Enterprise IT Earthquake: SDN, Virtualization and More Appliances

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December 11, 2012 – There is a rumble beneath enterprise networks, appliances and data centers that will disjoint and realign the ways data is shuffled and shared in short order, according to a new trends forecast from Gartner Research.

Gartner VP David Cappuccio on Tuesday offered the enterprise research firm’s top 10 disruptive trends expected for the next five years. Scattered throughout the forecast were the “cascading” effects of dealing with enterprise data, with a few storage and network approaches rising to the top.

Over the last six months, software-defined networks have shot up in enterprise importance as a way to better deal with data and application traffic patterns. These changes raise big questions for enterprises to address in how they deal with provisioning, centralized control, bandwidth and application requirements due to virtualization. In addition, Cappuccio says this will push a change in skill expectations or new hires of networking staff, and that hardware experts will still be needed but won’t be as critical.

Related to the networking shift of operations and workloads are two other big disruptive areas Gartner expects during the next few years: virtual data centers and hybrid cloud services. Hybrid cloud is developing as a hearty resource for storage of general purposes services like test development, as well as some back office systems, and enterprise IT will be tasked to ensure integration and guaranteed services. An offshoot of sorts of increased virtualization and hybrid deployments, virtual data centers will grow as an option in the near term, to the point where “the data center itself just looks like a resource.” Issues central to the growth of virtual data centers are how to handle licensing and the need to figure out horizontal problem solving with virtualized failures and success.

Cappuccio says that enterprises will also have to deal with a new generation of “appliance madness”: as configuration and deployment become easier, many enterprises will opt to pile on more layers, prompting ownership and integration issues down the road.

“Eventually, it keeps on building to the point where this is a lot more complexity than we realized, and we still need to manage,” he says.

Big data and storage, one of the few repeats from last year’s disruption list by Gartner, is anticipated to bring much more change to IT expectations and dedications by 2016. On one hand, companies are beginning to actually delve into ways they can tap into existing and external data loads for hidden gems, but more than that is the weight of increasing data loads. Cappuccio says petabyte-level growth in annual compound enterprise data will force new approaches to storage and may scare off business talk of big data all together.

Other shake-ups for the next five years are expected in the demands on IT jobs, a complementary view of client and server architectures, juggling the complexity of new and consumer-owned devices and the “Internet of Things,” as that connectible web of devices and electronics hits the enterprise stack.

Recommendations offered as part of the forecast include:


  • Assess projects and their relationships with a horizontal view.
  • Prioritize based on risk, reward and long-term impact.

In next 90 days

  • Approach capacity planning without presumptions.
  • Review staffing based on business value and not just IT value.

In next year

  • Review ways to converge networks, infrastructures and skills.
  • Establish business plan impacts.
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