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Cisco made a brazen prediction in its Global Cloud Index report this month. The company forecast that by 2021, just three years from now, only 6 percent of workloads would be processed in what they called traditional data centers.

That means that the remaining 94 percent would be processed by cloud data centers (however you define that). That is by any measure, a bold statement, especially when so many companies are still reportedly very early in their transitions to the cloud.

Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy says that currently only around 15 percent of his client’s workload are following the cloud model. “This number [from the Cisco report] makes sense to me only under two circumstances. First, these would be new workloads like mobile, big data, AI, and ML. Secondly, this would include public and private cloud,” Moorhead said.

A 2017 survey by Uptime found that 65 percent of workloads were running in data centers owned by the firm, which was according to the report, the same as they found in 2014. That would leave 35 percent in the cloud, a fair bit more than Moorhead’s clients, but still leaving quite a bit of ground to cover to get to 96 percent by 2021.  

The answer could lie in Cisco’s definition of cloud workloads and another prediction from the report: “Hyperscale data centers will grow from 338 in number at the end of 2016 to 628 by 2021. They will represent 53 percent of all installed data center servers by 2021,” the Cisco report stated.

What’s more, the company says, those hyperscale data centers will account for 55 percent of all data center traffic by 2021.

What are cloud workloads?

To get a better sense of what they meant by traditional data centers, I asked Cisco for some clarification and they said it included any cloud workload, whether in the public cloud or private data center, so long as it was running virtualized workload in a cloud like fashion. They also said this predictions encompassed all workloads, not just the new ones as Moorhead described.

“Cloud data centers are defined as data centers with a high degree of virtualization and offering applications compatible with the NIST definition of cloud. Cloud data centers can be operated by service providers as well as private enterprises,” a Cisco spokesperson explained.

The math is probably predicated on those hyperscale data centers running a massive number of the workloads by 2021, but given that many enterprises are still far behind the curve, this still feels like an optimistic prediction to me.

Regardless, the trend is probably right. Even if it doesn’t happen as quickly as Cisco is predicting, we are likely going to see fewer and fewer traditional data centers in the next decade, even if it isn’t quite as low as 6 percent by 2021.

Photo:  asharkyu / Shutterstock. 

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Ron Miller

Posted by Ron Miller

Ron Miller is a freelance technology reporter and blogger. He is contributing editor at EContent Magazine and enterprise reporter at TechCrunch.

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