Top 10 Lists: Cloud-Heavy Predictions Spell Opportunity

Despite the information technology upheaval implicit in most “Top 10” lists from IT analysts and publications, a good chunk of that upheaval actually spells new opportunities for solution providers. The recent “10 Data Center Predictions for 2013” from CRN is no different in that there is plenty of opportunity to see in its list.

I won’t repeat the predictions here, because it’s a worthwhile read, but several of them are heavy on the trends of cloud computing, virtualization, and data center consolidation. To quote CRN’s overview, administrators will have to “wrestle with new threats and constraints to operations, including the BYOD (bring your own device) wave, the need for more and ever more bandwidth, and that ever-present cloud.”

Yes, the big, borderline scary-sounding cloud. Cloud computing can seem intimidating to data center solution providers because ostensibly, it’s all about users tapping into computing resources as a service rather than deploying them on premise. This might seem to spell an end to many small to mid-sized data centers that traditionally provided a steady stream of demand for solution providers.

Take a deeper look though, and you’ll see that the cloud does not eliminate the data center. It is changing the data centers, however, and the technology needed to manage them.

For starters, it’s not like every system is in the cloud already. The reality, according to analyst firm Gartner, is that around 20 percent of applications have migrated to the cloud.

But the cloud, along with technology breakthroughs such as virtualization and blade servers, is bringing about a wave of data center consolidation. As the CRN list notes, there will be fewer data centers as part of consolidation efforts, even while we should expect to see more “multi-tenant” data centers aimed at meeting the need for collocation and consolidation.

This is not necessary bad news for resellers. As CRN notes: “Consolidation of corporate data centers could mean big business for the channel in 2013 thanks to several factors, including mergers and acquisitions, which often results in redundant IT systems and data centers, and the use of technologies including virtualization, deduplication, thin provisioning, the cloud, and other ways to cut back on the amount of hardware required.”

So the cloud does have a silver lining, pardon the pun. Resellers should be looking to these types of opportunities:

  • As companies consolidate systems and bring select functions to the cloud, availability becomes even more critical. This elevates the importance of data center infrastructure management (DCIM) software that lets customers monitor, plan and manage shifting loads and resources.
  • Since reliable connectivity is critical with the cloud, data center administrators will need to ensure that any place where IT equipment or systems reach out to the cloud—such as wireless access points or voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone systems—are highly available and well managed. Think of this as “protecting the edge” of the cloud. The key here is to help customers with the right configuration, design and build for these “edge” points of contact. Schneider Electric’s online configuration and design tools bring greater speed and accuracy to this challenge, helped along by the integration of our tools with those for Cisco products.
  • The cloud and other trends like virtualization have led to denser, more heat-intensive data centers. As customers consolidate, they’ll need help with rack-to-row cooling strategies, and quite likely, some updates to uninterruptable power supply (UPS) and smart power distribution unit (PDU) solutions to keep these more dense, mission-critical data centers up and running. It’s been our experience, for instance, that companies that right size power and cooling infrastructure when they virtualize and consolidate can cut up to 30 percent on their electricity bills.

Finally, think of energy assessments as the groundwork for what a particular customer or facility needs most in dealing with trends like the cloud. Channel partners can be involved in selling, presenting, and following up on services such as EnergyStep1 assessments.  This presents an opportunity the reseller, and for the end customer, provides practical due diligence to identify the steps that are going to make them “cloud ready.”

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