The Software-Defined Data Center: Are We There Yet?

September 10th, 2013 by

Well, it’s official. Software is the new black :-).  VMware made two major “software-defined” announcements at VMworld with their introduction of VSAN  and the release of NSX.  By continuing to move control points or configuration levers from hardware to software, VMware is throwing down gauntlets to its network partners and storage partners (and parent company) alike.  As VMware attempts to move more functionality into software, it effectively works to commoditize the hardware offerings from its partners (or enable innovation, depending on who’s asking).  With VMware seemingly willing to “eat our children” (and maybe its parent?), where does it leave us on the journey to the Software-Defined Data Center?

The Software-Defined Data Center: Are We There Yet?

There is a key element that remains absent from the Software-Defined Data Center discussion. The introduction of further software control points or levers into the virtual network and storage space adds to the many already in existence across the virtualized compute space.  In a reasonably sized virtualized data center or cloud deployment, it is not unreasonable to have thousands or even tens of thousands of control points across the data center technology stack that may be programmed and manipulated.  The question that remains, however, is how will these control points be leveraged to deliver the agility, operational and capital efficiencies desired by the business?  In other words, the flexibility offered by these software-defined control points is necessary, but not alone sufficient to deliver on the promise of the Software-Defined Data Center.  How will these newfound control points be leveraged effectively to assure application performance while utilizing the infrastructure resources as efficiently as possible>

Art Fewell did a great job at summarizing this problem when he wrote a piece talking about the VMware acquisition of Nicira:

“The main job of the private cloud controller is to examine the needs of applications and their changing demands in real time and optimize these across a pool of server, storage and networking resources with the goal of creating the maximum resource utilization to the highest possible levels without impeding application performance.”

We call this the Intelligent Workload Management Problem and our solution that addresses it Software-Defined ControlIt is only through the application of a software control system that the potential of the Software-Defined Data Center will truly be realized.

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