Dan's Take

Defining 'Software-Defined'

A lack of standards doesn't help when talking to non-experts.

A neighbor recently surprised me by asking "what is a software-defined datacenter?" I guess this is the official notice that I've become the IT support for the neighborhood. How does this happen? (I guess that's a story for another article.)

I found that it is quite challenging to discuss the concept of "software-defined" with someone whose expertise and experience isn't in the world of IT. Although this certainly isn't a complete or exhaustive definition, I've found that the following seems to help a non-IT person understand.

Software-defined is a catch phrase used in the IT industry to describe an environment in which basic functions, such as processing, storage, networks and the like have been programmed so that their behavior can be adjusted as needed by other programs. This typically means that the function has been placed in a virtual environment, and that its control and monitoring functions have been made available using a standard interface.

So, an enterprise's IT organization could monitor the operations of each application and workload, learn the optimal settings for everything (such as how much memory, storage, processing and network bandwidth should be made available), then have all the functions adjust themselves to those settings.

Dan's Take: Gaining Control
I then had to walk this neighbor through the fact that just about every supplier of systems, virtualization technology, and monitoring and management software have declared that their products can either create or work in a software-defined computing environment. There are, unfortunately, no international standards for how this should work, so this really is a new way for suppliers to extend control over their customers' computing environments.

If a neighbor posed this question to you, how would you answer?

About the Author

Daniel Kusnetzky, a reformed software engineer and product manager, founded Kusnetzky Group LLC in 2006. He's literally written the book on virtualization and often comments on cloud computing, mobility and systems software. He has been a business unit manager at a hardware company and head of corporate marketing and strategy at a software company.

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