Software Defined Data Centers - Executive Viewpoint 2013 Prediction: CohesiveFT

Patrick Kerpan (Profile)
Tuesday, January 8th 2013

Software Defined Networking (SDN) has made a big splash in 2012. Thanks to the $1.26B VMware spent to purchase Nicira, and their new marketing push on the Software-Defined-Data-Center, companies are trying to attach themselves to Software-Defined-Anything (SDx). Before predicting how that will change and evolve into 2013, let’s look back at the forces that shaped the world of networking and created SDN.

Software definition, and therefore SDx, is the idea of virtualization plus business application layer control over all of the data center. With software, your IT team can define aspects of the data center that were previously rigid and monolithic, i.e. the servers, storage, networking and security. Now the control of these aspects has moved from the physical layer of actual, metal servers to the layer of software. To quote Dave Wright via Wired  “the reason this is called Software-Defined is because we are at least two layers removed from the physical hardware at this point and all management, orchestration and provisioning of these services has to be done in software.”

Defined in Software for Flexibility of Abstraction

Currently, VMware is talking about Software Defined Data Centers, with scant detail. The Open Networking Foundation (ONF) has provided one fundamental detail we agree with, that previous networks were limited by vendor-scope, not scalable, and hopelessly complex. Now, software-defined capabilities add flexibility, scale, on-demand resources, self-service provisioning, and secure cloud connectivity.

We at CohesiveFT believe a software defined data center means exactly that - defined in software. Application deployment and management, as well as the virtualized compute, storage, and networks involved, can exist only as software. Let someone else own the hardware, the physical assets, the generators, and the hundreds of people who service the physical side of data centers.

Software defining data center aspects gives network managers the flexibility to abstract the control from the physical layer to the business application layer. ONF’s paper Software-Defined Networking: the New Norm for Networks points out that IT teams can “configure, manage, secure, and optimize network resources via dynamic, automated SDN programs.” Later in the same ONF paper they write, “the static nature of networks is in stark contrast to the dynamic nature of today’s server environment, where server virtualization has greatly increased the number of hosts requiring network connectivity and fundamentally altered assumptions about the physical location of hosts.”