Software defined data center (SDDC)? | Hitachi Vantara
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Software Defined Data Center (SDDC)

What is software defined data center?

Compared with traditional data centers characterized by dependence on hardware infrastructure for managing storage, compute, and network functions, Software Defined Data Centers (SDDC) extend a virtual layer on top of traditional data center infrastructure that performs programmatic management functions. Through abstraction, resource pooling, and automation, the virtualized layer provides a central toolset for managing virtualized resources separate from underlying infrastructure.

Because traditional data center design required that infrastructure be centrally housed, data centers typically were of one type, on-premise in a single location, acting as the hub of all IT operations. This has changed with SDDC.

Because abstraction allows data center resources to pool from multiple locations, organizations have many options when configuring their SDDC. The range of configurations can span from on-premise infrastructure options to both public and private clouds, and subsequently combinations forming hybrid clouds. And as can be expected from technologies in the cloud, SDDCs can be remotely managed through APIs and web interfaces, a significant business advantage over traditional data centers.

Components of SDDC

Software defined data centers afford several benefits to both the data center administrators, but also users. Arguably, traditional data centers will become too expensive to efficiently operate, and will need to adopt the profit improving techniques used in their virtualized counterparts. SDDCs have several benefits:

  • Business Agility — At a business level, SDDCs are an evolutionary step beyond traditional data centers. Virtualization increases productivity, and eliminates the need to make hard commitments of resources, instead, every last cycle, and storage media can be maximally utilized. Virtualization also grants exceptional flexibility when it comes to choosing software, as well as hardware components to invest and install. Since abstraction decouples the two, new or updated software or hardware can be swapped in and out as needs dictate.
  • Reduced Cost — Productively improvements also reduce cost in the long term. Initially, instituting a SDDC requires upfront investments, however, because transparency and system control allow leaders to track real performance granularly, all costs can be controlled and optimized. 
  • Increased Scalability — Respectfully, traditional data centers tend to expand more than they scale. Because traditional data centers cannot divide their resources efficiently, as SDDC can, when they need more of anything, they simply add new machines, expanding the number of devices there are. True scaling understands that load is the operative variable, and that when scaling some loads need more than others. Within a virtualized environment, resources can be allocated from idle pools to scale heavy workloads, instead of adding new machines to the system. This is true scalability.

Challenges of SDDC

There are a few challenges when adopting SDDC. Many technical aspects are custom built, and require expertise, however, the main challenges are primarily human in nature.

  • A primary hurdle is in gaining cross-functional agreement between disparate departments. The problem is siloed data, process and policies. Each department has their own frameworks and models for operating. But because SDDC is a holistic system, which will eliminate those siloes, caution must be taken when introducing the idea of breaking silos down, or what could be interpreted as encroachment into departmental territories.
  • The following challenge, after department buy-in is strong, is switching environments and the subsequent planning, implementation, and accounting for downtime. The safe approach, and one that cloud-based SDDC allows when moving to modernized systems is to do it in stages. It is not necessary to migrate an entire system in one shot.
  • The final challenge is in instituting new processes and workflows. Even when buy-in is high, training and feedback must still happen. Enthusiastic people may achieve their training faster. But it must be nuanced with the idea that SDDC processes and workflows are different from what was used before.

How does a SDDC work?

Software-Defined Data Centers (SDDC) extend traditional data center configurations through a virtualization layer. Virtualization is a software approach to creating IT services separate, or unbound, from designated hardware. To do this a hypervisor is used which is responsible for creating virtual environments and pooling and sharing hardware resources.  Hypervisors can sit on top of an operating system or be installed directly on hardware infrastructure. While resources are partitioned on-demand to each virtual environment, users interact with these environments, known as Virtual Machines (VMs) as they normally would. A single computer running virtualization software can have multiple VMs running, and each VM can potentially run their own operating system, enabling unmatched system flexibility.

Why use a SDDC?

The main feature of SDDC, which is virtualized infrastructure that abstracts connectivity, storage, compute, and security, essentially the business end of a data center, while allowing the back-end to be managed and optimized independently, brings about many benefits to organizations that rely on or invest heavily in data center infrastructure

  • Higher Efficiency and Lower Costs
  • Immediate Application Provisioning
  • Automated Security and Data Protection
  • Run any application across multiple platforms

How to move to an SDDC?

SDDCs will become standard practice in the future. Making the transition from traditional data center operations to SDDC operations, though, requires forethought. While every SDDC migration journey is different, the following 3 points should be considered when deciding to undertake the migration.

  • Assess the company culture as a starting point — Initially, understanding the benefits of SDDC may overshadow what that means for the company culture. Businesses that lean more toward legacy configurations will have the most adaptation to do, and will likely be the most resistant. Search out for key players that can champion change within the culture, and identify those company practices that will likely meet the most resistance.
  • Do not underestimate your time horizon — Migrating from traditional to SDDC should be done in stages to ensure that systems have been successful. For example, start by migrating one system at a time, like migrating MS Exchange servers over to MS Azure. By ensuring that time buffers migration stages, enough time will be left to properly setup and guarantee systems are running smoothly.
  • Understand your DevOps team capabilities and limitations — Like assessing the company culture and their ability to adapt to SDDC style operations, your DevOps team must be technically prepared to do so. Do they have the requisite knowledge? Can they easily acquire it? Does there need to be an additional team member?

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