Building data centers used to be a challenging job. It still is, to an extent, but the software-defined mantra that has taken over the IT industry simplifies a lot of challenges. And simple is (still) profitable, right?
Owning and running a data center (let alone several) is not a job for the faint-hearted. It requires a lot of careful planning and great execution. Mistakes are costly; the worst ones (like security breaches) can even put a company out of business.
How does a data center function? Well, you have a rather large and safe (in any way imaginable) space with excellent power and cooling capabilities that you fill with IT equipment and connect to the outside world via the widest broadband connection(s) you can find. Then you can offer all sorts of services your shiny infrastructure can handle.
What does software-defined data center (SDDC) bring to the table? Let’s start with a short historical and technological overview. Data centers used to have (and several still do) separate departments for their IT infrastructure. There were/are server guys, storage guys and networking guys. Virtualization of hardware began to change things. First came server consolidation, and today just about every aspect of compute infrastructure is virtualized. Compute virtualization has become the common denominator of modern hardware. And the software-defined mantra takes the infrastructure even further. Most hardware is x86-platform‑based, so it is only logical it should be easily managed – by smart(er) software. So the next logical step is virtualization of networking and storage.
SDDC simplifies IT and lowers costs
Do you know where data center costs come from? Hardware? Yes. Software? Yes. Power (and cooling)? Also. People? Oh, yes. Most of us still don’t realize how costly people in IT really are. More so in data center environments where real experts are required. And people are usually the ones that will get your business in trouble as well. It has been proven several times that it can be more challenging for people to work together than hardware and software. And remember those server, storage and networking guys we mentioned? Well, they used to keep their interaction to a minimum. In some environments, they even hated each other (usually for no good reason). They saw boundaries and limits, both tied to their responsibilities. There used to be clear dividing lines in data centers – air and wires – that defined control and responsibility. SDDC changed this.
Hardware is still x86-platform based, but is highly virtualized. People don’t work with physical hardware anymore; they get abstract access to it. Hardware can change overnight – today it comes from manufacturer A, tomorrow from manufacturer B. And nobody will be able to tell the difference, since the software is the one that translates all business demands into x86-code that is then executed. Of course, data center owners will still have to pay some attention to hardware – it still has to be reliable as it is the platform that everything else is built on.
But the software part is where the real money is made. Software in SDDC enables quick adoption of changes and allows for far greater agility. Now you don’t have to wait days or weeks to get your own VLAN or LUN or things alike … it’s just a few clicks away – with all the required support and demands. And another beauty of it – if you decide to change the application, the IT requirements change with it – no more running around going through three separate departments to get some stuff approved or changed. Shutting down an application is also very effective – when you decide you don’t need it anymore, the system will clean the resources and other connections behind it. This last part used to be very challenging as the use of virtualization started to grow – in big environments, it was difficult to find which virtual machines were still being used and where or what were left active, posing a potential threat.
SDDC also brings choice to the table. Most SDDCs function like this: specialists prepare templates (best practices or use case scenario based) that administrators put together the way they like – just like Lego bricks. And this gets everybody one step closer to standardization. Standardization enables automation. Automation brings efficiency and lower cost. So SDDC enables data center owners to be more agile with their service offerings, to be cost effective and, ultimately, to make more money.
Single pane of glass
A single pane of glass is a management console that presents data from multiple sources in a unified display. The glass, in this case, is a computer monitor or mobile device screen. SDDC delivers its promises of simplified management that comes with significant costs reduction – on all fronts – hardware, software, and personnel.
The transparency of workloads in SDDC helps tremendously on the security side of things as well. Now security experts don’t just look at individual servers and the network, they mostly check the virtualization layer for any anomalies and weird activities. And advanced or application behavior‑based analytics also apply here – showing security experts anything and everything that acts out. The “single” infrastructure makes it easier to protect all data and information.
The bottom line
It’s all about the application and services – that the clients pay for. IT departments are simply asked to do more, do it faster, and at a lower cost. So, they need to adopt new ways to rapidly deliver business applications and IT services while driving down the overall TCO. SDDC is the perfect solution for this – just make sure you build it right.