Industry Voices—Raynovich: Why pros want smarter data centers

data center
Data center professionals are looking at an array of technologies to improve their operations and efficiency. (Pixabay)

Months of research reveal that data-center professionals are looking to smarten up their data centers rather than just adding more bandwidth and servers.

The reasons for this are clear. As companies and IT professionals try to keep up with cloud demand, adding hardware is seen as an expensive solution. Therefore, they're pursuing optimization technologies such as smart network interface cards (SmartNICs) and processor offload, which can speed up existing network connections and processing power without requiring new racks of servers, networks and storage.

The recent Futuriom Data Center Network Efficiency Survey, which was released this week, targeted 218 IT professionals about their views on networks in the data center (DC). (Disclosure: This research was conducted independently, but it was funded by Mellanox Technologies.)

Users surveyed showed a high level of interest in software-defined virtualization and network optimization technologies. End users see many potential benefits in upgrading the network for data centers. These benefits include faster application performance (64%), stronger security (59%), greater flexibility (57%) and application reliability (57%).

Network optimization technologies are in high demand from IT and networking professionals and they are seen as a key way to improve DC performance.

When data-center pros were polled on a variety of technologies for improving the efficiency of the data center, SmartNICs came out on top of a list of optimization technologies. This technology adds additional packet-processing power to the network interface card (NIC), which can be used to offload some of the computing power that might otherwise be consumed by central processing units in servers.

For example, respondents were asked to rank different technological approaches to improving data center performance. “Improve the efficiency of networks using techniques such as processor offload and SmartNICs,” got the highest average ranking of 2.77, and “Improve the efficiency of application code” got the second-highest ranking, with an average of 2.85. “Deploy more servers,” had the lowest ranking of 3.45 (respondents were asked to rank the technologies from 1 to 5, with 1 being the highest). 

The pyramid chart below shows the technology approaches ranked from highest (top of the pyramid) to the lowest (bottom of the pyramid), with the average ranking displayed, with 1 being the highest)

Overall, talks with data-center architects and managers—including these recent survey results—indicates that DC professionals see the benefits of using a variety of efficient technologies to optimize their operations and efficiency. They would like to avoid adding more expensive servers and they see gains in improving performance for the use of virtualization and network optimization technologies.

The reason for that? Building an efficient network for the data center can have large benefits in ROI. It’s clear that survey respondents saw optimizing the network as an alternative to adding expensive servers and other hardware. Adding network efficiency can have significant benefits in lowering opex and capex.

The full research study—Untold Secrets of the Efficient Data Center—can be downloaded here.

R. Scott Raynovich is the founder and chief analyst of Futuriom. For two decades, he has been covering a wide range of technology as an editor, analyst, and publisher. Most recently, he was VP of research at, which acquired his previous technology website, Rayno Report, in 2015. Prior to that, he was the editor in chief of Light Reading, where he worked for nine years. Raynovich has also served as investment editor at Red Herring, where he started the New York bureau and helped build the original website. He has won several industry awards, including an Editor & Publisher award for Best Business Blog, and his analysis has been featured by prominent media outlets including NPR, CNBC, The Wall Street Journal, and the San Jose Mercury News. He can be reached at [email protected]; follow him @rayno.

Industry Voices are opinion columns written by outside contributors—often industry experts or analysts—who are invited to the conversation by Fierce staff. They do not represent the opinions of Fierce.