Tech predictions for 2018: Data center trends to watch for
Yes, it’s that time of the year again. Another year gone by, which means another batch of predictions for the future.
As is always the case, I own up to my misfires by leading off with the predictions I made last year and admitting what came true and what didn’t. So, let’s get that out of the way.
My 2017 predictions: some hits, some misses
- Apple continues to lose its cool. — I think I got this one right. iPhone 8/X sales are not what they were expected to be, the list of complaints is growing and more and more people say the company has fallen behind. Hell, even I switched to a Galaxy after frustration with the poor quality of iOS 11.
- Cloud adoption will slow. — Oh, boy, did I blow that one.
- Some tech manufacturing will return to the U.S. — I don’t know about tech, although I did see Microsoft has moved Surface manufacturing to China. But overall, manufacturing has gained 138,000 jobs in 2017 vs. a loss of 34,000 in 2016. And we all know who will take credit for that.
- China will lose its luster as a manufacturing hub. — Clearly that has not happened.
- The Internet of Things (IoT) will continue to spin its wheels. — There appears to be considerable buildout of edge networks to accommodate IoT. And more and more tech is making its way into cars. So, IoT is happening — just not at a revolutionary pace.
- AMD comes back big. — Oh, yes, definitely. Sales are up and the Epyc server chip is scoring big wins.
- Augmented reality (AR) will grow faster than virtual reality. — True, thanks to the success of Pokemon Go, the first killer app of AR.
- Net neutrality will suffer setbacks. — Duh.
- Windows 10 will continue to sell better to consumers. — Guess I missed the mark on this one. Net Applications put Windows 10 at 23 percent in December 2016 vs. 47.7 percent for Windows 7. One year later, Windows 10 is at 32 percent, while Windows 7 is at 43 percent. So, Windows 10 gained nine percentage points, while Windows 7 only lost four percentage points. Obviously, Win10’s gains came at the expense of older XP machines and Windows 7 hangs on.
- Amazon and Microsoft will continue to dominate the cloud. — Not a hard prediction to make, although Google is making a charge.
13 tech predictions for 2018
OK, on to my predictions for 2018:
1. Serverless computing takes off. — This one is easy to make. It’s bubbling like a cauldron with tremendous interest, and development is racing along. Once people get past the misleading name and realize its benefits, it will take off.
2. Google gains ground. — It won’t take market share away from Amazon and Microsoft, but Google will finally give people a viable choice instead of either/or. Diane Greene is revamping the way Google deals with customers, and having Cisco as a partner can only help.
3. Edge computing will continue to increase. — With growth in IoT, increased data consumption by mobile devices, and the rise of highly distributed applications in the enterprise, compute will need to be spread out. While it’s one thing to build massive data centers, some things will require a more balanced approach.
4. Two big gains for artificial intelligence (AI). — One of AI’s major uses will be in areas where it can respond faster, such as intrusion detection. It’s no longer enough for a firewall to send an alert to an admin of suspicious behavior; AI will detect it and act before an admin can come back from a bathroom break. The other major use will be to fix or correct things that might otherwise be caused by human error. Even the most cautious eyes can fail. AI cannot. Unless it’s programmed badly. By a human.
5. Big data becomes smaller. — A recent study out of MIT found big data often means bad data. And with data sets growing into exabytes, companies are finally going to become more picky about the data they collect and keep and start discarding more.
6. The rise of smart cities. — IoT will have its chance to shine in “smart cities,” with things like intelligent street lights and bus stops, autonomous public transport, traffic reporting, weather, and other quality-of-life issues. The only limit on this will be whether cities have the money for such technology.
7. SSD takes off in the enterprise. — Two things are set to happen: a major jump in capacity and the ability to fully support SSDs in a virtual environment. Those two combined will make SSDs viable, not just as a fast cache between memory and traditional hard disk storage but as regular storage. And right now, there is plenty of supply of NAND flash, so the prices will stay low.
8. Companies continue to find a balance with the cloud. — With so many companies making a U-turn and bringing apps back on premises after moving to the cloud, IT will finally stop blindly lifting and bringing everything to the cloud and carefully evaluate what goes to the cloud and what does not.
9. White box servers win over IT. — Right now, off-brand server vendors such as Quanta and SuperMicro are popular with hyperscale data centers from Amazon and Facebook, but IT is still going with Dell and HPE. Expect to see that change in 2018 as the off-brand servers gain the attention of IT.
10. Hyperconverged moves to hyperspace. — Hyperconverged systems — fully integrated servers with storage, virtualization and software-defined everything pre-build and pre-configured — are already taking off like a shot and will continue to accelerate. The pendulum has swung from customers not wanting vendor lock-in to gladly accepting vendor lock-in if they can get a turnkey solution that’s up and running fast. And Dell is running away with this market thanks to having EMC and VMware under its roof.
11. Data center shutdowns decelerate. — For a while, IT was obsessed with getting out of running its own data center. Some harsh lessons later, and they are realizing you can’t put everything on Amazon Web Services (AWS). Your data warehouse, for example. So, IT will begrudgingly hold on to the data centers it has, albeit with a smaller commitment.
12. Intel buys Marvell. — Marvell is already poised to be a major ARM player with the Cavium purchase. This will bring around Intel, which is looking for new revenue growth and a chance to get into the ARM business. Qualcomm and Nvidia will throw a fit, and rightfully so, but this administration doesn’t seem to have a trust busting nature.
13. Water cooling continues to grow. — What started out as a means for hobbyists to overclock their systems will turn into a legitimate form of cooling in data centers. Air can only cool so much, and with rack density increasing, something else is needed. Water is hundreds of times more efficient than air and ideal for these massive new server chips with up to 32 cores.