In the enterprise, the trend has been toward centralizing data and work in the cloud, but an increased number of smart devices may push out infrastructure into a distributed cloud.
Frank Gens, senior vice president and chief analyst at IDC, spoke about the topic during his talk on preparing for a digital-first economy at the IDC Directions conference last week. The presentation was part of a half-day virtualized event, as the Boston conference was changed to a digital one in light of the coronavirus situation.
The push toward decentralization, Gens said, would be driven by more internet-connected devices coming online.
“By 2021, there will be almost four billion smart devices connected at a time, and 39,000 data centers,” he said. “The problem here is that 39,000 data centers are too few, and they are too far apart to predictably deliver services.”
Gens said the added demand for connectivity could make a case for distributing the cloud infrastructure into places like bank branch offices, hospitals, hotels and retail stores. This, he said, stood in stark contrast to earlier predictions that centralized cloud data centers would kill off locally based infrastructure.
“We believe, in 2023, over half of an enterprise’s infrastructure budget [will be spent] outside of corporate data centers,” he said. “Last year, [that figure] was only about 10%.”
“We’re going to see … a whole new explosion of enterprise infrastructure, just when we thought infrastructure was dead,” he added.
There will likely be a battle regarding what computing at the edge will look like, Gens said, with an integrated model, which could offer simplicity, would compete against a mix-and-match system that would provide flexibility.
“As we get three or four years out, we think the decision will become less critical, because customers are going to demand both approaches,” he said.
Those who have turned to the centralized cloud to provide such things as virtualized applications and desktops have spoken of security and remote-work benefits. One bank director of infrastructure, for example, said it was a benefit not to store data in branch locations, as he could ensure security without worrying about managing branch servers remotely.
If a more distributed model of infrastructure does come to pass, it remains to be seen whether those benefits will be lost.