SDCC is changing the network [ITP.net (United Arab Emirates)]
(ITP.net (United Arab Emirates) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) The scalability, flexibility and ease of management of the software defined data centre is making it a real must-have for enterprises. While the uptake of the SDDC is still in its infancy in the Middle East region, it is poised to become an essential technology, according to regional experts.
Software defined data centre (SDDC) refers to the phenomenon of abstracting the underlying network hardware from the network infrastructure software that runs on top of it.
At the heart of this transformation is a shift to software-based management and definition of IT services (the software defined data centre) and a decoupling from the hardware underneath for services such as compute, networking and storage.
"The goal is agility and speed within enterprise data centres by enabling applications to be quickly and transparently provisioned, moved and scaled as business requirements require," explains Arun Chandrasekaran, research director, at research and advisory firm Gartner.
Traditional data centres can present numerous hurdles to the enterprise such as a lack of essential scalability and flexibility and are often difficult and clumsy to manage.
"The difficulty of scaling traditional data centres and the lack of flexibility results in a cost model that has a massive impact in both Opex and Capex. The rationale behind the software defined data centre is to act as a centrally controlled pool of resources. The main components of data centres, applications, networking and storage, are turned into simple workloads," says Taj El-Khayat, general manager, MENA, at IT performance company Riverbed.
According to virtualisation expert VMware, the SDDC is a logical extension of server virtualisation. In the same way server virtualisation maximises deployment of computing power, the SDDC does this for all application hosting resources.
"In the past, each new application required a dedicated server, which could take up to 10 weeks to deploy. Today, server virtualisation allows a virtual machine to be provisioned within minutes. However, the other resources needed by the application, storage, network, security are physical, not virtual, so they take much longer to deploy, on the order of a week or more. Worse, provisioning these physical resources consumes a great deal of IT time, which would be better spent on strategic initiatives. In a very real sense, the full potential of server virtualisation cannot be realised when other resources are physical," says Sam Tayan, regional director, VMware MENA.
One of the benefits of the SDDC is that all resources are virtualised so can be automatically deployed, with little or no human involvement. Applications can be operational in minutes, shortening time to value and dramatically reducing IT staff time spent on application provisioning and deployment.
"Components of the SDDC can be implemented together, or in phases. Compute virtualisation, network virtualisation and software-defined storage, for example, deliver abstraction, pooling and automation of the compute, network, and storage infrastructure services. Automated management, meanwhile, delivers a framework for policy-based management of data centre application and services," states Tayan.
The software-defined data centre is characterised by a full virtualisation stack. Network, computing, and storage resources are made available as abstract services to applications, and are decoupled from hosting hardware. This enables moving at a faster pace from the business problem down through the infrastructure to achieve the business results required.
The next step for enterprise
Strategically, IT leaders have always sought new processes and technologies that would help IT bring new value to their respective business and put them on equal footing with other departments within the company. The whole philosophy of being able to deliver IT as a service stems from this mindset and has led to great changes within the IT organisation, such as reducing the time to deliver an application or server, as well as greater operational efficiencies, according to Silver Peak.
"However, these changes are often constrained because of the static nature of the underlying networking infrastructure. So, for example, while delivering an application within the same host it may take minutes, hours or, on a different subnet, it could take days. Furthermore, if new security policies or performance considerations need to be instantiated, months could be required," explains Dave Greenfield, product marketing manager, at network optimisation specialist Silver Peak.
"SDDC changes everything. Shifting the entire application stack into software, solution delivery can be made radically simpler and faster. SDDC allows IT to deliver applications in minutes not months, regardless of their performance and security requirements. This means IT becomes more agile and efficient, but perhaps more importantly, SDDC means IT has a larger role to play in the boardroom."
Taj El-Khayat from Riverbed says that the SDDC can be described as the next generation of virtualisation, bringing the experience of IT as a Service (ITaaS). This is because it builds on past achievements and elevates them to the next level. Previously, it took IT teams a long time to wire up and connect the network and storage elements to already existing virtual machines. In the business world, this means time and money. Given its many benefits, SDDC responds to the enterprises' needs to achieve competitive edge. Adhering to this transformation will allow them to enhance their performance management and optimise how they do their business.
"The advantages of the SDDC explain the global interest in SDDC market. In fact, a recent study published in August 2013 by Research and Markets has shown that the SDDC market is expected to grow globally from $396.1 million in 2013 to $5.41 billion by 2018, at an estimated Compound Annual Growth Rate of 68.7% from 2013 to 2018," says El-Khayat.
According to IDC Predictions for 2013 published in November 2012, it is projected that by 2020, 40% of the IT industry's revenue and 98% of its growth will be driven by third platform technologies that today represent only 22% of ICT spending. Third platform technologies are comprised of mobile computing, cloud services, social networking and big data analytics. Consequently, this transformation will drive more modernisation of data centres to be in harmony with technology growth. The SDDC model seems to be the future of data centres and the next step to follow for enterprises.
"It's understandable that it's taking time for SDDC to take off completely; however, what is clear is that a software-based data centre is the future and the next step for enterprises to evolve into the anytime, anywhere world that is increasingly being demanded," states Greenfield.
