can be best managed and delivered in such an environment.

"What's happened now is that the capability is now more sophisticated, and in a lot of cases, the aspirations are a bit more sophisticated," he said, adding that vendors are now beginning to add other services to the mix. "We're moving from simply having a scale-out virtualization platform to one where cloud orchestration capability is part of this whole environment as well."

Next Steps

Containerization and the cloud: What's next?

Another look at data center trends

Will 25 GbE standard end data center crunch?

Dig Deeper on Data Center Networking

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