We've long had data analytics, but not like what big, fast processors Apache Hadoop, Apache Cassandra and others offer. They reached near-mainstream status in 2011 and will blossom even larger in the enterprise in 2012. Keep an eye on new companies built on these, such as Cloudera, Hortonworks and MapR, as well as newbies such as Birst (in-memory analytics) and Kapow (kuh-POW).
Data Center Automation
More huge data centers loaded with servers, storage arrays and networking boxes are being controlled by fewer people because new-generation systems management software is automating tasks once done manually. Apple, for example, just opened a huge new data center (costing about $1 billion) in Maiden, N.C., that one would expect to require a staff of several hundred technicians. In reality, only 50 new full-time workers will be hired. The facility practically runs itself from a few stations, and some of those can be remote if necessary.
Hybrid Cloud Systems
Companies are seeing the value of using some private and some public aspects of cloud computing in their IT systems. Sensitive data, such as customer records, intellectual property and human resource information, can be stored and accessed within a company's firewall, while less-sensitive data such as email and Word documents might be stored and accessed in such places as Google Docs, Amazon S3, or clouds supplied by IBM, HP, EMC or Dell.
Improved Electrical Efficiencies
Intel, AMD and LSI are among those that continue to produce processors that require less energy and yet offer more horsepower. Power-supply providers such as Emerson Power and APC are shipping devices that are much more efficient than what were on the market just five years ago.
Converged Data Center Controls
New and improved unified data center controls that include monitoring of data flow and storage, as well as all the physical facilities. New software from DCIM (Data Center Infrastructure Management) companies such as Power Assure, nLyte, Avocent, AccessIT, BMC, Aptare, Modius and Rackwise can monitor activity and enable control of all aspects of a data center—physical and digital, including power usage, storage capacity and a legion of other metrics. Efficiency has never been so efficient.
Exabyte Storage Systems (Thousands of Petabytes!)
These aren't in production yet, except in extreme IT systems such as those used in national scientific labs, oil and gas exploration centers, and weather and military installations. But enterprises started asking about them in 2011.
Public Cloud Services
Amazon, Rackspace, GoGrid, AT&T, Verizon and others were pleased with their 2011 business as more and more enterprises discovered that they can get exactly the services (storage, analytics, accounting, social networking, application monitoring, for example) from Web services , and get them on-demand, and in reliable fashion.
You can't even walk through the parking lot of Terremark's newest data center in Santa Clara, Calif., without being spotted by 24/7 security cameras. It has extreme construction features that earthquakes, floods, fires and human-caused power outages cannot affect. It takes an act of Congress to get into the facility—even with a Terremark staff member beside you. Because digital business data is becoming so valuable, this is where data center security is going.
Big Data Workloads
More devices mean more data to process—it's as simple as that. However, it's not simple to process all that data and come out with reports and projections that help the company "suits" make decisions that bring increased profitability to an enterprise. More data is pouring into data centers from humans and machines than ever before, and the deluge isn't letting up. 2011 will be known in IT annals as the year big data got big.
These have been around in one form or another for more than a generation, often described as thin clients, dumb terminals and other things. But true progress was made in 2011 in the performance of these centralized-system computers, led by companies such as Citrix, MokaFive, Pano Logic, nComputing and Wyse. Where they were panned in the past for latency, cost and connectivity issues, high-definition video over VDI has even been conquered.