Brand-name data centre servers have only between three and five years until they are replaced by white boxes built by unknowns, as software-defined data centres take hold.
This is according to VMware's EMEA CTO Joe Baguley, who told delegates at the Datacentres Europe 2014 conference in Monaco to watch the "poster boy" companies as an indicator of the future of the industry.
"I was at a conference last year and a guy from Germany proudly stood up and talked about planning for his nine-year SAP deployment project, which just shocked me," said Baguley.
"You want to know the really interesting parts of IT right now? Netflix, Facebook, you name it. Those cool, poster-child organisations - they go round this 'app-data-analysis' cycle multiple times a day."
Baguley was preaching about virtualising servers throughout, including placing the switch in the hypervisor.
"It is not about virtualising a router. It is not about getting a load-balancer and putting it in a virtual machine. This is different," he said.
"The leading cloud providers - the Facebooks and the Amazons - don't virtualise the switch. They took the switch apart, and they made the switch part of the machine."
Baguley gave traditional data centre server hardware a life expectancy of only three to five years, as he showed a slide of a simple 'white box'.
"This white box signifies what's happening to our data centres. Future data centres will not be populated with main-brand servers, with specific per-box functionality," he explained.
"Who makes them won't matter. In the next three to five years, I predict IT conferences you go to will start to be full of companies you've never heard of. Companies like Supermicro and Quanta. Who are they?
"Well, you've been buying their kit for years, just with someone else's sticker on. Now they're cutting out the middle man, because the intelligence will now be done in the software."
Obviously, with VMware putting so much effort into data centre virtualisation, this kind of rhetoric is no surprise, but nevertheless Baguley provides an interesting view into the company's plans for the software-defined movement.