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Looking ahead to the Consumerization of IT and virtualization in 2010

After enjoying the last couple of hours of 2009 with my family, I thought how fitting it would be to end the year with a post!

I’ve been incredibly busy this year and my lack of posts really shows it, one would think I forgot my login or something. In that time, however, there has been no lack of great topics to talk about, and here are a couple that lit my candle in 2009:

Consumer computing is fast approaching levels of enterprise computing, making corporate citizens more computer savvy, and making IT management work harder to keep things humming along. Mark my words, you are going to see quite a bit of work-slash-home networking products come to the market in 2010, specifically around data protection and storage that are going to tout “office integration” or “workplace integration”.

The mobile computing and storage space and the rate at which consumer mobile devices are making inroads into the datacenter is something that I’m paying close attention to. Specifically, the Android OS and the Nexxus One and Droid hardware–these devices are significant to enterprise computing because they take the whole idea of a netbook to another level!!

If you remember the Toshiba Libretto, these new devices are what the Libretto could have been. The mobile phones are both fast and offer the ability to the savvy user to essentially replace their office with a hand-held device. And for those with super security conscious IT departments, there are companies like Good Technologies “Good for Enterprise” that allows an administrator to remotely wipe Exchange data from a Droid in a fully encrypted container so “security” can’t be used as a reason not to support the platform.

Take this a step further, I’m sure you’ve been asked at least once already to store backups of a user’s phone to tape, or better still seen a backup of a user’s phone on their shared drive. If you haven’t yet, you’d better get ready for it!

Virtualization has been rampant, and I predict it will be in my toaster within the year, allowing me to virtually toast multiple slices of bread simultaneously and store the trend info on how many times I’ve burned my Eggo’s on SSD. While I’m being flippant, we may actually see a hypervisor capable toaster or fridge or washer, and apparently I’m not the only one that thinks so–in an article on a New York times blog Sehat Sutardja has been quoted as saying: “[Virtualization] will become pervasive…It will be used in everything from TVs to IP phones to digital picture frames to washing machines.”

If Android is in a washing machine, then I have Linux and everything that is available to Linux in that washing machine … just think of the Folding at Home scores you can rack up if we linked the neighborhood washing machines up!! Think about all the data that will need to be stored when they start tracking wash cycles of a particular garment via RFID!!!

On a more serious note, the age of operating systems for small to midsized branch office network attached storage devices, as well as smarter switches and other infrastructure devices, is upon us. Microsoft is not standing still — Windows 7 is small and much faster than its predecessors (why do I feel like that is a paraphrase of the architect from the Matrix?) and is definitely a viable OS for these devices, so now we have raw Linux; Moblin is making its way onto the stage with Android, among others. And remember, all these things have one thing in common: they need somewhere to store the data they produce.

Speaking of virtualization, the march of development in the virtualization management software space is going to pick up steam in 2010, and there are going to be some casualties. The winner will be the one that allows truly heterogeneous management of my virtual data center from storage up, and after taking a look at Cisco’s offerings I’m going to be paying very close attention to what they do. I’ve been digging really deep into vSphere, and it’s jam packed with goodies. Orchestrator is a little gem — properly executed, it can add a good bit of speed and agility to any rapid provisioning initiative you may have, BUT be careful, with a poorly orchestrated (you knew that pun was coming didn’t you?) workflow that shiny new NAS with 400TB of storage will be gone in a day.

Enterprise Storage has continued to move forward at a blistering pace, with drives breaking the 2 TB mark, and some serious performance increases in the form of SSDs, Sata III and Fusion IO putting Flash directly on the bus. I look at price in this space. The price of SSDs will get lower and lower and the performance will continue to go up. We will see the proliferation of end-to-end solutions mixing the two, a la Exadata and the Sun 7000 line. Take a look at what Fusion IO is doing in the high end gaming market! It’s funny but the consumer machines of today are looking more and more like the specialized workstations and servers of yesterday.

I see some things that we really missed the ball on last year, too. Convergence really isn’t here yet. The drive to make a device the “media hub” and then backing all that stuff up is getting there, but hasn’t quite caught on yet. I think once it gets closer it could drive an entire wave of datacenter build outs to handle it. I can also see telcos getting into the act a little more aggressively, offering storage services at their major POPs to enable some of the consumer products to work properly. This has some unintended but positive side effects for the small to medium business because they will have ready access to fast, reliable online storage. Well, at least in theory. I’m still waiting for it to happen!

Cloud storage also hasn’t really shaped up to be the game changer I thought it was going to be. I like the idea of not owning infrastructure and I’m a really big fan of the rapid provisioning/de-provisioning model, but I just don’t see the bandwidth needed for that to work here in the US the way it really should. In Korea and various places who’ve deployed infrastructure recently I see cloud as a viable model, but not here.

With that, folks, I’m back and rarin’ to post!!!

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