The data centre has a "white box" future, according to VMware, which believes that all hardware will have been commoditised in five to 10 years as functionality is increasingly delivered at the software level as part of the software-defined data centre trend.
VMware outlined its vision of the future at its vForum event in London, where EMEA chief technology officer Joe Baguley recounted the many capabilities the firm has added to its platform this year and looked ahead to where this roadmap is taking customers.
"If we've moved everything into the hypervisor, what happens? What will your data centre look like in five to 10 years? It has a white box future," he said, indicating that hardware such as servers will increasingly be seen as commodity items by enterprise customers who will care little about it so long as it has an x86 processor inside and is capable of running vSphere.
"I think you will see the rise of firms like Quanta and Supermicro," Baguley said, referring to two of the most notable manufacturers of "no frills" commodity server hardware. Customers will be able to "rack and fire these boxes up in minutes" using VMware's provisioning and orchestration tools to automate the process, he added.
It is not just enterprise server vendors such as Dell and HP that should be concerned by VMware's assertion. The firm has recently extended its vSphere data centre software platform with VMware Virtual SAN, which aims to replace conventional storage arrays with pools of internal storage across clusters of server nodes; and its VMware NSX technology which virtualises the network layer and brings it under the control of the hypervisor.
VMware's move towards a vision of the software-defined data centre is not intended to adversely affect hardware vendors, many of which are its partners, but is seen by the firm as necessary in order to deliver the level of automation and orchestration required to make enterprise IT infrastructure more agile and responsive.
This latter was a key theme of the vForum, where VMware unveiled research showing a large gap between the needs of the business and the speed at which the IT department is able to deliver on those needs.
In the UK, the average time lag is five months, according to the research, while over a quarter of IT decision makers put it at seven to 18 months.
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