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What is the Software Defined Datacenter?

VMworld 2012 was, for some, where they may have first heard the concept of the Software Defined Datacenter and just like that, my customers have started asking me about this great new concept.

Here's what is interesting: When I break down the concept for them, I explain to them that we have been discussing and building towards a SDD all along. You see, all VMware did was rename private cloud, a used and abused term, and replaced it with a fresher, sexier term that builds on the hype and momentum of the software defined network. I swear a light bulb turned on above someone's head at VMware marketing when someone said software defined datacenter.

We have discussed private cloud many times on this blog, so the concept of SDD should not be foreign to you. That being said, let's examine the components that make one up.

Virtualization at every layer is the essential building block of an SDD. We can virtualize compute and memory very well; now it is time to virtualize the storage, as well as the network. The network, that is the last bastion of resistance and rigidity. And even then, it's not enough if we don't start automating and orchestrating. So, we have to evolve our ways and methods and offload repetitive and traditional tasks onto a policy-driven automated process. In order for IT to meet the challenges of the business, in order for us to do more with less or more with the same, we have to automate. And that's why the next frontier is learning to turn infrastructure into large resource pools leveraged by virtualization.

You see, once we have that level of virtualization, once we have truly liberated all layers from the hardware, our ability to scale and provide on-demand services is significantly enhanced. The trick is knowing where the industry is on this journey to an SDD. The entire stack is not ready yet, and there are plenty of components that still need to be developed or enhanced specifically at the storage and network layers. The acquisition of Nicira will speed things up for VMware on the network side and all the upcoming technologies at the storage level like vSan, vFlash, etc., will transform the way we manage storage.

Now of course management is crucial and VMware is banking on the vCloud Director + DynamicOps as a unified platform for the entire SDD stack in addition to being able to manage third-party clouds.

We can't discuss this much of a shift in the way we do things without addressing security as well, and similarly to compute, storage and networking. Addressing security for the virtualized world is an imperative necessity and the VMware vCloud offering carries an impressive set of security technologies.

So what's my verdict? Well, I like the new name for private cloud, I think it's fresh and a welcome time out from the "cloud" frenzy out there. That being said, I do think that enterprises should be focusing on what they can implement today and position themselves to take advantage of the SDD as opposed to getting lost trying to figure out how to build it.

The software defined datacenter is not complete yet, but you can start automating and orchestrating the virtual level and start investigating the same for the physical hardware layer. Start deploying self-service portals, start implementing showback and learn how to price your resources. Definitely start monitoring your infrastructure properly and start understanding your metrics so you can figure out how to price resources. Start looking at your processes and breaking them down in order to build automation and orchestration that will be required. Start building your catalogs and start discussing with your business units, establishing guidelines on how new applications are acquired and deployed.

There is a lot of work you have to do in order to make the change to an SDD, so while all the components are not there yet, by the time you are ready organizationally, you will find that you're ahead of the game with all components in place.

Posted by Elias Khnaser on 09/17/2012 at 12:49 PM


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