By 2020 it is anticipated that over 80% of enterprise workloads will be in the cloud. As the utility value of the cloud has become real for the business world, there is a new zeal to make the switch. But, while many think the cloud is the ultimate destination for all business technologies, this is not completely accurate.
The era of enterprise data centres is not over. If anything, having your own data centre remains a significant advantage for many companies, including smaller firms leveraging modular infrastructure for micro data centres.
"Cloud isn't a destination, it's a way of doing things," explains George Senzere, Solutions Engineering Manager at Schneider Electric. "That's why cloud is also often called a business model. But it all still relies on data centres to work. The big question is whether you should own a data centre, put it all on someone else's infrastructure, or rely completely on services. But, in reality, the best results come from blending different data centre models."
Cloud + on-premises
Cloud and so-called on-premises data centres are not at odds with each other. The rise of hybrid- and multi-cloud strategies clearly indicate that companies want to have the best of all worlds. They are prepared to host workloads, data and other digital assets on a variety of platforms, including their own internal data centres.
But, why not just migrate it all to the public cloud?
"Cloud is great for many things, especially standard applications. But it doesn't fit all. There are some drawbacks, such as latency and government data storage regulations. Some leading business sectors, such as finance, are very invested in hybrid cloud, which combines their own data centres with other cloud hosting choices."
Benefits include regulatory compliance around data, managing bandwidth and maintaining true control over their infrastructure, enabling them to adopt a more robust hybrid strategy to backup their data and information.
"Companies are not entirely abandoning their own stacks for services. Yes, cloud services have their role when it comes to standard applications like customer relationship tools (CRM), e-mail platforms, Web and content distribution, collaboration tools like Dropbox, Box and so on. When it comes to organisation custom applications, companies still tend to use their own stack and place their IT gear in managed co-location facilities. In many cases, these custom applications are where different organisations drive their competitive edge."
This narrative has expanded to include edge data centres. These are smaller deployments that sit close to the heart of operations, such as servers coupled to a factory. When split-second decisions are crucial, as they would be with factory automation, a remote cloud brain won't be of much help.
"We see a shift in the thinking and the way the edge is now moving, with a lot of standardisation using what we call micro data centres. These could be single standard rack or multiples of these. These could be specialised racks sometimes inside an office environment and, on the other hand, these could come with soundproofing, electromagnetic interference filtering, bomb-proofing with integrated cooling and power."
The multi data centre era
In other words, the data centre is no longer a singular. Every major sector has a reason to motivate its own data centre presences. For telecommunications firms and other providers of co-location hosting and platform services, it's a way to bring new hosting products to the market. For financial companies, it helps control data and speeds up transactions. For manufacturers, it grants onsite access to modern systems.
"Moving workloads is becoming easier and more elastic. So the old thinking of replacing your data centre with a cloud hosting alternative isn't as bulletproof as before. Because it is becoming easier to shift applications, workloads, and local instances of cloud platforms, choices around data centres have expanded as well."
Yet, creating such integration and collaboration between systems is not a small task. One drawback is the cost of putting data centre infrastructure in place. To this end, the market has been developing standardisation, ease of implementing redundancy, security and other features to be deployed in more modular and turnkey ways. These are being supported by a new generation of analytics and reporting platforms. Visibility of data centre footprints has never been clearer.
"Companies are not choosing between cloud and their own data centres. They are using whatever combinations work for them. But they do expect a much lower total cost of ownership than with past data centres. This is why prefabricated data centre solutions are becoming popular. These solutions are pre-configured at the factory and therefore deployment time onsite is minimised, saving customers valuable time."
Companies aren't abandoning data centres. But they expect the same value and agility as with other modern technologies. The great advances in data centre technologies have opened doors to new deployments, such as micro data centres, and boosted concepts such as edge computing. Smaller companies can now own their own data centres and large enterprises can blend their data centre assets to greater effect.
"Cloud isn't the end of data centres," Senzere concludes. "It's actually revitalised the sector. There is so much more choice and opportunity now for companies."