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What is a software-defined data center and how can it help your enterprise?

Data networking changes and the SDN shift

Data networking is changing. Virtualization, the process of generating a virtual version of resources like applications, servers, and networks, is much more common. Complex, virtualized applications require more agile support along with customer demand for a reduced cost.

IT agility evolves and new data center architecture gets explored. Enterprises strive to speed up the delivery of technology services and retain control over IT while also streamlining complexity and cutting cost.  

Enterprises and developers need new physical infrastructure as soon as possible. They no longer have the luxury of waiting weeks or more for that infrastructure to be purposed and provisioned. IT groups must meet changing marketplace conditions and their customers’ expectations in hours or minutes.  

Network architecture is changing as customers want architecture that’s easier to deploy and manage. This demand on network architectures is propelling a shift away from traditional networking and over to software-defined networking (SDN).

One solution for improving IT agility is implementing a software-defined data center (SDDC) architecture.

What's a SDDC?

Techopedia defines a SDDC as “a type of data repository [where] all data center resources and services are provisioned, monitored and managed through software-based techniques and processes”.1 This data repository allows management and control of the data center’s software, hardware and additional IT ops using automation. Techopedia notes that a SDDC is often “an enterprise class data center using cloud computing and virtualization techniques” and that SDDCs often “have server virtualization, storage virtualization, and network virtualization”.1 Software can be used to manage these virtualization components, providing centralized and integrated resource management.

What are the benefits of server virtualization and a SDDC?

SDDCs can help IT groups respond with greater speed to new requests for IT resources if infrastructure resources are pooled, management resources are standardized, and policy-driven provisioning is enabled. Simultaneously, a SDDC allows IT groups to maintain control on provisioning, cutting costs, and navigating to application modernization. 

As noted on the IBM SDDC page, “the SDDC results from years of evolution in server virtualization”.2  SDDCs use virtualization to create virtual machines (VMs) from hardware infrastructure and offer software and tools to manage the virtualized resources.

When a data center is virtualized, all the system’s resources can be abstracted and represented as less complex software. The server virtualization process of abstracting resources from physical servers boosts provisioning speed, increasing system utilization and reducing hardware expenditures. Server virtualization also helps enterprises realize the benefits of pooling their infrastructure resources.

Abstraction allows the resources of the data center like computing, networking, and storage to be marketed as a service and gives different clients access to the data center.

SDDCs have been a boon for smaller businesses, helping them get the compute, network, and storage elements that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to attain due to the cost of constructing infrastructure. The advent of the SDDC also drove more functions to the cloud, systematically altering how enterprise IT deployed and accessed applications.

As stated on the SDX Central page “SDDC offers clients who don’t have the existing infrastructure the ability to basically rent network services and resources like computing, networking and storage solutions from the cloud”.3 Similarly, a SDDC allows providers to use the centralized data center infrastructure to deliver network services and resources to many different clients.

The reduced cost of hardware and storage has made SDDCs more appealing. Businesses can spend less to construct big data centers and then rent out the centers’ resources as infrastructure as a service (IaaS).

What are the economic benefits of a SDDC?

For a SDDC, virtualized or abstract software can represent network services and resources. This representation means that physical connections and pieces of hardware don’t need to be manually tweaked to make changes. For example, a storage unit could be reallocated to separate clients without needing someone to physically be at the unit to implement the changes.  

Software can help expedite the SDDC’s deployment process and lends itself well to automation and self-provisioning services. By using software to plan, provision and manage services, the software streamlines the deployment process and cuts cost on operational expenses of costly manual configurations.4

Reduced energy consumption is another benefit of SDDCs, which allows resources to be speedily scaled. The economy of scale can be used by centralized data centers for the deployment of hardware components that are optimized for mass-energy consumption, and green-energy sources like solar and hydroelectric.

SDDCs can bolster security for IT infrastructures. By centralizing its control of the hosted data, SDDCs can reduce the risk of cyberattack and data loss.

Accelerating the transition to a SDDC with the cloud

Cloud services can help speed up and address the challenges of the process of transitioning to a SDDC architecture. The time and risks involved with redesigning an enterprise’s existing infrastructure can be cut back by applying a SDDC on cloud-based infrastructure. It’s also possible to eliminate how long it takes to install the tools on local infrastructure by adopting cloud-based management tools. If the cloud provider shares the tools and interfaces necessary for establishing the SDDC, then the enterprise’s IT group could avoid any unnecessary learning curves. The cloud-based resources can be managed by administrators using these tools the same way that they would manage onsite resources.  

Your enterprise also reduces and controls cost by using a cloud-based SDDC instead of purchasing all the physical infrastructure. Some examples of how this cloud-based SDDC can benefit your enterprise include the following:

  • Creates a new cloud-based environment and then removes any unnecessary computer equipment or capital expenditures.
  • Uses the existing physical infrastructure in a hybrid environment, applying the cloud portion to stretch your resources. This method saves you from purchasing and deploying additional physical systems.

Enterprises can scale up their storage, get the latest technology, and attain it without needing to frequently upgrade their physical systems, all by accessing a cloud-based infrastructure. When a SDDC is deployed in the cloud, application performance gets bolstered and data growth receives support while large capital expenditures are avoided.

Having a SDDC in the cloud helps enterprises maintain control over their environments. Public cloud services without oversight frequently result in problems with security, governance, and regulation. However, if business users and developers opt for IT oversight for their cloud-based SDDC, they can safely access cloud resources while maintaining a security-rich environment. IT oversight helps create an environment where it’s easy to verify that the users of the environment comply with external regulations and internal policies.

Resources

  1. Software-defined data center, Techopedia, 25 January 2017.
  2. Software-Defined Data Centers: A Complete Guide, IBM.com, 6 December 2018.
  3. What’s a Software Defined Data Center? SDX Central, 7 May 2015.
  4. SDDC Manager, VMware, 13 November 2017.