Software Defined Data Centers - Everyone Wants One, But Does Anyone Know Why?
October 16th, 2015
IT has its fair share of buzz terms. Actually, in reality, IT has become an ocean of buzz terms that customers get lost in constantly. Vendors that don’t have a strong value proposition can put buzz term lipstick on their solution to spice it up, and another provider that may have a strong offering, but a lacking marketing department, may get lost in the wash. The “software defined data center” is very important to the industry, yet equally as problematic with its understanding by the general IT populous. If you add the overlap with “cloud” that many people haven’t yet defined for themselves either, you have a witch’s brew of confusion.
The fact is, we are experiencing the perfect storm of security capability, application portability, hardware commoditization, and standardization. This is creating the situation where customers can treat some IT like a commodity where they need to, and focus on their crown jewels where they want to. No longer do we need an admin who can “kind of” run Exchange and knows some SQL “good enough.” If an Oracle app is what is driving the business, a company can focus their time and resources accordingly while happily knowing that O365 has their mail covered.
In the past, every 3 years a customer would look at a new SAN, compute platform, and backup technology to refresh what they’d put in place before. Solution providers were like home builders in the 1950’s that built impersonalized tract homes in suburbia, looking at every person like another ant in the colony. In fairness, in a lot of ways this was the best that could be done. Hypervisor technology wasn’t where it is today. A lot of applications (rightly or not) still demanded needy, physical infrastructure. Customers were fine with the paradigm that they’d have to be experts in Active Directory, Exchange, you name it. If you wanted to have access to a high-end application, you’d pay through the nose to house and support it at your own data center, and if you wanted the capability to leverage excess capacity, you had to buy it all up front and waste it when you weren’t using it.
So, great, we can use the “cloud” now. What does that mean? There have always been offerings that customers could “outsource” to, but the secret sauce, in my opinion, is how a customer can now leverage these resources in a non-disruptive, secure, and cost effective manner. So, what does software defined data center mean? Simply put, flexibility to create your own IT path between vendors and technologies. I have noticed that many vendors try to portray themselves as “software defined” and “open” when they’re not. It is just as easy to be inefficient across a hybrid approach with vendor lock-in as it was in the old days with the unimaginative “tract home” mentality. A solution provider that develops a path to migrating workloads to a cloud infrastructure, but tries to limit those options is doing us all a disservice. What is going to drive efficiency and create true IT value to organizations are the methodologies and technologies that allow customers to not paint themselves into a corner in this fast-moving and shifting world. In my opinion, the vendors that are getting it right are the ones that focus on the ease of helping customers move workloads in and out of their environments smoothly, while enabling customer choice. They are going to be the ones well-positioned for the future.