The Increasing Importance of Enterprise Datacenters in our Digital Universe

The International Data Corporation’s Group Vice President, Dave Reinsel, investigates the evolution from the first to the third platform, and how datacenters are playing an increasingly significant role in today’s mobile environment.


Information technology (IT) evolves slowly. However, there are definable periods of time where the maturation of IT happens on the back of distinct technology.  IDC calls these distinct technologies “platforms,” and the IT industry is now fully engaged on the third platform.

The first platform, pre-1980s, was defined by mainframes and terminals where compute and storage were consolidated into data centers. In fact, most of the world’s compute and storage existed solely in datacenters across the world. The birth of the second platform, commensurate with the launch of the PC in 1981, grew to maturity on the back of clients, servers, and networks. In the second platform, the majority of compute and storage was distributed within PCs that now measure in the billions throughout the world as an installed base.

The third platform is defined largely by four transformative technologies, consisting of cloud, big data, social networks, and mobility. Improvements in networking speed, security, and availability have solidified the success and maturation of the third platform, especially as it relates to mobility and all the devices that help us accomplish on-the-go computing.

The number of mobile devices in the world today with some level of compute and connectivity measures in the billions, and is on an exponential growth trajectory. Consistent with the 2nd platform is the continued proliferation and distribution of compute power. However, storage is no longer being distributed as quickly as it was on the 2nd platform. Mobile devices by nature tend to have a tremendously smaller storage footprint than PCs, and instead rely on connectivity to an enterprise datacenter somewhere to fetch the data that they crave. In fact, think of most mobile devices as consumption engines, where the vast majority of time, the task is to feed the compute.

These mobile devices capture and send data, too, but mostly small amounts. Instead, what our mobile devices likely will become are instruments of information — serving us data, instructions, health insight, localised advertisements, etc. This personalised information will be delivered to our mobile devices. And, as more companies become software enabled, more and more of these deliveries will be turned into businesses built on the back of enterprise datacenters that manage real-time data feeds and decision making to deliver personalised mobile services.

However, mobile devices, including the forthcoming wearables, will come in all shapes and sizes, using different processors, screen sizes, operating systems, and the like. Datacenter managers must be able to deliver data to any device, anytime, anywhere, in the right amount of time. This translates into being agile and improving time to deployment. This in turn must result in streamlined infrastructures (think integrated systems), pools of highly accessible data (think data lakes) and fast delivery (think flash).


In essence, mobility ratchets up the importance of the datacenter in our digital universe, and it’s nearly incalculable what new businesses will be launched with network performance and availability improving every year. The datacenter truly is at the center of it all, and its role and importance is growing fast.

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