There has been no shortage of predictions that the cloud will eventually lead to the demise, or diminished role, of corporate data centers. However, new industry data suggests that cloud computing will soon make data centers even busier places than ever.
Cisco just released its first Global Cloud Index, and it has a clear message: it doesn’t matter if you’re using applications from your own data center or from somewhere else, they will be delivered from the cloud. Organization’s data centers will be moving to the cloud in a big way. And, by extension, chances are your own organization will be as much a cloud provider as one outside the firewall. This has interesting ramifications for any organization that maintains its own data centers and for the people who run those data centers.
Source: 2011 Cisco Global Cloud Index
Cisco’s new index is built on a series of predictions on the growth of global data centers and cloud-based IP traffic. The vendor estimates that global data center traffic — cloud and non-cloud — will grow four-fold from 2010 to 2015 and reach 4.8 zettabytes annually by 2015 — growing at a rate of 402 exabytes per month by that time.
The cloud computing piece of it will grow 12-fold over the forecast period, and represent over one-third of all data center traffic by 2015. Further, Cisco predicts, more than 50% of all data center workloads will be processed in the cloud.
Global cloud traffic will grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 66%, reaching 1.6 zettabytes by the end of 2015. That’s a rate of 133 exabytes per month.
Cisco predicts that in two years, by 2014, the amount of workloads processed in cloud data centers (51%) will surpass those processed in traditional data centers (49%) for the first time. A year after that, cloud computing will grow to 57% of data center workloads.
What does Cisco base these assumptions on? The vendor points to increasing data center virtualization — the addition of a switch and service layer that abstracts the hardware and applications underneath — as a key indicator of cloud computing adoption.
This means it’s time for IT and business leaders need to recognize the changing relationship technology has with their organizations. IT no longer is a “department” somewhere in the building that runs the reports and keeps the lights on in the server room. Rather, it is evolving into a broker of services that need to be provisioned, on demand, as the business changes and expands in current markets or moves into new markets. IT’s role is to help the business determine and identify whether the services the business needs at that moment are available from the organization’s own IT resource network, or if they need to be secured from outside networks.
It also opens the door for opportunities for organizations with data centers to extend their cloud services to a wider audience — partners, vendors, current customers, and beyond.
Significantly, in its conclusions, Cisco doesn’t make a big deal about the distinction between public cloud (“consumer”) data centers and corporate (“business”) data centers. The index is based on the assumption that most businesses and their end-users will be using the compute and applications resources of a mixture of on-premises and off premises service providers. Also, a lot of the growth of cloud within organizations can be attributed to new devices, and new end-user expectations:
“The growing number of end user devices combined with consumer and business users preference or need to stay connected is creating new network requirements. The evolution of cloud services is driven in large part by users’ expectations to access applications and content anytime, from anywhere, over any network and with any device. Cloud-based data centers can support more virtual machines and workloads per physical server than traditional data centers.”
Thanks to cloud and virtualization, data centers will be even busier places than they have been. The Cisco index estimates that 76% of all IP traffic will still be within the data center three years from now, barely changed from the current 77% level. That’s because there will continue to be a lot of messaging and data moving between applications, databases, backup sites, and processors via parallel processing. As the Cisco analysis put it:
“Traditionally, one server carried one workload. However, with increasing server computing capacity and virtualization, multiple workloads per physical server are common in cloud architectures. Cloud economics, including server cost, resiliency, scalability, and product lifespan, are promoting migration of workloads across servers, both inside the data center and across data centers (even centers in different geographic areas). Often an end user application can be supported by several workloads distributed across servers. This can generate multiple streams of traffic within and between data centers, in addition to traffic to and from the end user.”