Technology evolves in phases. Consider the computer, which started as a piece of hardware that took up entire rooms, changed to a piece of equipment that could fit comfortably and relatively affordably into the household, and is currently sitting in your pocket with a number of unchecked e-mails and text messages. As breakthroughs are made and new technology is put in place to change the function of technologies around it, technology can go through rapid advancements in short periods of time that change how we considered using the technology in the first place.
Something like that is currently happening in the IT industry. The so-called “First Era of IT” was born in the early ’80s. It consisted of a central mainframe that combined the components of what IT was at the time — storage, compute, networking, and applications. This coincided with the advent of those early computers, and would end the same with the rise of the personal computer.
Thus the “Second Era of IT” was ushered in, characterized by the separation of those components. The change was massive. IT personnel had to change their manor of thinking, which was based around a centralized system during the First Era. Instead, IT focused on individual components in order to build the highest-performing solutions possible to manage the increasing computer load. The networking systems were much more strained under this new era, which lead to growth and the rise of big IT companies such as Cisco.
Today, some IT experts are asserting that the Second Era is dying, while the “Third Era of IT” is about to begin. It will be classified by a shift from infrastructures based around components to those based around data and application. Due to the exponential data growth and the need for a more agile network, the nature of data will dictate how applications are designed. As servers and other technology pillars surge, networking has remained relatively stagnant. Due to the rise of Big Data, the Internet of Things, and mobile-social-virtual application workloads, a new network architecture is needed to accommodate massive amounts of unstructured data and distributed application requirements.
The data center is changing, as it has changed in the past and as it will change again in the future. We need to be prepared for it, both as IT professionals, and as companies utilizing the technology that those professionals create. Ready or not, the Third Era of IT may have already begun.