For our final post of 2008, we reflect on the year past. In many ways, it’s a year we’d all like to quickly forget and hopefully all our conditions will change to make that so. As these things go, 2008 was also a year of changes in many regards.
Early this past year, we remarked that 2008 would be the break-out year for container data centers. While we continue to hear about Microsoft’s strong intentions in this regard, we would have to say that the break-out failed to materialize. While we saw tangible evidence from IBM and HP entering the container market, few notable developments shook this space. One recent development that I like is the MobiRack from Rackable Systems. The packaging concept, at least, is just what the doctor ordered for retail DR applications, such as hurricane-related regional outages, and the like. My personal conversations with several container vendors indicated that product pricing is very difficult to pin down, but remains too high to persuade the enterprise Customer to give a serious look. That being said, there has been an improved availability of public information about containers to allow the engineers to at least use the concept in straw man plans.
The economic downturn has impacted the data center building boom that we talked about earlier this year, but seemingly not to a significant degree. We’ve heard reports of the big cloud facilities slowing down a bit, but according to recent AFCOM information, two thirds of data center managers report their budgets either increasing or staying the same for 2009. Of those that are cutting costs, the cuts are coming primarily in the areas of travel and training. If you’ve read our post entitled, “Your Next Data Center,” you’ll recall the thought process described for the enterprise considering IT facilities expansion, and the transition from a notion of building to a notion of colocation. My opinion is that given the “cash is King” climate, it will be much more difficult for the enterprise executive in the days ahead to approach the board for large capital investments in IT facilities, which makes colocation even more attractive than before. I’ll move out on the limb to predict an increase in business for the colocation providers in 2009, resulting from this.
One development that we should keep an eye on is the California project from Cisco. Many may have been taken off guard by the notion of Cisco entering the blade server space, but from conversations with Cisco executives over the past five or so years, this is entirely consistent with Cisco’s internal vision of its role in data center technology. Observing how Cisco navigates its relationships with partners HP and IBM in this regard will be a good lesson in how one maneuvers into the competitive space of existing business partners. It will also be very interesting to observe the rate of adoption of Cisco blades by enterprise Customers. Standards are hard to break.
Social networking made some strides in the enterprise space this year. In spite of the incremental progress though, there still seems to be ambiguity around the value of such capabilities. In my opinion, the ambiguity is strongest in the firms that have a skeptical view collaborative development. Still, I feel strongly that social layers on top of IT and business processes hold tremendous promise, even if we’ll wait another year for development in that area.
On a personal note, while I’m anxious for the second half of 2008 to be a distant memory, I’m very grateful for the wonderful acquaintances I’ve made with new Clients, business partners, and colleagues over the course of this year. I’m blessed with so many good friends and opportunities, and doubly blessed by the fact that friends and opportunities so often come along with one another. I’m looking forward to more of that in 2009, as well as beginning new adventures with new Customers and new friends in the New Year.
Happy New Year.