Driven by emerging technologies such as cloud, big data and software-defined networking, the future of the data centre is fast becoming a reality.
Consequently, vendor behaviour will fall into one of three categories - Protectors, Evolutionary Disrupters and Revolutionary Disrupters - as the pace of change increases across the industry.
But as the channel seeks to keep up, keep innovating and keep growing, where should partners place their bets?
“We’re seeing a blurring of the lines within the data centre,” Veritas Australia and New Zealand managing director, Louis Tague, said.
“Organisations at a global level are embarking on huge digital transformation change and Australia in particular has gone along that path at a rapid rate.”
Today, Tague believes business leaders are challenged to move enterprises to the next level, creating both an opportunity and an imperative for digital transformation.
As a country, Australia has a history of early adoption through virtualisation and cloud, momentum which Tague believes is shifting towards digitalisation.
“We’re ahead of the curve in terms of digital transformation,” he added. “This is evident through the discussions we’re having with enterprise and large government customers.”
As new agendas continue to alter the landscapes of business, education, entertainment, and government, hybrid cloud is emerging as a critical enabler of digital transformation.
Specific to Australia, organisations are strongly moving in the direction of hybrid cloud, with a range of businesses already utilising one or two small applications or workloads.
“Our view is that the market shouldn’t fight the rise of cloud, whether that be public or private,” Hewlett Packard Enterprise general manager of technology services, Chris Weber, observed.
“We believe in embracing the change and providing customers with the option through a hybrid play. We aim to be the broker in the middle which allows the customer and the partner to choose depending on preference.”
Hybrid cloud here to stay
Across the country, businesses are turning to hybrid cloud environments, shifting IT workloads out of the office into the data centre, subsequently creating greater demand for data centre services.
“Five years ago the most important conversation to have was around specific pieces of hardware,” Zerto country manager of Australia and New Zealand, Matthew Kates, added.
“Now data centres are software defined and are not as limited to the physical building. So now the discussion shifts to preserving the health of the application and ensuring it runs efficiently at a low cost.
“Within that, the application isn’t always in the physical data centre that a customer owns, it might be in a hybrid cloud infrastructure or a private cloud. Zerto exists because we think that choice is important, and if the application moves then it should be secure.”
For APC by Schneider Electric national application manager, Adam Wilkinson, the data centre ecosystem cannot be defined “as one of the other” because “not everyone has moved to the cloud”.
“We’re actually seeing customers withdrawing from the cloud in some cases but there’s no denying that it’s a big part of enterprise business today,” he observed.
“But the data centre ecosystem as we define it - whether it’s not it sits in the cloud, third-party service co-location, private or hosted services - is application dependent.”
For Wilkinson, the equation is simple - some applications are going to perform well in the cloud but some won’t.
“Currently more than 50 per cent of workplace applications are still sitting in an on-premise data centre, so that part of the market is not going away,” he qualified.
Depending on specific definitions of a hybrid cloud, IDC research showed that over 50 per cent of Australian organisations have already adopted what they consider to be a hybrid cloud strategy, while close to 80 per cent of businesses have some aspirations for a hybrid cloud environment.
“There’s a lot of hype in the market but this isn’t all hype,” Mycom general manager, Andrew Gillard, said.
“Customers still want to own the data and the server because it makes them more involved. Despite a lot of emerging technologies entering the market, businesses still prefer to hang onto this information because it’s their unique IP and they don’t want it to disappear into the cloud.”
In its simplest form, hybrid cloud is allowing organisations to experience the best of both worlds from a workload perspective.
Yet for those quick to take to the skies en masse, gradual backtracking is occurring as cost and performance promises fail to materialise.
“If we were having this conversation a year ago, it would have been about one-way traffic to the cloud,” Channel Dynamics co-founder and director, Cam Wayland, observed.
“But now we’re seeing movement back to a hybrid environment or even fully back on-premise which is a huge change in direction for the industry. It all comes down to the maturity of the customer because there was an expectation that cloud was the panacea for every computing problem.
“That view of ‘let’s stick everything in the cloud’ is changing because all businesses have achieved is moving the problem from one place to another.”
Despite the wave of customer logos advocating a cloud-first - and perhaps cloud-only - corporate policy, the industry remains perplexed by what actually constitutes as a fully-fledged migration, creating market confusion as a result.
“At the pure infrastructure layer, I’m not observing too many businesses coming back because most never got into the cloud in the first place,” Dimension Data general manager of data centre business, Nathan Vandenberg, explained.
“But what we are seeing is a sweating of the assets because organisations thought they could get into cloud and have spent the past few years trying. To some degree I suspect they are probably disappointed with the process given it’s more experience and complex to operate than first thought.”
Data centre criteria
Increasing use of big data, Internet of Things applications and analytics software, coupled with growing global mobile data traffic which is expected to increase at 53 per cent from 2015 to 2020, is seeing enterprises’ demand additional bandwidth, data storage and computing power, as well as infrastructure and services for secure storage and monitoring of data.
Combined, these factors are driving demand and growth of the Australian data centre services market.
According to Frost & Sullivan research, the overall market reported annual growth of 18.3 per cent reaching $976 million in 2015, and is predicted to grow at a 12.4 per cent rate until 2022, with the market reaching $2.055 billion by 2021.