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Bill Kleyman
Bill Kleyman
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The Software-Defined Revolution: Beyond The Hype

Should every technology be "software-defined?" How to choose SDX for your datacenter and cloud environment.

The mist still settles from the burst of cloud computing. New marketing terms, new technologies, new infrastructure optimizations, and entirely new cloud delivery models could fill a dictionary with new acronyms. Infrastructure has evolved, giving us more physical resources to utilize, but a big part of advancements are due to breakthroughs at the logical, or virtual, layer. 

This has led to software-defined technologiesof every shape and form. Some deserve an acronym, and some are jumping on the bandwagon. The challenge is to understand the different components that make up the SDX revolution, and how they fit together. You'll also need to know how these technologies relate to the public and private cloud. Most of all, how do they affect your own datacenter environment, applications, and job?

Software-defined networking (SDN) is of course the most widespread of the SDX technologies, involving thecontrol of data flow over local and distributed nodes. The idea is to utilize the software layer to manipulate how and where traffic goes within a datacenter. This can be accomplished at the virtual layer (think VMware and Nicira) as well as at the physical layer (a la Cisco and its NX-OS platform). These powerful network control mechanisms can take your datacenter traffic control methodology to a new level.

Software-defined security (SDsec) has been springing up recently, as if information security has not always been based a great deal on software. This is also sometimes called "next-generation security." Take a look at what Palo Alto Networks and Check Point Security Technologies are doing for examples of how an enterprise can deploy intelligent, software-based, virtual security appliances throughout the entire network. 

However, just like the earlier networking example, software-defined security can happen on logical and physical platforms. In some cases, an entire virtual appliance -- such as an intrusion-protection system or data loss prevention platform -- is deployed for a specific purpose. In other cases, you might have a physical appliance serving up security technologies like application firewalls.

Software-defined storage (SDS) is one technology deserving of a new acronym. SDS allows the typical storage controller to return to being simply a storage controller, while a very powerful and intelligent data tier controls and manipulates data based on a number of variables. Now, you can have multiple storage options with one logical front-end.

The Atlantis ILIO SDS platform is a good example. This virtual appliance can tier data and push workloads based on access, reads, writes, importance, and a lot more to the appropriate disk. Basically, you present storage pools (performance for flash and standard disk for capacity/archival) and allow the virtual appliance to make intelligent decisions on your behalf. Furthermore, SDS helps with data distribution, redundancy, and -- of course -- disaster recovery options. 

Software-defined datacenter (SDDC) comes into play as the datacenters gain importance in general. Today, organizations are redefining how they utilize their datacenter infrastructures and plan around optimization and utilization. As the importance of the datacenter grows -- so do challenges around management.

[Who will control SDN-ified datacenters? The results of our SDN survey explore this question and more.]

The software-defined datacenter can mean many things, however. It can mean dynamic automation around workload and resource provisioning. It can mean that a datacenter provider has a complete logical management stack that spans entire regions, or the globe. IO Datacenters, for example, has a system known as the IOOS, or datacenter operating system. Basically, this type of logical datacenter abstraction is able to give customers complete control over virtual workloads and physical resources on a global level.

Software-defined convergence (SDC) is a newer term that is not widely adopted yet, but still an important concept. Converged infrastructure is building the physical framework around current and future IT platforms, combining network, storage, compute, and even data optimization into an integrated architecture.

Managing this integrated system as a cohesive whole is most likely the biggest challenge for any enterprise. Platforms such as Cisco's Unified Computing System (UCS) exist to help IT take control of their infrastructure. UCS integrates converged systems using the UCS Director Management environment. The environment allows administrators to create intelligent hardware and software profiles that enable datacenter and converged infrastructure automation, providing  "follow-the-sun" resource utilization on a global scale.

SDX technologies can help optimize your datacenter, cloud, and overall IT infrastructure -- and you may already be taking part in the SDX revolution without even realizing it. Examine your virtual and physical appliances to understand exactly what they're capable of. Then match that against the needs of your organization's critical data flows and how they can be secured. Software-defined technologies can directly optimize both your IT environment and overall business process if you work them into your datacenter and cloud platforms with realistic expectations.

Bill is an enthusiastic technologist with experience in datacenter design, management, and deployment. His architecture work includes large virtualization and cloud deployments as well as business network design and implementation. Bill enjoys writing, blogging, and educating ... View Full Bio
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YottabyteDuane
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YottabyteDuane,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/11/2014 | 4:46:21 PM
Consumer wins
As with all new tech, its great to see consistent definitions being formed and education happening in the market. One thing is for sure, with all things 'software-defined' the customer wins! The playing field continues to be leveled and pressure is exerted on incumbent IT vendors.
anon0033058673
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anon0033058673,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/12/2014 | 8:57:30 AM
Re: Software defined data center? Nyet, or not yet.
@Charlie, couldn't agree more.  There needs to be a brain attached to all of this that is the authority on what should happen when and where things should go.
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/5/2014 | 5:13:32 PM
Re: Software defined data center? Nyet, or not yet.
iSocial_Fanz: I'd like to see how IO does it. Granted, building new and to standardized parts would be a big step toward automation. That's not how the enterprise data center got built.
iSocial_Fanz
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iSocial_Fanz,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/5/2014 | 4:54:01 PM
Re: Software defined data center? Nyet, or not yet.
Great Article Bill!  

Charlie I think the reason that it has taken awhile for software to be implemented into the datacenter because no datacenter was built the same and without standardization or API's the datacenter was a missing link in the software-defined world.  

At IO our DCOS is built as an operating system to be the layer to manage and operate the datacenter from "Chip to chiller" but also is able to control and monitor up the IT stack.  Here is a link to our site: http://www.io.com/software-defined-data-center/

I would love to set you up with a demo and more information if your interested to find out about the SDDC offereing we have at IO thanks to our modules and Datacenter Operating System IO.OS.
Bill Kleyman
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Bill Kleyman,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/5/2014 | 4:19:54 PM
Re: Software defined data center? Nyet, or not yet.
@Charlie - You're absolutely right! We're getting to a point where cloud systems, and even data center infrastructures are requiring a more agnostic management layer. This is where the conversation around SDDC and the data center operating system (DCOS) really comes into play. It's all going to come down to interconnectivity and the ability to interface with open, powerful APIs. 

It certainly does seem like we're headed in that direction!
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/5/2014 | 3:00:10 PM
Software defined data center? Nyet, or not yet.
Good post, Bill. I think once we have software defined networking, software-provisioned virtual servers, software-managed storage, we will still need a software system not involved in any of these acts but watching over them. It will need to learn from mistakes, spot dependencies and efficiencies and impart that learning back into the compute, networking and storage systems. Then we'll have the software-defined data center.

 

 
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