How to define and begin implementing the Software-Defined Data Center

VMworld.pngThe term Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC) is buzzing. It is creating some of the same buzz and confusion that we witnessed in the market a few years ago when cloud was an emerging concept. Cloud and SDDC share some of the same evolution pattern:

  • First there was software-as-a- service (SaaS),
  • Then, platform-as-a-service (PaaS), infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), and just about anything else that could be delivered as a service.
  • Now, we have software-defined elements: networks, storage, infrastructure, data centers, etc.


So let's get beyond the buzz, hype and confusion.

[Image courtesy of VMWorld 2012]


What the experts are saying about “Software Defined”


Gartner analyst Neil MacDonald explained in a recent blog that, “’Software defined’ is about the capabilities enabled as we decouple and abstract infrastructure elements that were previously tightly coupled in our data centers: servers, storage, networking, security and so on.” He goes on to identify four foundational characteristics that must be in place for SDDC: abstraction, instrumentation, automation and orchestration.


Richard Fichera of Forrester Research in his report entitled, “The Software-Defined Data Center Is the Future of Infrastructure Architecture” provides the following description of SDDC:


An SDDC is an integrated abstraction layer that defines a complete data center by means of a layer of software that presents the resources of the data center as pools of virtual and physical resources, and allows them to be composed into arbitrary user-defined services. (page 3)


The definition provided by Forrester recognizes both physical and virtual resources. It also includes both “legacy” systems and what Gartner refers to as fabric-based infrastructure. This is what HP describes as converged infrastructure. It includes the management of all servers, storage and networking resources as pooled services. New hypervisors to support software-defined networks, software-defined storage and other elements of the datacenter continue to be introduced. I anticipate that there will be a great deal of activity in the market in the next 18-24 months.  (Converged infrastructure products and tools to manage software-defined networks, software-defined storage and other related topics will be addressed in future blog posts.)


How will the future affect your current reality?


As you manage your vReality, you have to consider how the software-defined infrastructure architecture of the future affects your current reality. You currently have monitoring tools that support your physical and virtualized infrastructure. You have a significant investment in these tools as well as the processes and training associated with their use in your environment, you don’t want to leave them in the dust. But now, IT is also being asked to assess and manage new cloud services.


Virtualized systems and the tools required to manage them have evolved and matured significantly. Offering server resouces as a service is a practical place to begin the journey to the SDDC. The management of these resources as services can be divided into two basic categories:

  • Automation and orchestration
  • Monitoring: performance management, capacity management and end-to-end life cycle management    


The Gartner blog referenced above explains that automation is required “…to remove ‘human middleware’ from the equation.” It goes on to explain that orchestration is “…automating the provisioning of data center infrastructure through linkages to policy-driven orchestration systems”.


Monitoring includes all of the functions, processes and tools associated with operations management.  Historically the world of operations management of relatively static infrastructure has been managed separately from server automation. The management of virtual machines (VMs) is causing a greater convergence of these two domains, as IT becomes responsible for the service level management of more virtualized resources and greater optimization.


 Ken spear circles.png


It’s not particularly important how the analysts or experts define SDDC. What is important is how you begin to implement SDDC in your IT organization, so you can realize the benefits. The integration of server automation with operations management may be a good starting point. It can build onto existing, proven components


Learn more about HP’s Cloud Server Automation, Operations Orchestration, Operations ManagerVirtualization Performance Viewer and Storage Essentials products here.   

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About the Author
Ken is responsible for worldwide marketing of HP’s virtualization and systems management products. His experience includes over 20 years in ...

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