From Black Boxes to White Boxes and no Boxes

Infrastructure space has been ripping many boundaries of the old-world IT flavor. What connotations are these ripped boxes bringing forth?

Pratima Harigunani
New Update

Pratima H


MUMBAI, INDIA: At the recently-held fifth annual 'Gartner Infrastructure, Operations and Data Center Summit', a lot of practitioners and research think-tank minds were busy dissecting the future of infrastructure, that - with a number of tools and on a variety of tables.

The musings acquire a different gravity of sorts when we see how the Indian IT infrastructure market could be around $1.9 billion in 2016. Analysts have been opining here that Indian enterprises will continue to focus on optimizing their infrastructure and operations budgets in 2016 and that this optimization would be primarily driven with an objective to create next generation data center architecture that can support the ever increasing challenges of digital business.

Public cloud and DevOps bubbled up as major trends and at the same time it was discussed that enterprises are focusing heavily in terms of their optimization efforts and evaluating software driven networking (SDN).


Investments in software defined storage, alternate, cheaper devices, such as flash storage, for arresting the ever increasing storage costs; were also noted as significant movements.

On the margins of this summit we got the chance to chat with someone who brings quite a diverse set of experiences when he slices the future. He has seen networking up, close and personal; has been a managing editor in the media space too and has also served as the chief technology advisor to the CIO orchestrating system integration, technology standardization and transformation efforts at the American Red Cross.

We ask David Willis, Vice President & Distinguished Analyst, Gartner to distill what he feels the future is pouring and why software, hyper-scale, open, IoT, and bi-modal would become 'all the more deep' adjectives to the data centre that we know today?


What new is in the air this time? What is the ‘next’ thing that you are seeing in this space? Specially, with the kind of multi-dimensional perspective you have on the table.

For one, the rise of IoT has fascinated a lot of people. The speed and depth at which data can be tracked was not just around even five years back. There is a grouping of new forces like intelligent machines, AI etc happening, making the world more sci-fi-ish. Systems can actually learn and evolve to create outcomes that builders may not have envisaged.

For India, in particular?


The rise of cloud services is giving a different level of scale to infrastructure. We are leapfrogging to a digital world and mobility has new implications. That becomes interesting in a place where people were used to legacy modes.

The event observed that with the emergence of bimodal IT, there are a lot of investments made in Mode 1, and is an increasing focus on building Mode 2 infrastructure. How is India adapting to the change?

In India, CEOs expect about 40 per cent growth in digital revenues between now and 2020 so the pressure on CIOs is unprecedented. That can become a difficult goal with old processes. Bimodal approach allows an enterprise to innovate at a safe pace. They can pick and try ten ideas and accelerate the two that work best.


David Willis, Gartner David Willis, Gartner

After Converged Infrastructures, SDDCs (Software Defined Data Centres) etc, what next would the infrastructure industry be moving to?

The whole idea of hyper-scale infrastructure is very engrossing. Pioneered by the likes of Facebook etc, it brings forth the notion that individual servers can scale well and bring flexibility in the environment. Another concept – that of tightly integrated systems (with storage, compute etc as one block) is also interesting.


Are data centres not moving from one extreme to another – from being black boxes to white boxes?

That is happening fast as servers and storage have become commoditised. It sometimes makes more sense to have big volumes instead of maintaining a small number of boxes. This could be a difficult transition for vendors because it flips the model strongly for buyers.

Would you say that software is taking over hardware?


Yes. Look at virtualization, SDDCs, SDN etc. The order of magnitude has changed from a limited number of applications in a box to creating everything in a software and then taking it to any box you want. The realm has and will change a lot.

Thinking of DCI (Data Centre Interconnect), is the space ready for IoT age in terms of protocols and standards?

IoT surely means a massive influx and not just on gathering data-side but on the side of real-time controls of the system. These two different directions will put new stress on data centres and have new demands on networking and agility.

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