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Top data center industry trends of 2016

Data center industry trends include managers who don't just manage servers, storage and networking, but instead manage 'hybrid IT.'

The future data center will continue to be hybrid -- not just part of a hybrid cloud.

Coordinating a vast landscape of people and infrastructure will soon be a regular part of data center managers' jobs, one of the many changes predicted by IDC for 2016 and beyond.

In its latest FutureScape look at data center industry trends, analyst firm IDC in Framingham, Mass., said that planning the location of data center resources will become a "critical requirement" while maintaining control over the staff to manage it all.

"Geography matters more than ever -- where you place these data center assets," said Richard Villars, vice president of data center and cloud at IDC, and one of the authors of the Worldwide Data Center 2016 Predictions report.

The location of customers, business activity and plans to expand to new geography will increasingly influence data center decisions, he said.

Hybrid IT is the management of various environments in various locations, often run by a combination of staff and outsourced workers, Villars said.

"For many companies, the past three to four years have been the trip to the hybrid cloud," Villars said. "The next three to four years are about moving to a hybrid IT world."

That new hybrid IT world will involve diverse assets in an enterprise's own data center, as well as third-party data centers.

"How do we change the role of the data center team and IT team?" Villars said. In the past, data center managers have focused on buying equipment, plus managing facilities and equipment in their own data center and third-party data centers. But in the future, 60% to 65% of IT assets will be off-site and the IT staff will need to manage all of it, he said.

"You'll have to continue to refine your data center selection, governance and performances processes," Villars said. Data center teams will take on new jobs and need to evaluate partners, as well as provide consistent management and security across all internal and external access points, he said.

Those internal data center teams must find providers that offer more than facilities and equipment, but have "transformative" teams with various skills, including software developers.

One of the most challenging data center industry trends will be the monitoring needed for data centers around the globe, said Frank Wichlac, vice president at Acxiom IT in Downers Grove, Ill.

"It isn't just one location anymore, it is all over," Wichlac said. "It is not your building, it is everything that brings IT together and you have to take responsibility for all of it."

An inside-outside world

Data center managers will also need to bring together the people running their data centers, whether it is staff or outside vendors.

Outside companies will provide some of those management and configuration tasks, Villars said. The challenge for IT organizations will be to manage multiple data centers with multiple sources of staff.

As more companies rely on service providers for staffing, data center managers will increasingly face the job of managing the movement and security of data -- whether it is on premises or off premises.

"Your staff and the staff your partners provide to help deliver new service and new capabilities ... [are] increasingly critical," Villars said.

The job of data center staff at enterprises will be to organize and synchronize people to make sure all teams are functioning and performing efficiently, he said.

Agile has long been a term associated with software development, but it will soon become an equally important quality in the data center, too, Villars said. Agility for the data center will mean being able to move assets and data into new facilities quickly, and also getting the financing in place.

The new data center environment will soon take center stage, said Adrian Nowik, technology manager at Pan American Energy in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

I will need to monitor the management of distributed data centers not managed by my own people; I will need to pay more attention to that.
Adrian Nowiktechnology manager, Pan American Energy

"I will need to monitor the management of distributed data centers not managed by my own people; I will need to pay more attention to that," he said.

Different data centers and different infrastructures will also force Nowik to find new tools to monitor security and performance.

Convergence and software-defined infrastructure are other data center industry trends that will also become "more critical," and the move toward it must happen faster, Villars said.

Some of the new hyper-converged offerings in 2016 and 2017 will drive data center consolidation for the data center and its staff. Hyper-converged and software-defined infrastructure will accelerate the use of managed services to do basic administration and configuration, as well as shift staff time toward "value-added business services" and managing all the data that is being created.

"This has major consequences for data center facilities and data center deployment," Villars said.

Data center staff will need to be more aggressive about automating discovery, provisioning and location tasks, he said.

"We can't rely on individuals walking through the building looking for space and power," he said. "We need systems to be self-identifying and self-discovering."

Next Steps

Data center ideas that got lost in translation

Agility and communication skills advance IT organizations

Five IoT trends to follow in data centers

Dig Deeper on Converged infrastructure (CI)

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What changes in the data center will most affect your job in the coming year?
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Not sure if it will affect my job but I do see more data centers looking to utilize its energy more efficiently. How will they do that? By bringing in newer equipment. 
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