Analysis: the datacentre’s new clothes

By Stuart Sumner
01 Nov 2012 View Comments
Man in a datacentre

In the beginning there was virtualisation. The CIO looked at it and saw that it was good. Then the CIO said, “Let there be cloud.” Now, completing the holy trinity of IT buzz-phrases is the software-defined datacentre (SDDC).

Further reading

But is this just another hyped-up marketing term for something we don’t need, or is it a genuine evolution? For telecommunications provider Colt, it’s very much the latter.

“The software-defined datacentre allows us to virtualise all the hardware elements, and define a layer where we can deliver services and resources independently of the physical components,” says Javier Benitez, senior network architect at Colt.

As Benitez intimates, the concept behind SDDC is grounded on abstracting the hardware layer from the delivery of services to the business. This may sound a bit like virtualisation, or even cloud computing, but it’s fundamentally different from both.

In SDDC, hardware resources are configured and pooled through software, enabling the flexibility and agility that are seen as the key selling points of cloud services. New services can be quickly switched on and off, and scaled up and down.

Among the key benefits is the potential cost saving.

“It’s the ability to specify in the abstract the infrastructure you want, and use a sea of commodity hardware and configure it in a way that is a full datacentre,” says David Flynn, CEO of flash memory provider Fusion-IO. “It’s not just decoupling hardware from software, but the migration of a complex feature set away from proprietary systems and into software where it’s cheaper, and can be managed better.

“It’s fundamental that when you decouple hardware and software, the software can be very simple. You’re simplifying it so your network is a common backbone with no intelligence. This allows storage to move away from specialised equipment to commodity.”

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