What is software-defined and what are the advantages?
The term “software-defined” has become widely used by technology providers to describe new innovation enabling organizations to achieve Cloud-like flexibility for their in-house or on-premises IT infrastructure. At the heart of “software-designed” are new storage, server, and networking solutions that deliver key features and functionality through the software layer, while leveraging industry standard, commodity hardware – the goal being to disaggregate software from hardware.
Network virtualization, for instance, enables flexible splitting and assigning of independent bandwidth channels to a particular server in real time. Storage virtualization defines pools of available storage without needing to worry about managing the underlying hardware. Server and security virtualization follow a similar model, and the result is the Software Defined Data Center (SDDC). Key benefits of SDDC include more flexibility, speed, and opportunity for innovation than previous versions of hardware led datacenter solutions. Gartner predicts that 75% of the Global 2000 will be moving toward SDDC by 2020.
A key advantage in any of these software-defined solutions is the ability to quickly scale up or down as well as to quickly adjust to changing business needs while adding new features and technical improvements. No more “forklift upgrades” – ever.
How does SDDC impact a cloud-like business model?
There’s a good deal of overlap between the SDDC and cloud computing. Nearly every enterprise that has already adopted some version of a cloud business model is already leveraging the concept of the SDDC at some level. The technical and financial benefits of cloud computing have been well documented. However most organizations have struggled to successfully implement a cloud strategy for reasons such as unexpected cost overages or the lack of security and control over business critical applications in a cloud environment.
The rise of the SDDC has helped bridge this gap between traditional on-premise datacenters and cloud computing. The SDDC has enabled organizations to implement private and hybrid cloud (combination of public and private cloud) solutions as a means to gain the operational, technical and financial benefits, while maintaining a higher degree of control over their applications and workloads.
The flexibility of SDDCs is what makes the strategy so remarkable. Underlying hardware choices can be mostly undifferentiated, thus eliminating the hurdle of vendor lock-in. Because functionality is decoupled from the hardware, it can be designed, deployed, managed, re-provisioned or scaled on the fly. It’s an organizational strategy shift that can reduce complexity while increasing value and it’s broadly adjustable as requirements change or new opportunities emerge.
Software-defined + all-flash
While the real value is in the software, doesn’t mean one can ignore the underlying hardware. Organizations still want reliable enterprise-class and industry standard gear. And achieving the best potential performance still requires making choices. In the case of virtualized storage – or what we define as composable storage – that means selecting faster, smaller, more reliable, and increasingly affordable solid-state arrays. Solid-state arrays provide the combination of speed, security, high availability, and storage density unavailable from alternatives.
All of the critical technology elements in SDDCs can be customized such that they share architectural parallels where scalability – up or down – isn’t limited by physical packaging or interconnect limitations. This is how multinational enterprises and Service Providers can effectively support large user bases on multi-tenant infrastructures. As markets change, IT groups can quickly adjust without the delays and costs that would have been imposed by traditional hardware led datacenter solutions.
The economics of SDDCs
Massive shifts in the way an enterprise operates its IT organization often are a result of financial re-structuring. Traditional hardware based solutions do not provide the ideal acquisition model in today’s as-a-service based world, where enterprises need to align their expense models with their revenue models.
One key advantage of SDDCs is the ability to realize greater financial flexibility. Research from WEI shows that SDDCs can decrease OPEX by more than 55%. In fact, the SDDC economics can be engineered in a way that best suits one’s needs – CAPEX led, OPEX led or any combination of the two.