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Register Previous Next Next Previous Next Previous Previous Next Download Subscribe Sound Off Want to raise your profile? InformationWeek is looking for technology and business strategy experts to write independent and thought-provoking opinion columns for our site. Contact managing editor Shane O'Neill to learn more. Commentary The Future Datacenter Comes Off-The-Shelf Here's a concept: The device that you are reading this article on — maybe a tablet, maybe a laptop — is akin to the datacenter of the future. Think back a decade or two to when you were setting up your home tech capability. You would buy a processor, memory, and storage — maybe together, maybe separately, but always paying close attention to the specs. Then you would pick a monitor, keyboard, mouse, and so on. You would act as the system engineer and administrator, load an operating system and some software, and hope you got it all correct. These days, it would no more occur to most of us to assemble the components of a PC ourselves than to go buy an engine, chassis, and wheels to start building a car. We don't want to be automotive engineers; we want to drive somewhere. Likewise, we buy a laptop preloaded with all the basic applications to let us communicate, calculate, interact, and share, using standard protocols and tools. Our new PC is a fully converged, referencearchitected, preconfigured, interoperable, cloud-integrated platform. Sure, a few geeks choose their sound cards and drive speeds with care and find ways to supercharge their tablets' memories. But most of us go with the package, because it does what we need. Our personal tech is a tool, not an occupation. IT and datacenters are conceptually going the same way. The manifestations are all around us in both action and parlance, evidenced by "software-defined X, Y, and Z," "convergence," "integrated stacks," and cloud versions of everything from software to storage. The drivers are exactly the same influences that made us stop building personal computing systems — bundled, integrated, preconfigured, standards-based, and easy-to-use systems (of whatever scale) are flexible and cost-effective, and have a fast time-to-value. Businesses want that just like individuals do. As the demands upon both business and personal technology grow, we realize that IT is a central necessity to our businesses and lives, not just a nice adjunct to process payroll or let us play Pac-Man. Nevertheless, we also MARK PETERS realize technology can't grow to consume ever greater percentages of operating budgets. Nor can IT remain the domain of whitecoated specialists who reinvent the wheel in every deployment. The technical complexity of IT gear will remain, but it will be subsumed increasingly to the component and system vendors. Just as personal computing has become simplified, business IT will increasingly become more of a tool, simply ordered off a menu, and less of an occupation. Tech careers will change to focus on deeply understanding the needs of a business in order to derive maximum value from its IT tools, and they will be far less about putting all the components together. In effect, you'll only need to know whether you want a small, medium, or large datacenter system. What you achieve with that system will be far more important than the system itself. Mark Peters is a senior analyst at the advisory firm Enterprise Strategy Group. Discuss this article here or write to us at December 2013 2

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