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Examining the Software-Defined Data Center of the 21st Century

Originally coined by Dr. Steve Herrod, CTO with VMware, the term “software-defined data center,” abbreviated as SDDC and sometimes referred to as a virtual data center, is a concept that refers to a collection of infrastructure services, including automation, pooling and abstraction, to be delivered as a solitary service. While there a number of different approaches and components involved with software-defined data centers, almost all of them include device virtualization, software-defined networking capabilities, software-defined storage functionality, IT management and automation software as core service offerings.

Per the VMware website, software-defined data centers offer a “fully virtualized infrastructure” which “extends industry-leading vSphere virtualization beyond compute to network and storage.” It also provides a “unified, policy-driven technology” that “automates and manages IT services across heterogeneous clouds.”

To put this simply, software-defined data centers are able to improve system efficiency through device virtualization, bolster system agility through faster provisioning of applications, provide increased control over applications as well as security and offer compatibility for numerous programs, platforms and cloud environments.

Software-defined data centers can be delivered through either private or hybrid cloud environments. As the VMware website states, “applications and services can be provisioned and run on both on-premises private clouds and secure infrastructure-as-a-service platforms, with seamless workload mobility across the hybrid environment.”

While many companies are starting to offer their own software-defined data centers, Microsoft is quick to point out some of the challenges when attempting to establish a software-defined data center in the 21st century. Albert Greenberg, an engineer with Microsoft’s Networking Development group, stated in a recent blog post: “Given the scale we had to build to, and the need to create software-defined data centers, for millions of customers, we had to change everything in networking, and so we did—from optical to server to NIC to data center networks to WAN to Edge/CDN to last mile.”

Despite these hurdles, Andrew Mauro, co-founder and board member of Italy’s VMware User Group, spoke about some of the direct benefits of today’s software-defined storage center. He stated: “what’s interesting about VMware’s SDDC proposition is that it will bring all the software pieces together into your infrastructure,” Mauro says. “Two years ago, integrating storage, network and security products was very difficult, but today, a software-defined data center could make that a reality. VMware’s vCloud Suite brings together what customers need to build, operate and manage a cloud infrastructure – virtualization, automation, policy-based provisioning, disaster recovery, and applications and operations management.”

The Future of the Software-Defined Data Center

Although its popularity is certainly on the rise, many IT experts agree that widespread adoption of software-defined data centers could be years away. Such a transition would involve a greater focus on workload automation as well as increased support of modern cloud computing environments. As such, some believe it could be 10 or more years before we see software-defined data centers enter the mainstream.

Regardless of such forecasts, a number of companies and vendors have already embraced the benefits of software-defined data centers. This includes IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Fujitsu, Intel, NEC, Microsoft, Ericsson, Cisco, Citrix, Dell, Red Hat and more.


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