The software-defined data center (SDDC) is still an abstract concept, both literally and figuratively. While most of us can grasp the idea of defining end-to-end data architectures entirely in software, things become a little murkier when it comes to actually using them.
As with most technology developments, the initial view surrounding the SDDC is how it will improve current data operations. But ultimately it is the way it stands to remake current practices, or generate entirely new ones, that portend the most revolutionary change.
According to Technavio, the global SDDC market is expanding at about 31 percent per year, driven largely by increased demand for flexible, cost-effective data solutions that support emerging mobile and IoT applications. As well, the SDDC is much more amenable to automation for key operations like deploying, provisioning and managing data resources which, again, is deemed crucial in an app- and services-driven economy that operates at levels of both scale and complexity that is simply too vast for human managers to cope.
It isn’t hard to see how an all-software data environment would be useful for enterprises that are becoming more dependent on distributed cloud architectures. Avi Networks recently launched the Avi Vantage Platform, which offers elastic application delivery on VMware Cloud instances deployed on Amazon Web Services. The idea is to combine the bare-metal resources of AWS with VMware’s SDDC technology to support a consistent operating model across internal and external resources. Key functions include single-click load balancing and provisioning, as well as streamlined troubleshooting and advanced multicloud orchestration.
Still, most SDDC deployments focus on just data infrastructure; namely compute, storage and networking. Datacenter Knowledge’s Andrew Donoghue notes that power may be the next resource brought into the fold, although there are still some technical hurdles to overcome. The idea of “software-defined power” dates back some years as companies like Power Assure tried, and failed, to bring it mainstream, largely by matching energy consumption to application and data flows. Nowadays, the movement revolves around intelligent subsystems that dynamically control power distribution to the racks through UPSs and other gear, although it remains to be seen whether power equipment manufacturers view the technology as an asset or a threat to their business models.
Another way in which SDDC might lead to all-new data architectures is in the area of network micro-segmentation. In a CIO.com post sponsored by Tempered Networks, ZK Research’s Zeus Kerravala notes that the increased prevalence of east-west traffic in the data center is becoming increasingly difficult to manage, even for organizations employing traditional segmentation on the physical layer. Under a software paradigm, however, the enterprise can segment individual hosts within a subnet, which not only increases network scalability and flexibility, but introduces an added layer of security as well.
While the SDDC offers enormous potential to finally give knowledge workers the resources they need when they need them, and with little of the fuss and complexity that goes into infrastructure deployment today, it is important to remember that it is still very much a work in progress. Seamless integration of disparate resources, for one, remains an elusive concept, as does the technology needed for self-service and self-management.
Even on a rudimentary level, however, the SDDC does offer one key advantage over today’s infrastructure: As long as you have connectivity, there should always be a host for your application somewhere.
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.