All Systems Go for the Software-Defined Data Center

Arthur Cole
Slide Show

The Evolution of the Data Center to the Cloud

New market data is adding momentum to the software-defined data center (SDDC) movement, invoking images of instant provisioning of end-to-end data environments and anytime/anywhere access for users unwilling to restrict their data usage according to the whims of the physical universe.

Normally, this is the part where I would say something like “the reality will be quite different,” but the fact is that SDDC does have the potential to foster the kind of data infrastructure that allows users and even applications themselves to define their own operating environments, seamlessly compiling resources wherever they may be found—physical, virtual, on-premise, in the cloud—and dramatically reducing both the cost and power consumption of today’s patchwork infrastructure.

I say it has the “potential,” of course, because the simple fact is we’re not there yet. Although we now have the capability to place server, storage and network infrastructure on the virtual plane, getting it to work together in an integrated fashion is another matter entirely.

Clearly, though, a new industry is about to be born. According to MarketsandMarkets, SDDC will be a $5.41 billion business by 2018, averaging almost 70 percent compound annual growth between now and then. The company says a number of disparate forces are driving the market, such as the desire for increased resource pooling and customized network configurations, as well as new software-based pricing models and multi-tenancy data architectures that make it easier for organizations to offload volumes to external infrastructure. At the same time, systems designers are taking advantage of developments in processor and memory technology to make both physical and virtual resources more agile.

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As with any potentially disruptive emerging market, winners and losers will emerge when the dust settles. Channel partners, for one, could see their fortunes rise with the advent of service-based infrastructure, or they could lose big time as hardware deployments gravitate to large volume buyers. According to The VAR Guy, VMware is likely to talk up SDDC at VMworld next week, backed by the formal launch of the vCloud Hybrid Service. But at this point, it is unclear what the opportunities are, if any, for the channel. The primary goal of most CIOs is to lower IT costs, and SDDC will help do that even if it means forgoing longstanding relationships with resellers who refuse to give up on highly marked-up hardware platforms.

If one group stands to benefit the most from SDDC, it’s probably the broadband networking providers. Avaya, for example, recently launched a new SDDC framework that utilizes its Fabric Connect technology and the OpenStack platform to enable widespread deployment and configuration of virtual machines across disparate infrastructure. The company says it can shorten the cloud provisioning process to a matter of minutes while providing scalability for up to 16 million tenanted applications. At the same time, enterprises will be able to upgrade virtual LANs that were deployed to accommodate traditional Spanning Tree architectures in favor of a more flexible, fabric-based model.


Is that all there is to it, though? Simply deploy the latest platform and reap the benefits of SDDC? Not exactly, says EMC’s Neville Wall, at least if you want to be able to exert some semblance of management and control over the network environment. As part of the company’s Global Services unit, he recommends three preliminary steps before actual deployment. These include a thorough classification of existing applications (a process that could take up to two weeks) to gauge their relative importance to business operations, followed by an automation blueprint for proper discovery and mapping and finally, development of a detailed IT financial model to accurately project the cost/benefits of moving to SDDC.

So far it appears that all systems are go for the software-defined data center. Networking is the final piece of the puzzle to make the jump to the virtual layer, so major technical hurdles don't seem to be standing in the way. It still is far from clear whether the IT industry is ready, or even willing, to fully embrace an end-to-end SDDC model, particularly for mission-critical applications. But at least the technology is ready for full field deployments within the next year or so.

At the very least, SDDC represents another option for the development of dynamic, distributed data environments, which should allow the enterprise to embrace IT infrastructure that is more responsive to user needs and less costly to build and maintain.



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