Service providers are investing in their data centers (DCs) to improve scalability, deploy applications rapidly, enable automation, and harden security, according to the Data Center Strategies and Leadership Global Service Provider Survey from IHS Markit. Respondents are considering taking advantage of new options from server vendors such as ARM-based servers and parallel compute co-processors, allowing them to better match servers to their workloads. The workloads most deployed by service provider respondents were IT applications (including financial and on-line transaction processing), followed by ERP and generic VMs on VMware ESXi and Microsoft Hyper-V. Speed and support for network protocol virtualization and SDN are top service provider DC network requirements.

“Traditional methods for network provisioning to provide users with a quality experience, such as statically assigned priorities (QoS) in the DC network, are no longer effective. The DC network must be able to recognize individual application traffic flows and rapidly adjust priority to match the dynamic nature of application traffic in a resource-constrained world. New requirements for applications delivered on demand, coupled with the introduction of virtualization and DC orchestration technology, has kicked off an unprecedented transformation that began on servers and is now reaching into the DC network and storage,” said Cliff Grossner Ph.D., senior research director and advisor for cloud and data center at IHS Markit.

“Physical networks will always be needed in the DC to provide the foundation for the high-performance connectivity demanded of today’s applications. Cisco, Juniper, Huawei, Arista, and H3C were identified as the top five DC Ethernet switch vendors by service provider respondents ranking the top three vendors in each of eight selection criteria. These Ethernet switch providers have a long history as hardware vendors. When selecting a vendor, respondents are heavily weighing factors such as product reliability, service and support, pricing model, and security,” said Grossner.

More Service Provider Data Center Strategies Highlights

Respondents indicate they expect a 1.5x increase in the average number of physical servers in their DCs by 2019.

Top DC investment drivers are scalability (a driver for 93% of respondents), rapid application deployment (87%), automation (73%), and security (73%).

On average 90% of servers are expected to be running hypervisors or containers by 2019, up from 74% today.

Top DC fabric features are high speed and support for network virtualization protocols (80% of respondents each), and SDN (73%).

100% of respondents intend to increase investment in SSD, 80% in software defined storage, and 67% in NAS.

The workloads most deployed by respondents were generic IT applications (53% of respondents), followed by ERP and generic VMs (20%).

Cisco and Juniper are tied for leadership with on average 58% of respondents placing them in the top three across eight categories. Huawei is #3 (38%), Arista is #4 (28%), and H3C is #5 (18%).