Everyday Virtualization

How the Datacenter Will Change in 2016

Rick riffs on legacy apps, automation and storage for the new year.

As we go into 2016, a number of things run through my mind about what will change this year and set the tone for the future. Part of me thinks we are at the edge of an explosion of innovation, but another part of me realizes that many IT pros are entrenched and can't move as fast as the ecosystem. So I'm going to take a look at four areas in which I think we'll see changes in 2016: legacy applications, automation, containers and solid-state storage.

Modernizing Legacy Apps: Let's start with legacy applications, which are the eyesores of today's modern datacenter. They're programs like a point of sale system that runs on a physical server with a 12-year old database engine and even older OS. Or maybe it's a warehouse management system; the point is that there are plenty of very important applications that (obviously) weren't designed to work in today's datacenter.

Modernizing these apps may actually provide an opportunity for more innovation for the business, even beyond datacenter infrastructure. I'm talking about doing more than just virtualizing that clunky but important application; I'm seeing a fresh view, a new way of enhancing business functionality with today's technology. If you don't think it's possible to modernize a 10-year-old app, ask whether your business has materially changed in that time. Change is inevitable, so consider scrapping the inefficient, outdated app and replacing it with a new version with today's options.

Beware Automation: My next prediction is more of a caution about automation. I'm not saying that automation is bad, but rather that it's overdone in some situations. You may have seen examples on Twitter or IT pro blogs about a massive Windows PowerShell script causing unforeseen problems in the datacenter or to critical applications, for example.

IT pros have strong tools with Windows PowerShell, PowerCLI, APIs and more that we can use to build individual workflows and set key configuration items. I've used them to deploy new VMs for testing and saved time by creating scripts for new employee user accounts and e-mail addresses.

My concern is that these scripts are so powerful, and if you're not very careful, they can do bad things. The small differences between deleting or creating a VM (or user, or database and so on), for instance, can easily lead to mistakes. It doesn't take much to accidentally run the wrong script or forget to specify a target. Consider a script to power down a VM; instead of selecting a VM, though, the script targeted a host. That would amplify the scope by 20 times or more in some situations. In other words, be cautious with scripting and automation; we're all one powerful script away from the unemployment line.

Containers "and" Virtualization, not "or" Virtualization: Containers and virtualization will be what sticks. This is a bold one here. I really like what VMware and Microsoft are doing with this application shift in the datacenter (it might have usefulness with legacy applications, too). VMware vSphere Integrated Containers and Hyper-V Containers (coming in Windows Server 2016) are going to be the way enterprises manage and protect these new application models. Many think you don't need virtualization with containers; I disagree. I believe that the important containerized workloads will still need a hypervisor. Where VMware and Microsoft are going is the sweet spot, and the way I see it working best.

A New Storage Standard: My last prediction concerns flash and solid-state storage technologies. Remember just a few years ago when companies sought the bragging rights of being "all virtual" in the datacenter? I think in 2016 we'll see IT pros and even IT decision makers tout a 100 percent modern storage paradigm. I doubt we'll see the total removal of rotational storage (especially for backup storage), but for production workloads this will be the new standard. Hybrid and adaptive flash arrays (which blend flash and rotational storage) will be an easy path to that paradigm, but modern storage is the best way to ensure your virtual infrastructure meets the needs of today's datacenters.

2016 will be a big year for the datacenter. Innovation will continue, and you should be part of it.

About the Author

Rick Vanover (Cisco Champion, Microsoft MVP, VMware vExpert) is based in Columbus, Ohio. Vanover's experience includes systems administration and IT management, with virtualization, cloud and storage technologies being the central theme of his career recently. Follow him on Twitter @RickVanover.

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