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What is a Software Defined Data Center?

Infrastructure in a traditional datacenter is typically defined by hardware and devices. It comprises of thousands of different applications, running in a mixed hardware environment using multiple management tools. One of its key characteristics is frequent application patching and updation to handle complex workloads based on multiple architectures. The flip side, however, includes multiple issues like underutilization of resources. These further have a rippling effect across multiple investment and effort expended areas including energy consumption, management costs, software licenses and data center outlays.

VMware introduced the concept of Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) at the VM World conference in San Francisco and Barcelona in the year 2012. Its objective was to overcome the inefficiencies of traditional data centers and to deliver greater value to business. According to VMware, SDDC is “A data center platform that can be dynamically configured to meet the needs of any and all application workloads, all operating at peak levels of efficiency and automation”.

Software Defined Data Center aims to abstract intelligent software from standard hardware by separating the control plane (configuration, topology awareness, management, operations) from the data plane (movement and storage of data). In this type of data center, the virtualized compute, network and storage layers along with their application and management components ideally exist only as software. The application layer is completely independent of the hardware layer in an SDDC.

The core components of an SDDC are network virtualization, server virtualization and storage virtualization. It also has a business logic layer to translate application requirements, SLAs, policies and cost considerations. In this kind of data center all elements of the infrastructure — networking, storage, CPU and security – will be virtualized and delivered as a service. The provisioning and operation of the entire infrastructure is driven by software.

What are the challenges in adoption of SDDC

SDDC might sound to be a revolutionary concept, however it has its own set of challenges which inhibit its adoption across organizations. Some of these are listed below.

  • Storage, networking and sever virtualization are critical components of an SDDC and expected to be at the same maturity level. However this is not the case.
  • A key component of SDDC – Software defined networking, is not considered mature enough to enable the SDDC since is it is a fairly new concept.
  • The lack of a universally accepted virtualization standard for networks, hampers the widespread adoption of network virtualization essential for the evolution of SDDC.
  • In order to create software defined environments, organizations will need to rethink, universally standardize and adapt many IT processes. Some of these include automation, metering, and billing, executing service delivery, service activation, and service assurance.
  • Other issues can also become deterrents like failing of legacy applications in cases where they are just dropped in without accounting for parameters like latency, suitability to distributed architecture and fault tolerance at application level.

Benefits of SDDC

SDDC has several outstanding advantages, some of which are listed below.

  • Potential to make all data center services as easy and inexpensive to configure and manage as virtual machines.
  • Allow the provisioning and running of applications and services on both – on premise private clouds and secure infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) services, with seamless workload mobility across the hybrid environment.
  • Enable the enterprise to provide and build just-in- time environments rather than keep building an infrastructure procurement process for each and every business application.
  • Enable the holistic cross pollination and integration of IT systems.
  • Reduce cost and enhance efficiency as compared to traditional data centers.
  • Improve control over application availability.
  • Increase security through policy based governance.
  • Reduce energy usage by enabling the running of the data center hardware at reduced speeds or their switching off.

Future of SDDC

Estimates from leading industry player IDC indicate that the services revenue which SDDC is going to throw open will be around $5.6 billion by 2016. With the advancement of technology, SDDC will move towards true hardware agnosticism and much higher agility in terms of dynamically handling, provisioning and managing rapidly changing workloads. The ease of use and simplicity that will be offered by this technology will definitely need a lot of un-complication effort. Whichever vendor perfects this technology is sure to get a substantial chunk of the services revenues unsheathed by SDDC.

Software Defined Data Center Portfolio


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