In the first installment of our 2017 Predictions blog series, Lee Caswell, VP of Products, Storage & Availability at VMware, sets out 5 key things to expect for hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) in 2017. Drawing on predicted trends from industry analysts such as the decline of fibre channel and the rise of all-flash storage, this first blog post looks at the key role HCI will play in the development of data center infrastructure in 2017.Over the course of 2016, we’ve seen how Cross-Cloud Architecture has reshaped VMware’s vision for HCI with the introduction of Virtual SAN 6.2 and vSphere 6.5, two products that have taken HCI to the next level. HCI is a crucial component of the software-defined data center (SDDC) and in 2017, we predict it will take center stage, particularly as the movement of data from physical storage into the cloud affects how we approach the day-to-day management of the data center.
Below, we’ve outlined five things we expect for HCI in the New Year
1- The rise of the IT generalist in the storage world
The arrival of HCI and related software tools means storage can now be procured and managed by IT generalists, rather than specialists. HCI lets these generalists manage the entire infrastructure with a single, familiar set of tools. It also reduces the risk of making mistakes because it lowers entry-point pricing and allows IT departments to start small and scale out over time, adding more storage and compute as business requirements change. As this trend continues, traditional enterprise storage and storage professionals will increasingly focus on targeted use cases and applications where storage performance is critical. More importantly, because HCI allows staff and resources to be allocated more efficiently, we expect the conversation around IT in 2017 to begin to shift away from the day-to-day maintenance of infrastructure, toward how IT can become an actual driver of business value.
2- Ethernet’s in; Fibre Channel’s out
Industry analysts have long predicted the slow death of Fibre Channel-based storage. In 2017, we expect it to wane faster than ever, with the steadily increasing speed of standard Ethernet all but eliminating the need for proprietary SAN connections, even among the enterprise customers who are Fibre Channel’s traditional stronghold. The acquisition of Fibre Channel vendor Brocade by Broadcom is only the latest indicator that storage specialization is becoming a smaller part of the market. As hyperconverged, scale-out storage becomes the norm, servers and storage devices will increasingly reside on the same network, while Fibre Channel will look more and more like a legacy technology.
3- Expensive, purpose-built storage appliances will cede the market to server-based solutions
In the past, procuring enterprise storage often meant dropping tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars on a proprietary storage appliance that was hard to configure and support. HCI is changing all that. The truly hyperscale data center operators – the AWSes, Baidus, and Alibabas of the world – showed us the way. Each of them built its massive storage infrastructure using a scale-out model based on x86 servers. Just like how we see proprietary Fibre Channel giving way to Ethernet, we expect a growing number of organizations – including large enterprises – to see the wisdom of this model and follow suit. We also think 2017 will be the year the traditional enterprise storage industry really starts feeling the heat as a growing number of organizations begin taking advantage of the agility, easy scalability, and cost savings afforded by HCI.
4- HCI democratizes storage for companies looking to make IT a competitive advantage
Server hardware vendors have been struggling lately, with sales slumping in 2016. We expect that trend to reverse in the New Year, though. In fact, the arrival of Intel’s much-ballyhooed, next-generation Skylake server chips in mid-2017 is likely to trigger a data center refresh cycle the likes of which we haven’t seen in a long while. Many organizations around the world will likely see this as an opportunity to make the leap to HCI. As a result, even organizations in emerging markets that never really invested in traditional enterprise storage will begin looking at their infrastructure and applications in a whole new light. And because HCI leverages the existing IT skills of VMware’s 500,000 customers who already know servers, Ethernet, and applications, we believe 2017 will see the start of a radical transformation of data center operations in organizations of all sizes.
5- All-flash storage becomes the new normal
The economics of flash media are now such that the performance and flexibility of solid-state storage cannot be ignored, even by organizations with tighter purse strings. The scale-out design of HCI means standardizing on flash reduces customers’ support costs. And with prices plummeting, we predict that flash sales will reach a tipping point in 2017, where even customers with limited IT budgets will need to justify their decision to buy hard disk storage instead of all-flash solutions, rather than the other way around.