Big Data, ARM and Legal Troubles Transformed Infrastructure in Q4

1Executive Summary

It was an interesting, some might say transformative, quarter in the infrastructure space, highlighted by solid evidence that the days of x86 dominance in the data center might be coming to an end. With ARM-based processors squeezing on the CPU side and GPU co-processors handling an increasing number of workloads — especially in high-performance computing — it seems inevitable that Intel and AMD will have to act fast to either get into these new markets or somehow revolutionize the x86 architecture. [Editor’s Note: This report was written before several key processor- industry happenings in early January.]

In the world of cloud computing, discussion centered on the platform-as-a-service (PaaS) delivery model, as well the legal aspects underlying the Amazon Web Services- WikiLeaks controversy. PaaS providers were acquired at a rapid pace late in the quarter, creating some newly powerful cloud players in the process. In terms of WikiLeaks, it was all about free speech, terms of service and Joe Lieberman. Which one played, or should have played, the biggest role in Amazon’s decision to shut down its account?

Speaking of the law, the fourth quarter also brought news that could have major impacts on the future of data storage and analysis in the cloud. While one court made a huge decision by granting Fourth Amendment protection to stored emails, another court was getting ready to hear a potentially significant case on copyrights and cloud- based storage. All this action, as well as the past year of Facebook privacy snafus, also got the government concerned; talk began trickling in about governmental regulation of personal information stored by websites.

Big data just got bigger over the past few months, as the Hadoop ecosystem expanded in all directions and scalable storage vendors took in piles of cash. Cloudera led Hadoop momentum as usual, but IBM also made big news, as did Yahoo and Appistry, the latter two of which released products (or, in Yahoo’s case, code) for analyzing streaming data using the core tenets, at least, of MapReduce. On the storage front, it was billion-dollar deals for Isilon and Compellent, and tens of millions of VC money for scale-out startups.

One particularly interesting aspect of the quarter is that although new, cutting-edge technologies such as cloud computing, Hadoop, NoSQL and ARM servers attracted huge amounts of attention, so too did two relatively archaic topics — Novell and Java. Attachmate’s acquisition of Novell raised more questions than it answered when it was discovered that Microsoft, Apple, EMC and Oracle would also be getting goodly amounts of Novell IP. As for Java, which, technically, is still very important but is losing its shine among web developers, Oracle’s stewardship of the technology had everyone from Google to Apache up in arms, and possibly resulted in some irreparable damage to the Java development community.

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