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VMware CTO Foresees 'Software-Defined Datacenter'

Recently, VMware CTO and Senior VP of R&D Steve Herrod blogged on VMware's interest in having IT shift from data centers and infrastructure defined by devices and hardware bought by IT to what he calls the "Software-Defined Datacenter."

Looking back, Herrod described how computing resources were connected to "huge, specialized, mainframes" supported by lots of specialized software, noting that during the past 20 years, IT has moved -- at a high price -- to the point where industry-standard hardware can run almost anything. In his words, "This capability has been augmented by virtualization, enabling efficient and flexible use of powerful resources."

Charting the history of virtualization, he says we are now in a phase where automation takes control, expediting computing-related operations and improving their reliability. With VMware's partners, he adds, VMware was able to do much the same thing with storage, pooling different storage devices into pools for assignment to any one of the VMs.

"And now we're seeing abstraction in networking and security of our data centers. Virtual switches have been around for a few years, and now we're seeing VXLANs and OpenFlow abstract and enable more pooling and automation than in the past. With these last pieces of the datacenter moving towards a software-defined model, we're seeing it become entirely possible to have a fully Software-Defined Datacenter.

The CTO says this Software-Defined Datacenter makes it possible to think more widely about provisioning workloads, as virtualization's early stages have made it easy and affordable to spin up VMs quickly. However, he states, when deploying workloads into production environments, there are many additional steps as their network identity is created, monitoring probes are installed, and security policies are enforced.

Herrod declares that in a perfect world, there would no longer be a need to order some specialized hardware, followed by hiring a consultant who would install and program the device in its specialized language. Instead, he says, "We'll simply define an application and all of the resources that it needs, including all of its compute, storage, networking and security needs, then group all those things together to create a logical application. There's work ahead, but I see the Software-Defined Datacenter as enabling this dramatic simplification."

He muses about a future when infrastructures are no longer held captive by highly specialized hardware, but instead are agile and flexible and working off of software instructions -- which makes operations simpler. "I am also excited about the ability to bring this simplicity to more applications than ever before. VMware's heritage is making existing applications work even better, but we're also proving that new application types such as HPC, Hadoop, and latency-sensitive apps can also run in this environment. One platform for all apps."

Herrod says VMware and many of its partners are extending their efforts to enable the transition to an environment where infrastructure makes businesses more flexible, agile and responsive to customers, adding, "After all, that's the most important mission of IT."

Posted by Bruce Hoard on 06/06/2012 at 12:48 PM


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