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Are data centres heading towards a future of technology hardware monocultures?

You have probably heard the representatives of at least a few vendors say IT is moving towards a future where the core technologies that underpin the services you run will be based on ‘commodity hardware’ components. Will you end up with IT environments based entirely on x86 chipsets and where all of your storage is composed of any old disks running underneath clever storage software? By Tony Lock, Freeform Dynamics Ltd.

IF YOU ARE LIKE MANY of your colleagues you currently run many different platforms in your data centres and computer rooms. On the server side you will likely have a large estate of x86 / x64 servers running applications sitting on Microsoft Windows or Linux operating systems.

There is a good chance you also make use of servers running a traditional UNIX OS, significant amounts of which are hosted on a non-x86 chip architecture such as IBM Power, Sun / Fujitsu Sparc or Intel Itanium.

Further, you may also have Mainframe computers, which rarely utilise x86 technology, running business critical workloads.

Clearly, the servers in your data centres today are anything but a technology monoculture. The same is true of your storage estates where you may well have platforms from many suppliers based on a variety of technologies; hard disk drives of various connectivity and speeds, rapidly expanding volumes of Flash / SSD storage probably with at least a smattering of traditional Tape.

Over recent years you probably took steps to rationalise your platforms, perhaps starting with the virtualisation of servers. This has had a dramatic impact on your x86 estate,

10 I February 2015 Figure 1

and maybe to your UNIX environments. More recently you may have started to consolidate your storage platforms.

Our research [1] shows that you are likely to be well on the way to move from storage dedicated to a single application or service towards environments composed of storage pools shared between multiple applications. More of our research [2] indicates that this trend is likely to continue as you modernise

your data centres and move towards more ‘service centric’ operations (Figure 1). In order for you to facilitate this infrastructure modernisation, the organisation of resources into flexible pools that can be automatically managed by policy is something you are likely to consider.

This drive has helped vendors promote the concepts defined under the terminology ‘Software Defined’, especially software

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