As new enterprise cloud technologies like Nutanix Clusters become available, companies can more easily run applications in their own data centers or in the public cloud. Combined, these innovations allow scalable data centers that are close to the action, where applications are used most, without being so gigantic.
“Most of the time in computer science, we’re miniaturizing things,” Pandey said.
[Related article: Future of Cloud Computing Will Shatter into Smaller Things]
Vacuum tubes gave way to transistors, which gave way to integrated circuits. Mainframes paved the way for personal computers. Smartphones begat smartwatches. Cameras, microphones and GPS sensors moved from dedicated devices to chips on technology platforms. Software pulls it all together.
As Pandey sees it, the technology pendulum will swing, once more, from concentration to dispersion.
“How do you disperse computing to where the people are, where the data is, where the machines are?” Pandey asked. “That’s only going to happen when you atomize these $1 billion facilities into much, much smaller data centers.”
A conventional server rack is about 6 feet tall. A conventional cloud data center has hundreds or thousands of these racks in facilities covering hundreds of thousands of square feet.
How small can a cloud architecture go?
“Half a rack,” Pandey predicted.
He’s talking about moving clouds from data centers the size of a football field into 3-foot stacks of computing gear. He points to other times when this shrinking has happened. Microsoft used software and generic PCs to take computing out of the mainframe and disperse it among the population. Google put Android software on billions of smartphones using standard platforms.
Virtualization will be central to the half-stack cloud. Software-defined networking and storage will rely on standardized computing hardware.
“We’ll still have general-purpose capabilities, just like we saw with smartphones, while apps will provide single-purpose capabilities,” Pandey said.
That’s the essence of hyperconverged infrastructure: clouds don’t have to be cooped up in billion-dollar data centers anymore. The quickening pace of innovation is already shrinking and dispersing computing resources. Will the data center go the way of the smartphone?