Software-defined data centers will significantly lower costs and improve the efficiency of information technology. So says a recent e-book published by Brocade, which covers the advantages seen with software-defined networking (SDN) and something called network functions virtualization (NFV). For clarity, I’ll just refer to these technologies as software-defined data centers.
What do we mean by a software-defined data center? Essentially, key services such as messaging, processing, storage, data management, and provisioning are abstracted away from their underlying systems and hardware and are managed within a software-based service layer. In theory, that means no rewiring server closets or reconfiguring disk arrays or writing scripts to make one system deliver data to another. Instead, it should mean clicking on buttons or dials on a screen to manage your IT resources.
The software-defined data center didn’t just spring out of a lab one day, of course; this all has been coming together over the course of years. Storage area networks, for example, with storage resources aggregated into a virtual pool, first appeared on the market almost two decades ago. IT management solutions, such as IBM Tivoli and CA Unicenter, also appeared around the same time, providing for software-based oversight of critical assets. Virtualization and virtual machines enabled incompatible software to run on foreign hosts. Service-oriented architecture served to abstract important pieces of applications away from monolithic underlying systems. Now, of course, we have clouds and APIs, which provide access to applications and systems run by someone else, somewhere else.
Software-defined data centers are the culmination of all these technologies, and ultimately, it is hoped, will bring greater simplicity to today’s burgeoning IT requirements. The Brocade book outlines the five key benefits to be gained from software-defining your operations. Again, Brocade singles out network benefits, but they can be extended across the entire data center:
1. Increased business agility: Software-defined data centers “improve network orchestration, manageability, and control, helping network engineers and administrators respond more quickly to changing business requirements. Administrators can control the flow of traffic from a centralized location, eliminating the need to manually log onto and update individual switches.”
2. Lower operational costs, fewer disruptions: The ability “to automate network provisioning and orchestration can cut operating costs by reducing overall management time and decreasing the chance of errors that lead to disruptions.”
3. Lower capital costs: Software defining your operations serves to reduce hardware, power, and space requirements.
4. Better quality of service: Greater quality is delivered by “ensuring that applications and business organizations achieve the appropriate level of responsiveness by prioritizing certain types of network traffic.”
5. Improved security: Software defining “can improve security by blocking or rerouting traffic based on software-defined rules. This is particularly helpful in multi-tenancy use cases such as on-premises or off-premises cloud-computing services.”
Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.
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