It seems that paradigm shifts in data technology are a dime-a-dozen these days, but one development is truly poised to upend the enterprise infrastructure industry as we know it: the software-defined data center (SDDC).
It doesn’t take a genius to see the ramifications of transitioning the enterprise operating model from the physical or even virtual plane to one that is defined completely by software-based services. The question is how real this technology is at the moment, and how quickly it will transition from the lab to production environments.
According to market research firm WhaTech, the field is on pace to more than triple by 2021. Current year estimates already place it at about $25.6 billion in value, with compound annual growth of 26.5 percent putting it in excess of $83 billion in five years. This incorporates full networking, storage and compute infrastructure, which are all under pressure to accommodate the significant gains in traffic volume and diversity that the enterprise is set to encounter in both its normal data operations and advanced initiatives like Big Data and the Internet of Things.
Naturally, software definition cannot come about if applications and services are still tied down to underlying physical infrastructure, which is why VMware in particular is emerging as a key driver of the SDDC. In addition to its recent deal with Amazon, the company is also forming the basis for SDDC offerings by companies as diverse as Rackspace and Fujitsu, with platforms ranging from private or hybrid architectures to full software-defined entities hosted entirely in the public cloud. As we noted yesterday, however, there is still some question as to whether an SDDC based on virtualization technology or containerized workloads will prove more amenable to emerging enterprise operations.
The key facet of SDDC management, of course, is automation. Without it, says ZDnet’s James Sanders, the SDDC is little more than a hodge-podge of physically connected systems incapable of dealing with the dynamic workflows being thrown at it. Naturally, there are commercial solutions like VMware’s EVO platform and Cisco’s Unified Computing System (UCS), which are available on multiple ready-to-deploy platforms from IBM, Dell-EMC, NetApp and others. OpenStack is the primary open source solution on the market today, but IT executives should be aware that it does not come with its own hypervisor, so it must be deployed in conjunction with an open system, such as KVM, or a proprietary solution like VMware.
The SDDC also takes on new operational possibilities when paired with hyperconverged infrastructure, according to Dell-EMC’s Megan McMichael and Wayne Pauley. Not only does this provide dramatic consolidation of data infrastructure and rapid provisioning of both physical and virtual resources, it provides improved multi-tenant capabilities for more streamlined resource allocation and the ability to scale infrastructure gradually without exorbitant capital commitments. Ultimately, this produces a more tailored data environment that can provide centralized management over distributed architectures, with advanced features like self-service provisioning and automated troubleshooting that make the creation and maintenance of data infrastructure easier for users and IT alike.
This isn’t to say that the SDDC will not have its challenges, however. The shift from traditional operations to a continuous DevOps model will keep IT quite busy for the foreseeable future. But instead of simply provisioning resources and charting dependencies the same way, every project will require unique skills and creative problem solving. All the boring stuff will be handled in software.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.