As I close out my 2013 year, I look back at the issues, solutions, technologies we’ve deployed and I analyze what worked, what didn’t and where our focus should be for this year. I see a lot of hype/fluff happening in our industry right now, I also see a lot of promising technology that may not be hype and may actually work. With that said, here is a short list of technology/trends I will be watching for 2014:
This is by far the area that has gotten my attention the most and one I will be heavily watching throughout this year. Dell really got my attention with the VRTX, the price point and the capabilities are pretty amazing. I am also encouraged by Moonshot and the SL2500 from HP, both look very promising as well. I know there are some other players in the space like Nutanix but will need to wait and see how long they last. The “big guys” are starting to enter this space and with their ecosystem and pricing abilities not sure how long some of these other guys will be around for. For us, the prospect of converged infrastructure means easier, faster upgrades/deployments which in turn allows us to focus on providing good business solutions for the company! My hope is to see better products and pricing in this space within the next year; the market really needs an SMB priced and powered solution for this technology to be adopted in the SMB space, I am sure it will happen this year!
I think this year will be the “go time” for cloud and everything it is associated with. I’m fully expecting competition to get much more intense, especially as the number 2s and 3s in the space begin trying to take on Amazon. I fully expect IBM to come out of nowhere this year and really begin to push hard, I know many laugh at IBM’s ability but they have decades of experience and most important RELATIONSHIPS in place with large business, government, healthcare. I think a lot of the niche players will either stay niche, go out of business or get purchased; too much money is swimming around the cloud market right now for anything but the big guys to play. I do think some major growth/share will be stolen from Amazon, some of their competitors have too many more years experience and relationships established than they do. (think VMWare, Microsoft) Microsoft and VMWare especially have a lot to build on, the likely-hood that they are powering your business are pretty strong and they have been building their ecosystem/technologies for a while to support the hybrid environments. I expect to see the hybrid and private clouds get the most attention and traction and public cloud decrease to a “shared web hosting” experience at some point once the price wars slow down. The mega-marketing hype of the cloud will also die down and folks will actually start crunching some numbers now that they’ve had a good year or more running in this environment so see the ROI if any.
Software Defined Data Center
We will most definitely be watching this space, our existing HP networking is capable of running OpenFlow so we may even begin testing in some limited capacity. I think VMWare though stands alone on their ability to deliver a true integrated environment. Once certain products leave BETA status they will have the ability to deliver a compute/network/storage stack running on commodity hardware which is “the dream”. I don’t have any doubts that our next major infrastructure refresh will consist of commodity storage/compute resources and some VMWare software and that’s about it, I am VERY excited for that day. I expect to see a lot of development in this space in the next year, especially by the major players, although not many of them will be able to provide the 3 stack natively, many will fall back onto partners/3rd parties to fill in the pieces of their strategy. Really the success of each vendor in this space will be determined by which “silo group” controls purchasing at many companies. If the server guys have the edge, expect VMWare to shine, if the network guys rule the day, Cisco will as well. Let’s not pretend even though its 2014 now that network and server silos don’t exist (which they shouldn’t!) and that they don’t heavily influence purchasing decisions!
I also see some interesting companies to watch in 2014:
– IBM. I said it earlier but I think IBM will really be coming out of the corner in regards to it’s cloud aspirations, they have billions to throw at these efforts and are entrenched in large enterprise, couple that with the SoftLayer acquisition and I think Amazon/Google/Microsoft better watch out! They also have a significant marketing arm that knows how to “wine and dine” large enterprise.
– Microsoft. With the epic fail that is Windows 8, its forecast that in another year or so we will see another Windows version (similar to Vista and Win7 moments) . I think Microsoft’s biggest issue is lack of long-term strategy, hopefully the new CEO can grab hold of this and more importantly EXECUTE this vision. They have a ton of known threats from Android, Apple and others in a variety of markets, perhaps the most concerning, the unknown threats that will take them by surprise in the future (think Apple in early iPhone/iPod days) that will effect them in the super long term. They still have their cash cows in the Server/Enterprise space but even that I think will become at risk in some point in the future, since Microsoft has largely run “unopposed” on the server/enterprise software side I think it will only be a matter of time before they will begin to slip, either because of direct competition or due to lack of Microsoft usage. If you have a large pool of Android/iOS devices your dependencies on Microsoft begin to lessen more and more. They also have a lot of work to do with Azure and the cloud, since they went “all in” on it.
–VMWare. They have a wonderful private cloud strategy and the tools to make a wonderful hybrid strategy, now their challenge is execution, again their relationships with existing business will be a huge portion of their success. 2014 will be the year to watch them, they have their hyrbid/public service, their SDN efforts and more, all of these need to be moved forward. As a VMWare customer, I would not hesitate to move forward with a “full” VMWare SDN environment once it reaches a suitable level of maturity.
– Dell. They have a lot of great technology acquisitions in their portfolio, the real challenge though is taking a lot of these products and heavily integrating them into a comprehensive strategy. I think a leadership opportunity exists for them in the shared/converged infrastructure space but will depend on them getting their portfolio into shape; the VRTX is a great showing of the engineering minds there. They still need some help with their cloud strategy though too as that is a large piece of potential growth for them, for now it appears their attention is on partner/3rd party agreements.
– HP. I admit, we are pretty much a full HP shop so I may be a bit biased. I think HP has the most to gain and the most to lose within the next year. Like Dell they have had a fair share of acquisitions that need to be brought fully into the HP family. They also have a good opportunity to lead in the converged infrastructure future as well. HP also has some DEEP relationships in the large enterprise space, has a consulting/services arm to support them as well. Their cloud strategy has been kind of “meh” but this could improve if given the right attention. I have been encouraged by their recent additions of many virtualized options such as the StoreOnce VSA, StoreVirtual VSA, etc. They also have a fairly well thought out SDN-Network plan, many of their existing switches are “SDN-ready” without “rip and replace” so I expect this to give them a decent edge over other vendors.
– Cisco. Again, another vendor with deep relationships that it has shown the ability to easily spin into new business. They have done a lot of “cleanup” in the past year getting rid of dead weight products. They have some weakness in that they rely on partner relationships with VMWare and others to power portions of their solutions; with VMWare directly entering the SDN-Network space I expect many of these relationships will suffer, especially as they enter the same market space as their “partner”.
The bottom line for many of these vendors is the same, they need to create/simplify/integrate their products into a “single pane of glass” solution for business. Their existing customer relationships will remain influential in their success as many customers will simply “stay with the same” moving forward. Long term the vendors who can deliver a software-defined, converged storage/compute/network environment will rule the day.