Software-Defined Data Centers: Built for the Cloud, Modern Apps

The IT industry is abuzz with the new concept of the “software-defined data center,” or SDCC. What makes it different from a traditional data center? Is a software-defined data center just existing physical assets with more virtualized aspects, or is it something revolutionary? Does it rely on homogeneous vendors and providers or is it like my physical data center, can I do what I want?

Some say SDDC is an extension of existing physical assets. Yet, at its core, it should free the application layer from the physical infrastructure layer. The industry characterizations thus far do not fully explain the potential software-defined data centers offer to take enterprise IT on the “quantum leap” some predict.

SDDCs are truly revolutionary and packed with the capabilities enterprises need in the cloud. They free the application layer from the the physical infrastructure layer and allow for a wide scope of uses including deploying, managing, storing, computing and networking myriad business applications in a cloud environment.

In this CohesiveFT “point of view,” we examine the industry evolution of software-defined data centers. We offer a different take on how to best identify the needed set of features and how to properly identify and understand the concepts that make a software-defined data center truly revolutionary.

Software-Defined Data Centers: Application Layer Focus with Customization and Automation for each Business Application

The data center can be fully virtualized, and the future of software-defined data centers is coming faster than you think. Lately, companies such asVMware and nowHP have been fond of the term software-defined data center (or SDDC). What’s the difference between this and the hardware at the office? At its core, a software-defined data center frees the application layer from hardware layer. Eric Knorr writes about what a huge leap it is, “just as the world changed when isolated networks became the Internet, computing is about to make a quantum leap to ‘data centers’ abstracted from hardware that may reside in multiple physical locations.”

CohesiveFT agrees with the significance of the potential impact, but would add, not only would the data centers reside in multiple physical locations — but also at multiple service providers – with the application for the most part unconcerned with its location (as opposed to the application owner who will of course care about “jurisdictional physicality”).

In VMware’s words, “The Software-Defined Data Center is a unified data center platform that will help you transform the way you deliver IT with unprecedented automation, flexibility, and efficiency.” A software-defined data center is built for the cloud and geared toward modern applications.

A unified data center platform geared toward modern applications is ideal for businesses looking to modernize without the costs of a physical overhaul. Enterprises can clearly see the benefits of outsourced IT features, either as the SaaS applications they use or IaaS based in the cloud.

However, VMware’s “unified data center platform” has an awful lot of hardware in it — like the beginning of a 12-step program for people who want to be virtual, but only if it involves a lot of expensive physical infrastructure below it.

Defined in Software

At CohesiveFT, we believe SDDC means exactly that — defined in software. The deployment and management of applications and the virtualized compute, storage, and networks they are comprised of should exist only as software.

Let someone else own the hardware, the guards, the glass, the gas, the batteries, the generators, and the hundreds of people who service them. In the world of enterprise IT — we would even advise considering managing infrastructure IT and application IT as very different organization — and to the extreme, never the two shall meet, except for in the form of APIs and the contractual relationships engendered in their use.

The good news for most organizations is such dramatic action doesn’t need to be pursued. The ubiquity of APIs, automation, Internet, and “fast, flat, and fat” physical resources means software-defined data center can be pursued now and deliver ROI one application at a time, not one physical data center at a time.

No One is Migrating Whole Data Centers, but Specific Applications Ranging from Production to Proof of Concept
We don’t see customers migrating data centers to the cloud, we see them migrating applications to the cloud; where an application is the 5, 10, or 50 computer servers that collectively perform a business function. Using the application as the target allows IT teams to get almost instant ROI upon deployment or migration of their first cloud application.< ,/p>

CohesiveFT’s concept of SDDC is much finer grained, more targeted, more agile and is possible to deliver without a monolithic approach involving your existing physical assets and infrastructure. We call our software-defined data centers “cloud containers.”

For CohesiveFT, software-defined data centers allow for the “containerization” of a businesses’ systems of record, and systems of engagement, within the context of strong integration, governance, and security. A cloud container, allows enterprises to use the virtualization principles of pooling, abstraction and automation in a cloud-ready format that works “out of the box.”

Data Center Limitations Become A Thing of the Past

Previous limitations to software defined data center included physical constraints and a lack of application-layer focus. Enterprises have been wary of sending apps to the cloud without the proper context for integration, governance and security. Cloud computing brings benefits of cost savings, efficiency, and more raw computing power. Cloud containers go further by letting IT teams migrate, deploy and control applications in the cloud, with the desired context and ultimately evolve those applications within the cloud as an innovation platform.

The software-defined cloud container concept is the one we at CohesiveFT like to promote the most. We use the words “Cloud Container Solution” to describe not only our core products and services, but also the interoperability with our partners and existing enterprise assets. The integration and agility offered by a cloud container offers application users the best, most promising features of the cloud.

The Future of SDDC: Enterprise Needs for Access, Control and Visibility

Software-defined data center is not yet another vendor-backed jargon term, but can be a proper solution for cloud customization and integration. Beth Pariseau predicts that vendors are leading the push for the adoption of software-defined data centers, both from the networking side and the server side4 . VMware created and promotes their vCloud Suite, while Microsoft ships Windows Server with Hyper-V, and Red Hat scales network-attached storage with Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV). We are also keeping an eye on Juniper and Brocade as they will likely enter the fray.

Enterprises can use the growing number of virtualized servers, virtualized networks and APIs to expand their data centers beyond their physical walls — one secure cloud container at a time.

We think VMware’s concept of software-defined data center is too narrow, merely a virtualized connection to the same monolithic, physical room of servers. The SDDC of the future will be a federated, cross-cloud connection that includes cloud-deployed data centers, the existing data centers and every virtualized thing in between.

To make software-defined data centers a reality for enterprises, there are certain objectives that must be met and features provided. The coming years will see a growth in vendors insisting they are, in fact software-defined data centers and enterprises struggling to sort through the noise to benefit from containerized cloud migrations and deployments.

Along with VMware, we argree that a true SDDC will be:

- Standardized
- Holistic
- Adaptive
- Automated
- Resilient

A true example of SDDC will have features of:

- Network virtualization,
- Image automation,
- Topology automation,
- File system virtualization,
- Topology centric services for IDS, logging, etc.

These features are key to automating, customizing, and taking control of the application-focused features. With these enterprises can securely make the transition to the cloud. Enterprises will be able to use software-defined data centers to innovate with greater utilization, resiliency, and cost savings on a unified platform for their applications.

We urge industry leaders to think of software defined data centers in the broadest terms possible. Our broad view of SDDC parameters captures the wide scope of features that identify the capabilities that make it truly revolutionary.
Author: Patrick Kerpan

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