The Software Defined Data Center Emerges (Slowly): Page 2

A variety of IT trends are fueling the software defined data center, yet SDDC still lacks a central driver to propel it into the mainstream.
Posted February 3, 2014
By

Jeff Vance


(Page 2 of 2)

4) Be hypervisor agnostic, which is obvious enough in the statement above, but this is another argument for openness and against vendor lock

5) Realize that multi-tenant environments introduce new security threats, so be sure to factor secure isolation in from the get-go, rather than as an afterthought

6) Figure out how to move beyond the fact that networking is still constrained by the physical limitations of networks, which, for instance, limits VLANs IDs to 4,096, which is not nearly enough for cloud scale

7) Move beyond the one-device-at-time programming that is the status quo

Failing to adhere to any one of those points could severely limit the potential of SDN and could throw up obstacles for the shift to SDDCs.

OpenFlow’s role in SDDC’s future

An important standard to keep an eye on as the SDDC concept gains traction is OpenFlow, an open, programmable network protocol that can be used to manage traffic among various networking devices from various vendors.

For a time, it seemed that OpenFlow and SDN were one and the same. It’s important here to note that SDN was initially seen as a Cisco killer. However, Cisco is now throwing its weight around and has its own SDN plans, which won’t necessarily include OpenFlow, and may instead focus on using network overlays to serve as the bridge from physical devices to virtual workloads.

VMware has issued similar statements de-emphasizing OpenFlow and prioritizing vCloud.

There are two ways to look at this. One is that two leading data center behemoths are pushing back against the many SDN startups challenging their turf. The other is to look at this as typical of open-source projects. Vendors still need to differentiate themselves and will create something somewhere that is proprietary and prevents their devices from becoming completely commoditized.

For now, SDN is immature enough that it’s best to reserve judgment. Symantec and VMware partner for one of the first SDDCs SDDC is still in its infancy, so there aren’t many real-world use cases to reference. However, Symantec recently announced that it will rely on VMware’s vCloud Suite as the foundation for its SDDC. This could have major implications for both companies moving forward, especially since they are already long-standing partners.

In the near-term, Symantec is using vCloud for Global Symantec Labs. Symantec will be able to create flexible, virtualized test environments that will help Symantec recreate a customer’s environment for testing and troubleshooting – without having to repeat this process over and over for each customer. Instead, Symantec will build test kits that can be shared with various security pros via the cloud. The result is being referred to as the “Symantec Lab Cloud.”

According to VMware, “With its software-defined data center, Symantec can leverage vCloud Suite to virtualize its existing infrastructure, to abstract and pool hardware, networking and storage resources, and then to deploy and manage those resources via software. vCenter adds the monitoring and management controls necessary to support Symantec’s rapid growth, and control of their data center operations is automated by software in vCloud Suite.”

More examples could be on the way soon.

New SDDC research from Enterprise Management Associates found that business units are exerting pressure on IT departments to accelerate the shift to SDDCs. Currently, there are no central management technologies that are able to control and unify the entire data center and the public cloud. However, EMA argues that successfully implementing the SDDC starts with an IT operations mindset that focuses on reinventing the infrastructure provisioning and management process in a much more policy-driven manner.

“SDDC cannot be implemented in the form of a technology project, but rather constitutes a concept that describes guidelines that follow the multi-year vision of entirely closing the traditional gap between enterprise IT and the business," said Torsten Volk, EMA Research Director, Systems Management.

Are SDDCs inevitable or just more tech trend hype?

Let’s take a second to look at how we got to this point. Virtualization was a trend that many regarded as overhyped until VMware started taking over the data center. Virtualization’s benefits were too great and too obvious for skeptics to rail against for long.

The next obvious move after virtualization caught on was to decouple applications from specific data centers, transforming traditional on-premise applications into services delivered from the cloud. Remember, there were plenty of cloud computing skeptics panning this trend, as well, with Larry Ellison being one of the most notable cloud deniers (until recently).

Critics have noted that until SD programmability is actually shipped in large volumes in real-world routers, switches and other infrastructure appliances, the SDDC is a mirage. Legacy infrastructure tends to have staying power, especially in organizations with tight IT budgets, so this isn’t a critique to dismiss out of hand.

Yet, SDx seems to be following a very similar path as virtualization and the cloud before it. What’s missing, at this point in time, is the major vendor that pushes the trend from hype to inevitability. VMware did this for virtualization, becoming a major vendor in the process, and a cadre of vendors, including Saleforce.com, Google, Amazon, and even Microsoft pushed the cloud into the mainstream.

Who will lead the SDx shift from promising technology to world-beater, however, is still an open question.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.


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Tags: SDN, software defined networking, Software Defined Storage, SDDC, software defined data center


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