Building blocks of the software-defined enterprise

Agencies set building blocks of the software-defined enterprise

Fourth in a series.

With pressure on to conserve capital and energy costs, government agencies are experimenting with converged infrastructure systems. The technology integrates a variety of storage, server and networking components to give administrators more control over their data center operations.

In this series

With converged IT, agencies rethink the data center

Agencies are exploring new options for reinvesting in physical infrastructure as new options open up to retool the data center and its features to the needs of government. Read more.

County mixes data center options with reference architecture

In Oakland County, Mich., a reference architecture approach to upgrading the enterprise helps preserve features of its existing data center while providing flexibility to adopt new services. Read more.

Cloud takes backup role as cities remake data centers

With data centers under renovation, some agencies are using the cloud to meet their disaster recovery and business continuity requirements. Read more.

IT administrators and data center managers say software-defined technology is a key driver behind these new-look approaches to managing enterprise storage, compute and networking needs. In the future, they say, the data center will be defined by software.

The trend is to some extent tied to converged infrastructure, since software also gives the converged hardware device its computing and storage characteristics. But ultimately this software-driven infrastructure can exist independently of a converged hardware platform.

Software-defined storage is one example. The technology, often referred to as storage virtualization, creates a single pool of storage from multiple, physical storage devices. A software layer then provisions storage to applications that need it and provides functions such as policy management, replication and backup.

Chris Poelker, vice president of enterprise solutions at FalconStor Software Inc., a Melville, N.Y., company that focuses on data protection and migration, said Phoenix, Ariz., which has virtualized on the server side, is now also pursuing storage virtualization.

“They are now doing the storage virtualization piece so they can get to the software-defined data center,” he said.

The software-defined data center (SDDC), more vision than reality at this point, pulls together server and storage virtualization. The idea is that software can tap resources across the data center to readily provision compute and storage as needed.

Software defined networking (SDN) is another emerging element of SDDC. As with storage, SDN relies on a software layer that takes on the complexities of infrastructure management. SDN lets IT administrators program all of the devices on a network through a software controller, rather than configuring switches and other networking gear individually.

Sudhir Verma, chief technology officer at Force 3, a federal solutions provider based in Crofton, Md., said he believes SDN may be the most critical SDDC element since networking is the most complex piece of infrastructure.

Organizations would struggle to realize the SDDC’s management and provisioning benefits without a robust virtualized networking environment, he said. “If I were going in the SDDC direction today, the first thing I would look at is SDN,” he said.

In Newington, Conn., chief information officer Paul Boutot said the town’s recent investment in OmniCube converged infrastructure from SimpliVity will also help it leverage SDN at some point.

 “It sets us up down the road to take advantage of some of those network features,” he said.

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Reader Comments

Wed, Jul 23, 2014 Michael Bushong New Hampshire

The software part of software-defined anything is interesting, but it is not the form factor so much as the capabilities that will make a difference. Software-defined networking primarily provides superior intelligence. Think about it in terms of centralizing control. Imagine you are driving across a crowded metro area. You see brake lights and roll to a stop. You might try a surface road, but the reality is that you don't actually know if it will be any faster. So you hope, and maybe play the odds. Now imagine that your best friend is in a helicopter and he tells you where to go. That's what a controller can do. It provides a global view of the network. What you do with that varies, but that intelligence is what will really be the difference-maker. That the controller is software is really secondary. Mike Bushong (@mbushong) Plexxi

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