Samer Ismair, MEMA network consultant at data centre network provider Brocade Communications, says that the SDDC offers a means of reducing costs of service delivery and as a vehicle for increasing service velocity. It links networks and applications, enabling direct programmatic control of the network in line with end-user application needs, rather than programming around the network, as is done today.
"By having access to network topology information, applications can optimise decisions related to service fulfilment, service placement, and service removal. The network has the intelligence to provide guidance to a key set of applications through abstraction, including peer-to-peer, content distribution, and data centre applications. In all these cases, aligning the applications with the resources is important, as peers need to sync up with the best cloud application or best Content Delivery Network server," says Ismair.
By hiding physical infrastructure complexity and providing transport layer visibility for applications and services, it helps make network behaviour more provable and network management simpler, and brings virtualisation to the network, thereby centralising network operation and management and enabling rapid application development through the increased network intelligence and an open environment. This makes new monetisation streams are possible through flexible business models, and capacity constraints can be cost-effectively resolved through optimised flow control, says Brocade.
According to Silver Peak, with the SDDC, IT will be able to commoditise expert solutions so that application owners and virtualisation administrators can solve problems themselves that previously required the networking team.
SDDC uptake in Middle East
To have an idea of the overall data centre market in the Middle East, it is important to look at IT spending figures in relation to SDDC-related units such as cloud and virtualisation, according to Riverbed.
According to Gartner, Middle East (ME) IT spending is projected to reach $192.9 billion in 2013, a 5.5% increase from 2012. In particular, Gartner reports that IT infrastructure spending in the Middle East is expected to increase by 4% in 2013 to total $3.9 billion. A significant proportion of the IT infrastructure spending in the Middle East is to be on servers and storage. Also, Gartner expects that spending on data centres is set to show an increase of 4.4% between 2012 and 2013. In addition, the Middle Eastern and Northern African public cloud services market will see strong growth in 2013 with revenue forecast to reach $462.3 million in 2013, a 24.5% increase from 2012.
"The Middle East has shown a growing interest in acquiring latest technologies and an appreciation for integrating and investing in IT. There is growing interest surrounding cloud computing in the Middle East region. From 2012 to 2017, the Middle East and Africa regions are expected to have the highest cloud workload growth rate [45% CAGR]," says El-Khayat.
According to Arun Chandrasekaran from Gartner, while the uptake of server virtualisation is robust and growing in the Middle East, virtualisation of the entire data centre infrastructure fabric (particularly storage and networking) is still in its infancy in Middle East. Also, adoption of robust provisioning, orchestration and management tools that enable the shift towards a true hybrid cloud are still low.
"Based on my conversations with IT managers, I think we're still very early on in the learning phase of a technology adoption. Over the next 18 to 24 months, we will start to see limited trials and some early adopters in the US with the next tier of adoption happening within 24 months from now. The same curve will apply to the Middle East, though adoption will probably take 6-12 months longer," states Dave Greenfield from Silver Peak.
Enterprises in the Middle East do still have questions around the SDDC, according to VMware.
"Educating enterprises on SDDC and the business benefits it can deliver is a primary objective of ours. There are some early adopters of the SDDC within the region, which have moved beyond the evaluation stage to start planning and even implementation, which is encouraging to see," says Tayan.Expert opinion... some of the benefits of the SDDC
• Ignore the hype surrounding SSDs and approach the project with a view fixed firmly on measureable benefits that deliver real RoI.
• Rapid provisioning of infrastructure
• Increased automation of IT
• Better resiliency
• Higher utilisation of infrastructure
• Possibly lower TCO due to operational automation and lower Capex (Due to usage of standard x86 hardware)
Source: GartnerTop questions to... consider before deploying a SDDC
• How viable is this technology?
• What is the underlying financial model? Where will I find significant savings?
• What should my migration plan include?
• Which IT processes will have to change?
• What is the optimum IT organisational structure for the SDDC?
• What KPIs give the best indication of SDDC operation and health?
• What is the impact of a SDDC on security and compliance?
• How does a SDDC change my business continuity/disaster recovery plans?
• How does the SDDC impact our capacity planning?
Source: VMwareTop tips for... initiating deployment of SDDC:
• Begin to build institutional knowledge around SDDC: Organisations may find compelling use cases for SDDC in lab and training environments as a way to both reduce storage costs and build on further institutional knowledge.
• Standardise as much as possible: Reduced complexity improves speed, agility and availability. Worry less about lock-in and more about ways to accelerate orchestration and automation of IT tasks.
• Infrastructure silos are merging: This will be accentuated by the emergence of programmable network and storage provisioning capabilities exposed through SDS and SDN. Back-end network and storage expertise will remain a requirement, but that expertise will transform to assisting in programmatic provisioning, deprovisioning and monitoring capabilities and technical integration.
• Let the use case decide if an SDN investment is necessary: It's tempting to find a use case for SDN to simply get exposed to it, but organisations that do not need high degrees of network settings portability between multiple sites can wait.
• Take a conservative approach to software-defined storage: The outcome and business value of SDS is: improving agility and QoS while optimising cost containment. Vendors are developing road maps, and a few are offering products that provide value to select IT organisations.
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