The Data Center Revolution: Becoming an Enabler for Growth
The Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC) will change the face of enterprise IT, offering new levels of scalability and flexibility, all at a lower price-point. For many CIOs it could well feel as though all their Christmases have come at once. Back in the day, we learned all about benefits that x86 server virtualization could bring to accelerate server provisioning and increase hardware utilization. SDDC brings virtualization to all layers of the infrastructure stack – compute, storage, networking and security. But, more importantly, control can then be abstracted from the hardware and moved up into the software layer with sophisticated APIs, which is the enabler for delivering the infrastructure as an agile, on-demand service.
Storage and networking virtualization will bring similar benefits to those already experienced with server virtualization. Through pooling of infrastructure resources and centralised orchestration, services can be provisioned much more quickly, creating an agile infrastructure that allows organizations to react to business demands and market opportunities. Of course, there are still physical servers, disks, routers and switches underpinning it all but we no longer need to touch the physical infrastructure to provision and manage virtual workloads, except to ensure that sufficient physical capacity is available for those workloads to consume.
But, what does this mean in practice? The infrastructure for a traditional application environment would comprise physical servers, each with OS and application software (DB, webserver, application server etc); storage capacity and connectivity; firewalls and load balancers for security and performance; DC network connectivity to connect them all together and external internet connection to expose the application to the outside world. All of these assets would traditionally have to be individually configured most often by different people at different times and with different hand-over points with the end to end operation taking hours, days or even weeks. Applying any change would be a delicate exercise of ensuring that nothing is damaged in the overall chain delivering the application’s service to end users.
In the Software Defined Data Center, all of the infrastructure assets required to deploy any given application can be predefined and preconfigured within a self?contained blueprint which can then be deployed automatically from a single management pane of glass. The ability to easily automate is a key attribute of the SDDC approach which brings the concept of “Infrastructure in Code” to fruition.
As well as offering increased speed and improved quality, SDDC also opens up opportunities of scale out in a linear fashion, an important consideration as IT increases its remit as an enabler across almost every aspect of a business. The commodity server, storage and networking equipment on which it is built can be easily scaled out and added to the capacity pool so the resources required by an application can be automatically provisioned using infrastructure automation tools. As IT consumption continues to rise, economy of scale grows with it and it won’t be uncommon to see a single member of the IT team managing hundreds, or even thousands, of devices (server, storage and network) from a single console. IT management will no longer be concerned about individual servers or nodes, but consider whole rack clusters as the basic data center physical building blocks and provisioning a whole new data center within just a few clicks of a mouse.
Making IT Accessible
Efficiency and agility are not the only benefits. SDDC reduces overall data center costs as sophisticated and often function-specific hardware is replaced by commodity and even white-box equipment. Of course the software does not come for free, whether proprietary or open source, but the economies of scale and automation will realise operational savings. SDDC is a clear step towards an IT-as-a-Service world, allowing businesses to access and consume the resources they need, when they need them – no more, no less.
The final blog in this series will explore how IT departments can start preparing for the Software-Defined Data Center …